The Great Cooky Book Journey
Like many girls (and a few boys I know), one of my favorite things to do as a kid was make cookies. Whenever I went over to another friend's house, we made cookies. When my friends came over, we made cookies. There was usually a stage where we'd sit around and try to figure out what ingredients we had on hand, and what cookies would could make with those. There sometimes also included an impassioned plea to whoever's parent was around for a trip to the grocery stores.
"If we just had molasses, we could make these cookies!"
Who buys molasses unless they're making cookies, anyways, and what do you do with a whole jar of molasses when you only needed some to make those cookies that one time?
If it was raining or I was bored, or I just wanted some cookies, the Cooky Book came out. Some days, I'd just lay on the floor and daydream about the stories behind some of the pictures in the book...
Not too long ago, I got a bit of a nostalgic streak in me, so I went looking a copy of the Cooky Book. What did I find? The book has actually been reprinted several times. I went ahead and picked myself up the spiral bound version for some ridiculously cheap price.
Now, I find myself in need of a hobby to distract myself from my hobby - gaming. It's been a terribly frustrating last few months, and while I've managed to sail through them and everything is working out, I'm left feeling burnt out. In my younger years, when I hit burnout, I handled it very poorly. Rather than take time off, I repeatedly blamed myself for not being into what I wanted to do enough, causing the burnout to extend and increase and making myself miserable in the process. The end result wasn't me getting through the burnout. The end result was me burning out completely on something I formerly loved.
Now, I treat burnout by finding something new to sink my teeth into (or going back to something old). I'm still managing the completion of three books for Swords & Wizardry, and I'm still working on getting unburied enough from ConTessa's Gen Con work to even respond to the people who've offered to help out, but I've pulled back from running or playing any games until I can get control of the burnout.
Burnout, I might add, which has been caused by the never-ending trail of stories I hear by women about how poorly they're treated in tabletop gaming solely due to their gender, and the never-ending river of shitty comments left by dudes on posts where women are just asking for some help, or men are saying 'Please stop making us all look bad, you utter douches'.
I've heard recently some noise about not walking away from criticism and having honest conversations with these utter wastes of space. I'd rather bake cookies. Thing is? I'm not the only one who would rather do something else.
But, back to the baking... here's a picture of cookies to make you (or maybe me) feel better...
Snickerdoodles were, by far, my favorite cookie as a child (and are still close to top of the list as an adult). This was partially because the cream of tartar adds an extra special tang, and partially because it's super extra-special easy to have on hand the ingredients to make snickerdoodles. As an adult, I've carried on the tradition of always having snickerdoodle ingredients on hand. In fact, I feel a little strange when I don't have the ingredients at home. What the hell am I going to do if a cookie craving hits?
For this first post, I thought I'd take a look into what cream of tartar actually is...
Snickerdoodles Come From Wine
No kidding. The key ingredient that gives snickerdoodles their yummy flavor comes from cream of tartar which is actually a crude form of potassium bitartrate. Potassium bitartrate is a byproduct of winemaking. No, seriously. As the grape juice ferments, crystals form in wine casks, and can even form inside wine bottles stored under 50 °F.
Here's what the unpurified version can look like:
Even more cool... the potassium bitartrate used to make the baking / household version commonly comes from a crude form of the crystals known as beeswing. Which... I couldn't find a picture of, unfortunately, so you'll just have to trust Wikipedia.
Cream of tartar is an acid, and can be used in many, many ways. Apparently, if you mix it up with some lemon juice or white vinegar, you can create a polishing paste to clean metals. It's also used to stabilize egg whites and whipped cream, reduce the discoloration of boiled veggies, prevent sugar from crystallizing, and is a key component in homemade play dough (which is the bomb).
This little white powdered acid is amazing. It's also a component of baking soda, so most of your baking already incorporates some cream of tartar. Snickerdoodles just take it that extra mile. By the way, beware of snickerdoodle recipes that do not contain cream of tartar. If there's no cream of tartar, you've got yourself a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar, not a snickerdoodle.
Don't let friends make fake snickerdoodles!
The cream of tartar doesn't just add the necessary snickerdoodle flavor to snickerdoodles. It also helps with keeping the cookie chewy, which changes its texture from sugar cookies drastically. The sugar in sugar cookies crystallizes, giving you that sugary crunch. The cream of tartar in snickerdoodles prevents that crystallization, causing a chewier cookie and an altogether different flavor from the sugar.
Here's the recipe from the Cooky Book in case you want to make some chewy, tangy, cinnamon-yummy authentic snickerdoodles (including the adorable flavor text):
The recipe for this delicious "family cooky" came to us from Mrs. Ronald Anfinson, Benson, Minnesota.
- 1 cup shortening (part butter or margarine)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 3/4 cups Gold Medal Flour
- 2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. soda
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
Heat oven to 400º (mod. hot). Mix shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and eggs thoroughly. Measure flour by dipping method (p. 5) or by sifting. Blend flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt; stir in. Shape dough in 1" balls. Roll in mixture of 2 tbsp. sugar and cinnamon. Place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Back 8 to 10 min. These cookies puff up at first, then flatten out. Makes 6 doz. cookies.
A few notes on this recipe from my experiences:
- Yes, you can use any all-purpose flour, Betty Crocker just likes to pimp for Gold Medal.
- There's a note here that also says if you use self-rising flour to omit the cream of tartar, soda, and salt. Don't do that. It'll reduce that snickerdoodle flavor because there's not as much cream of tartar in the self-rising flour as there would be if you added it otherwise.
- 'soda' refers to baking soda in case you didn't pick that up.
- The sugar/cinnamon mixture doesn't have to be precise. Just make enough sugar cinnamon mixture to taste to cover your cookies, and you'll be fine.
- For holiday-themed snickerdoodles, pick up some colored sugar crystals to coat your cookies with.
- The recipe says to make your balls 1" in diameter. I actually use a cookie baller to make my life a little easier, and it's a whopping 1 1/2" (I really need to get a smaller one). Still, I like making my balls bigger (HA!) than the suggestions. 1" balls make for some tiny cookies. Aim for about 1 1/4" or go for it with 1 1/2". You'll likely need to adjust the baking time for the bigger cookies, but it's worth it. You'll get nice, chewy centers and crispy edges.
- Keep the cookies in the oven until you just start seeing color on the edges - a golden brown. Then, take them out and let them cool on the pan for 1-2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
- Makes 6 dozen cookies? HA! I'm pretty sure Betty was hitting the gin pretty hard when she made up the quantities in this book. In all my days baking snickerdoodles with this recipe, I've never made anywhere NEAR six freaking dozen cookies.
- If you don't have shortening, you can always switch out butter, but you'll want to make a couple of other changes (butter doesn't have as much fat in it and has a higher water content than shortening, which changes the chemistry). If using butter, use 1/2 cup (softened), and cut down your baking soda to a 1/2 teaspoon. Butter will make for a crisper cookie, so be sure you make bigger balls.
That's it! I hope this journey will be fun and informative and give me a chance to take lots of awesome pictures. First and foremost, though, it's gotta get me through this burnout! I've already done the first set of cookies (peanut butter), and will have the post up early next week.
Make cookies, not flame wars!