Snickerdoodles/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Dear Mr. Ruhlman, the email read.  It was the very first one waiting for me this morning. And glancing quickly down and seeing a single word, my stomach turned.

I have been a fan since Ratiothe writer continued. It is my first stop on the cookbook train. I got Ruhlman’s Twenty for a gift and was over the moon, have read it cover to cover. And what’s more I have tried several of the recipes with success.

But seriously, the Snickerdoodles? One of the best cookies of all time and got my kids all worked up into a lather to make some tonight . . . but I have to say, yuck. Sugar bomb! We doubled the recipe because you can never have enough Snickerdoodles . . . 3 cups of sugar to 2 cups flour? Really? I thought it sounded funny. Please tell me there was a typo, the publisher slipped his wife’s recipe in . . . something! 

I will remain a fan but will, sadly, turn to Betty Crocker next time for Snickerdoodles.

Regards,

D.R.

A double batch no less! Awards are meaningless. Awards are fun to get! Awards suggest definitive objectivity but are the height of subjectivity. Awards boost book sales. Awards don’t affect book sales one way or another. Whatever I happen to think about awards personally, here’s one thing I know for certain: They don’t change errors in a hardcover book. I’ve posted on this error before, but here it is again. Errors, they don’t go away. My mentor, Reynolds Price, wrote a book called just that, Permanent Errors. Some errors are not permanent. An editor noted an error in a story I was writing for the Times, fixed it, and Al Siegal looked up and said, “It’s not an error unless it makes into the paper.”

Some of you who have ordered signed first editions from me have received a book with a little note slipped into it noting that the snickerdoodle recipe has double the sugar it should have. Others have not. Happily, the entire first edition sold out and the new editions have the correct amount of sugar. The awesome Kindle edition (which is what I use), was fixed immediately. But there are still countless D.R.s out there who will try the snickerdoodle recipe in their first edition of Ruhlman’s Twenty and say out loud, “Seriously?”

What makes matters worse is that this recipe is based on one sent to me by the extraordinary Shuna Fish Lydon, so it hurts her a little, too (forever sorry, Shuna, my fault).

And what D.R. said is right! It is the perfect cookie—when you put the right amount of sugar in. Simple as can be, with crisp edges, crunchy exterior, and a slightly chewy interior, sweet and sweetly spiced. For an easy afternoon snack for the kids (these are great milk-dipping cookies), this is a quick fix. I do these in a bowl by hand but you can double the amounts and use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment if you have one. So here, with my great apologies to D.R., a proper recipe. Sorry to your kids as well.

Snickerdoodle Done Right

  • 1/4 cup/55 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup/140 grams all-purpose flour/plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Kosher salt

Cinnamon Sugar

  • 1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using a stiff spatula, stir and paddle the ingredients until uniformly combined. Add the egg and whisk rapidly until it is combined into the butter mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, the baking power, and a three-finger pinch of salt. Fold the flour mixture, in a few batches, into the butter mixture until completely incorporated.
  4. Scoop out tablespoons of the dough and arrange them about 3 inches/7.5 centimeters apart on a baking sheet/tray. If you want them uniform, cover the top of a glass with a damp towel, and press the covered opening of the glass down on to each cookie (which is what my mom always liked to do; there is something strangely satisfying about it).
  5. To make the Cinnamon Sugar: In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon until the cinnamon is uniformly distributed.
  6. Sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar (save any leftovers for cinnamon toast!). Bake until the cookies are cooked through, and the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with more sugar if you wish.

Yield: about 12 medium-size cookies.

If you liked this post on snickerdoodles, check out these other links:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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16 Wonderful responses to “Snickerdoodle: The Perfect Cookie (Almost Always)”

  • Lori @ RecipeGirl

    Oh Dear- that’s exactly the sort of thing I dread when my book is published! I’ve been a Snickerdoodle fan forever and ever. My Mom made them when I was little and it remains my favorite cookie. I believe that a classic Snickerdoodle contains cream of tartar. The cream of tartar gives it a noticeable tangy flavor that sets it apart from just being a sugar cookie. Have you ever used it in snickerdoodles? I believe it helps deliver a crinkle on top that snickerdoodles typically have too.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      no I haven’t that’s interesting, though I’ll bet the reason for it is to activate what was then called for, baking soda, which requires an acid to activate.

  • Susan

    Equal amounts of sugar and flour? Your corrected version here seems more like a variation of a sugar cookie but it’s still not a snickerdoodle as I know it. I think there are nuances to certain cookies that you just can’t get with a basic ratio/formula.

    Lori is right, the classic (Betty Crocker) recipe uses cream of tartar which is a component of non-aluminum baking powder so I imagine that this type of baking powder is okay and shouldn’t effect the flavor too much. I do intend to try the substitution of part brown sugar as my recipe only uses white sugar, so the flavor comes only from the butter and cinnamon as there is no vanilla in a classic snickerdoodle The crackly top of a snickerdoodle is from rolling the dough into balls and then into the cinnamon-sugar for baking. They can be flattened slightly, but you won’t get the classic crinkle if they are flattened too much. During the baking process (which should be a moderately hot 375F as it is with most cookie recipes) , the sugar needs to melt onto the surface of the dough to form a crust that will break as the cookie rises then collapse and spread into the round disk of a cookie Flattened too much, you lose this crinkle effect.

  • Nancy G.

    I use a snickerdoodle recipe out of an old church “cookbook”, nothing more than some typed pages held together with yarn, of all things.

    The reason that it is my go-to recipe is that it contains a generous amount of cream of tartar. It is the tang, as mentioned by Lori above, that makes this cookie so addictive to me. What are your thoughts on this?

    Also, errors are what make us human. Owning up to them is what makes you an author, deserving of my respect.

    • Ohiogirl

      Yes! The tang! The cream of tarter makes SUCH a difference. It is not a snickerdoodle without the cream of tarter.

      The recipe I grew up with (more years ago than I care to admit) is basically a double version of your listed recipe. And my mom figured out that if you baked them as bars in a 13 x 9 pan, sprinkled the sugar cinnamon on top and then slightly underbaked them – you’d get even more tang/sour.

      Completely addictive.

  • allen

    I like the errors, it’s the human aspect that comes out and you are so damn nice and considerate that the errors usually don’t stick around long.
    We all make them and humility is derived from the word human, that’s what makes us human. Just try and keep the cocktail post straight.

  • Ed

    Errors are a bitch and part of life :-(

    My suggestion is to have an Errata section, in the “My Books” portion of your website, where publication errors can be listed. I’ve seen this done for other types of publications.

    Given that many books are sold by Amazon I’m guessing that there is a place you could put a comment or two there.

  • Michelle Jaffee

    After chocolate chip cookies, THIS is the cookie that people seem to get most opinionated about… peeps describe exactly how one should taste and what the consistency should be. I love them, but I didn’t grow up on them…. Fascinated by the strong responses I get when the topic comes up. : )

  • Daniela Ryan

    All is forgiven. We shall soldier on and try again.

    D.R.

  • Liz Lynch

    Snickerdoodles are one of the best cookies, but I’m afraid even in this corrected version I wouldn’t make your recipe. Proper snickerdoodles should be puffy and crackled, not flat like yours. Equal parts sugar and flour doesn’t sound right at all, and your recipe lacks cream of tartar. Sorry Ruhlman, I’m sticking to Betty Crocker. I challenge you to make the Betty Crocker recipe (I recommend increasing the cinnamon in the cinnamon-sugar coating, but that’s personal preference), taste it, and take a picture to match up against the one above, I think you’ll see the difference.

  • Mary Beth

    My mom had one cookbook- the Betty Crocker early ’50s edition- and I loved those step by step photos that showed correct cooking techniques. I baked cookies from that book (as well as family and friends’ handwritten ones) from about age nine on. One of our family favorites to this day is the BC Snickerdoodle. I agree with those on the side of using cream of tarter- it adds a certain “je ne sais quois” that sets this simple cookie apart from any other.
    The other thing that made this cookie a favorite to bake is the magic part- the BC version calls for shaping walnut size balls, then rolling them in cinnamon sugar. They not only spread out during baking but develop pretty crackles on the surface. They are crispy to bite into but the tiniest bit soft inside.
    To this day, if I want to give my oldest brother a special gift, all I have to do is bake up a tin full of those snickerdoodles.
    Yep, there are very strong feelings about which version is “the” version of this simple treat.

  • Vicki

    I looked up the Better Crocker recipe and it has twice the fat in it that your recipe does, plus calls for unhealthy shortening which I don’t even have in my kitchen(remember it from my Mom’s 50′s kitchen though). BC recipe calls for 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c shortening. It’s probably a delicious cookie, but I’m sticking with your lighter, healthier recipe and bet it’s equally delicious. Will give it a try….

  • Peggy

    Being human, Ruhlman, shit happens. I hate making errors to the point of losing sleep. You’ve done such a stellar job of atoning that I can only forgive you! Besides, who wouldn’t look at that recipe and know 3 c. of sugar is just plain wrong?

  • Nan W.

    I love snickerdoodles, but our normal recipe doesn’t have brown sugar, so this will be test baked before I make 10 dozen to take to a disc golf tournament in a couple weeks!

  • russ parsons

    michael, michael, michael. here’s the real snickerdoodle recipe
    http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-calcook-cookie-rec1-20120526,0,6943364.story
    Some coincidence, huh? and thanks to all your great readers! i got the recipe from my mom, but i knew it couldn’t have been hers because, well, she was a really terrible cook. i knew she must have gotten it from somewhere and i should have guessed Betty Crocker because, well, she was a really wonderful Betty Crocker-cooking kind of mom. But that solved a mystery that has bugged me for years.

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