Third time’s a charm? Or, snickerdoodles: revised

IMG_1666BSMbanner_baked-150I’ve always been a tremendous fan of that buttery, cinnamon-spiced childhood favorite cookie, the snickerdoodle.  When I was a kid, no other cookie both smelled and tasted like pure home comfort to me – not even a chocolate chip cookie.  I feel that way even now as an adult.  I was excited to discover that Baked had created their own spin on this treasured recipe with Brown Butter Snickerdoodles in Baked Elements.

Sadly, both times I attempted these cookies – with the exception of that warm, trademark snickerdoodle taste you would expect – they were a huge disappointment.  I followed the recipe to a T, and didn’t have the best of luck; namely, the cookies almost seemed to ‘melt’ into one another in a flat, greasy mess on my cookie sheet.  Definitely not pretty enough to serve, much less photograph.  I also found that the cookies barely betrayed a hint of that glorious, nutty brown butter.  I browned my butter to a wonderful, deeply brown hue without crossing over into scorched or burnt – it was just right and smelled perfect.  When I blended it with the rest of the ingredients for the cookies, it disappeared.  Perhaps my cinnamon was too overpowering?  (I used Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon, which tends to bring a bit more intensity and heat to the palate.)

Seeing as how this recipe uses a whopping 2 whole sticks of butter, I set my mind on the fact that I would need to be a bit more conservative with my ingredients and make a more traditional snickerdoodle recipe next time, filing this one away under ‘not one of my favorites’ in Baked Elements.  I was so saddened to discover that one of the recipes I was most looking forward to in this beautiful book was one of the least successful I’ve made from it (I put them on par with the pathetic Brooksters I tried to make a year ago).

IMG_1670I wasn’t going to so easily concede to defeat, however.  When the recipe popped up again as this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment, I committed myself to attempting the snickerdoodles again, with a few of my own personal tweaks.  Bear in mind that if you follow my suggestions when making your own snickerdoodles, it may require an extra step or two and therefore, a little extra time (and patience!):

  • First of all, I browned my butter and let it sit out overnight on my counter in a glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap.  This allowed the butter to harden somewhat back into the consistency of softened butter or shortening.  It also eliminated the need to beat the hot butter to room temperature prior to adding the sugar.
  • In the dry ingredients, I swapped out 3/4 teaspoon of the baking soda for baking powder to assist with maintaining the cookies’ shape and ‘plumpness’.  In my book, there’s nothing worse than a flat, greasy cookie – an issue I all too frequently come up against.  Adding baking powder instead of baking soda allows for a little more rise and a tender crumb.  I don’t know if I would eliminate the baking soda entirely, as you still need a slight counterbalance to those leavenings, so be safe and keep at least a 1/4 teaspoon of soda in the mix.
  • I also added only 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the batter, instead of the 1 teaspoon suggested in the recipe.  I adore cinnamon – and will often confess I add typically a touch more than the recipe suggests – so this is rare of me to recommend cutting back.  However, I wanted to see if this would make a difference in the overall taste and especially bump up the nutty notes of the browned butter, rather than overpowering them.  You may also want to use a warmer, and less spicy cinnamon.  Lacking the standard cassia cinnamon in my cupboard, I opted to use my usual Vietnamese cinnamon with the precautionary measure of adding less.
  • I’ve learned a wonderful tip from one of my fellow BSM bloggers (Erin Star Hayes!): if a recipe calls for chilling your cookie dough prior to scooping and baking it off, scoop the dough into balls first, put them on a cookie sheet, and then chill them.  This is a great tip especially for this recipe.  I like to chill my dough for at least 8 hours to overnight to allow the flavors and ingredients to meld sufficiently.  This cookie dough becomes quite hard, and the first time I attempted to scoop this chilled dough, I nearly broke my spring-loaded cookie scoop (let’s just say it’s bent at an awkward angle now!).  It’s definitely a terrific idea to pre-scoop these, then let them chill.  Proceed with making the snickerdoodles by rolling the chilled dough balls in the cinnamon-sugar, etc.

My rough scientific experimentation done and my brown butter snickerdoodles baked off, I was ready to taste and deliver my verdict.

IMG_1671The third time, at first glance out of the oven, definitely seemed to be a charm.  The snickerdoodles held their shape more, albeit just slightly.  I am still stumped as to how Baked kept theirs so wonderfully ‘fat’ (as shown in the cookbook photo).  I’m not displeased by how my snickerdoodles looked this time, though.  My first batch of cookies held their shape best, while subsequent batches may have shown a touch of spread simply because I had the chilled dough balls resting on the sheet pans on the counter for a bit, while waiting for the prior batch to come out of the oven.  That being said, if you’re a stickler for your cookies keeping their shape (I suspect I may just be one of the pickiest cookie bakers in this regard), keep your cookie sheets in the fridge.

IMG_1672As for the taste:  baked at 10 minutes, the cookies were soft, chewy, and perfectly buttery, with the right amount of cinnamon-y sweetness –  all the traits a wonderful snickerdoodle should have.  The nutty flavor I expected from these being brown butter snickerdoodles was still elusive, however.  My sister, who was present when I took these out of the oven and sampled these with me, had a good point:  if these snickerdoodles were eaten along with a regular, non-brown butter snickerdoodle, the taste difference might be more evident.

Overall, I was pleased with the tweaks I made on this third go-round with Baked’s fantastic re-imagination of the classic snickerdoodle recipe, and made sure to tack a post-it note with my revisions onto the page in Baked Elements for the next time I crave these cookies!

To attempt your own Brown Butter Snickerdoodles, with or without my revisions, follow this link:

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Let me know what you think, and please be sure to check out the successes of my fellow bakers with this recipe.  I’m in awe of their cookie-baking prowess.  Cookies seem to elude me quite often!  Give me a three-layer cake, soufflé, or pie any day over those little demons… (though they are delicious!)

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8 thoughts on “Third time’s a charm? Or, snickerdoodles: revised

  1. I just finished mixing these and am going to incorporate your suggestion to scoop the cookies before chilling. Fingers crossed mine turn out as lovely as yours!

  2. Sorry to hear you didn’t love these, Mark. I’m glad at least they turned out decent, and they do look beautiful! That’s surprising about the brown butter not coming through too well– I might suggest taking the butter as far as you can go without burning. I accidentally let mine go a little longer than planned, and I managed to pull the pan off the heat right before it started to scorch, so my butter was *really* dark and the flavor was to die for. Anyway, I would consider these among your cookie successes! ;-)

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