Sunday, 27 May 2012

Beating the Heat: Soft Snickerdoodles

It is one of life's cruel twists that even though a hot day is quite possibly the worst kind on which to do baking (read, raise the temperature of the whole house and make hot food), the high temperature actually makes it so much easier. Two words: creaming butter.

In the depths of winter, when my baking cravings have taken over completely, making me long to fill the chilled house with warm, wafting aromas, the dang butter has frozen solid. In my student house in which we infrequently use heating because we are poor, when I say "solid" I genuinely mean it. Just-out-of-the-freezer solid. Could-be-used-as-a-dangerous-weapon-or-building-material solid. It's a problem.

As much as I value the workout for my arm muscles, sometimes I don't want to beat my ingredients into submission, working up a sweat and feeling like Rosie the Riveter (though considerably less calm and collected). Sometimes I just want a zen-like blending experience, bringing sweet and oily together in tranquil bliss. Despite the 1950s cupcake-making-housewife stereotype, that is generally not the baking way. But. On a hot day, with a softened pat of butter and a granulated cascade of white sugar, that's exactly what I knew I'd get.

Mm, so creamy and malleable. This is the good life.

So, armed with a glass of lemon iced tea and a souvenir fan from the French Riviera (an appropriate nod to the uncharacteristically Mediterranean weather we've been having. It's May in England, for goodness sake!), I set to whipping up the most simple of sweet treats: the humble snickerdoodle.

To be honest, I've never been particular fond of these guys. Sugar cookies coated in cinnamon sugar, there's genuinely nothing not to like about them but, somehow, in my extreme youth I seem to have irrationally taken against them (as I once did with zucchini, brussels sprouts, and tea). Well, armed with some very soft butter and a hankering for cinnamon, I decided that this nonsense has to stop. I've long since left behind the age when knee-jerk dislikes are even moderately acceptable. The snickerdoodle might not be the most adventurous of culinary delights but there's certainly nothing wrong with it. Unless you don't like cinnamon. Or sugar. Or cookies, for that matter.

So here it is, simple, sweet, and deliciously soft:

Soft Snickerdoodles
225 grams butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 180º C (350º F)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and combine thoroughly, until the mixture is a pale yellow. Gradually add the flour mixture, a little at a time, combining thoroughly (there's a lot of flour so this could take a while as it did for me!) The dough should be pretty stiff now (great arm workout!)

(And that spoon can be passed on to any deserving parties/kitchen hoverers in the vicinity!)

Chill the dough and the baking tray you're going to use in the fridge for about 15 minutes (it was such a hot day that I left it there for longer)

Combine the cinnamon and additional sugar on a plate for rolling the cookie dough balls in.

 Ah, that makes me think of fresh, cinnamon-y Elephant Ears. The tasty, tasty calories!

When the dough is done chilling, remove from fridge and scoop out walnut sized balls (they'll need to be spaced a couple inches apart on the baking tray) and roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar until it's thoroughly coated. Just like little sugar-dusted doughnut holes.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove immediately from the tray to a cooling rack.

I used a parchment paper-lined tray to minimize the mess (yes, cinnamon sugar will try to get everywhere) and because it makes it easier to whisk the cookies off the tray when they're done. You don't want to leave them on the hot tray too long or they'll overcook and won't be soft and chewy anymore.

When my cookies came out of the oven they were all puffed up in the middle. They were cute but I wanted a more even, flattened look so I pressed each one flat with a fork as they came out. I probably could have done that before they went in but it was actually more satisfying when they were warm and a little crispy (even if some of the edges cracked because I'm clumsy...)

I got three dozen cookies out of this recipe (oh lord, so much eating/foisting off on other people to do!) Stored in an airtight container they keep their chewy soft gloriousness

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