Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Christmas Homemade Cookie Story and Recipe

My teenage nephew loves Snickerdoodles; they are his favorite cookie. My sister is not a baker, plus she has an extremely demanding job and does not work at home like me. (Not that MY job's not demanding, I just have more time at home) Suffice to say, she doesn't make cookies very often. So several years ago, I started making a tin of cookies each every Christmas for my nephew, brother in law and sister. (Why one tin apiece? Because they love their cookies so much that they won't share!)
True story: my sister and our brother were down in her rec room/basement watching a movie and they noticed a cookie tin hidden in the rafters there. "AHA!," my sister says, "He's hidden something! Oh no! Could it be drugs?" She enlists our brother, who is very tall, to get the tin down so they can look. They open the tin. It is full of the snickerdoodles I had given my nephew for Christmas. He had hidden them up high in the rafters so that no one else would eat his cookies. I would be willing to bet that no one would do this with store-bought cookies. The moral? If you want to give an appreciated gift, give something handmade.
These cookies have been eaten with gusto by Senators, Congressmen, Generals, Vice-Presidents, family and neighbors. (I used to work in DC and have a BIG Christmas List) But no one likes them better than my nephew.

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (with, dare I say, a few Improvements)
2 sticks butter (the original recipe calls for half butter, half vegetable shortening. I hate shortening, and don't approve of hydrogenated fat. If you're going to eat a cookie, might as well have the Real Thing)
(remember, don't let that butter get soft and oily - we want it cool, NOT cold, not warm)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract ( I make my own, make sure you use the real stuff)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
Cookie coating
Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon ( I use Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon for its wonderful scent and flavor)

Preheat your oven. I do it to 350. The original does 400. I like my way better.
I make my dough in my Cuisinart, if you have one, it's super easy - mix the butter with sugar, eggs and vanilla, then add dry ingredients all at once, zap zap zap until blended.
With a mixer, blend sugar and butter, add eggs and vanilla then add dry ingredients (which you have mixed all together in another bowl - see why I use the Cusinart?)
I scoop the dough with a teaspoon cookie scoop. It's like a melon baller, and all the cookies come out the same size. I roll them in the cinnamon sugar and place on baking sheet. The original recipe tells you to them smash the balls flat. I don't do that because if you don't they come out a little softer and chewier in the middle. I like that better and so do my eaters, so I never smash them. I bake mine for 11 minutes. Test your first batch and see how long they take to get the effect you like. Makes about 4 dozen - 5 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them and how much dough your "helpers" eat. If you are baking ahead for the holidays you'd better hide these. Put them in a sturdy airtight container and freeze. Every year I make hundreds of these and no one gets tired of them. And some people won't share, so better make plenty!

*** Home Made Vanilla***
I make my own vanilla and have had my jar for over ten years.
Take a jar ( mine is 8 oz) and add two cut up vanilla beans. I cut mine both lengthwise and horizontally. Cover them with brandy. I use Christian Brothers. I wouldn't use fancy expensive Cognac, but it's your kitchen, if that's what you like. Shake it up, and store in a cupboard for a couple weeks. I add a vanilla bean every six months or so, and more brandy when it gets low. I never take out the old beans. My jar smells amazingly vanilla and if they made men's after shave that smelled like this stuff women would follow those men around, helplessly smitten.


fourkid said...

I am definitely making these cookies and the vanilla - yum! And another cookie dough eater! - do you have friends that are horrifed at such antics? I do - I feel sorry for them on missing a great simple pleasure of life. (bg)

Lindsay T said...

Thanks for the recipe. My daughter loves Snickerdoodles above all other types of cookies.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Interesting! My snickerdoodles recipe uses cream of tarter. This is the only reason I own cream of tarter and I always thought it was the secret to snickerdoodles.

I've also been making my own vanilla, but using vodka. I have some brandy, maybe I'll try some of that as well.