I love baking. It's therapeutic and can be so beautiful, especially when cake is involved. But I'm also a bit of a health nut. What I consider ideal is having a couple of sporty, hungry teenage boys to pass the cookies to so that I'm not stuck in the house, alone, with an entire cake or batch of cookies. Teenagers have amazing powers of absorption when it comes to food.
Let's cut to the chase. I made some Snickerdoodles in April and took them to dinner at the house of our friends Oleg and Anna, and their sons Dennis and Alex who are...14 and 16, I think. They're both very tall for their age, which makes them look 24 and 26. Their hair is a perfect blend of their mom's curly red and dad's fluffy blonde hair. I hope Oleg doesn't mind me calling his hair fluffy. I simply mean, 'not flat'. It's a good thing. But anyway, they loved the Snickerdoodles. We were over there again last weekend. The lads, plus Lucy, Dennis' girlfriend, cooked dinner for 10 people. I was so impressed, given my complete cluelessness about cooking when I was their age. They wanted the cookie recipe, or at least the spelling of the word so they could look it up.
I guess Snickerdoodles are American – this seems obvious when I think about it. There are plenty of silly words in British English but Snickerdoodle is not one of them. If it was an English 'biscuit', it might be called 'Snickies' or something else with a 'y' sound at the end. They love that over here. Like chocky for chocolate.
As a thanks for dinner, guys and gal, here's a recipe. I thought they'd be nice with cardamom in them. I love cardamom and think it's amazing in the right desserts. Dennis and Alex fondly remember the chai crème brulee that my brother made for everyone at our wedding party in 2008, and last week I had a similar cardamom crème brulee at a very authentic French restaurant near our house. Mmm. Anyway, the cardamom is optional here but I love it.
If you're going to use gluten free flour, it's a good idea to use baking paper so that you don't end up demolishing the cookies while trying to scrape them off the bottom of the pan. Baking paper lets you lift your gluten free wares off easily, with minimal crumble. It's a miracle for the gluten free baker.
I fiddled around to make them a bit 'healthier'. I used half whole spelt flour and half gluten free self-rising flour and modified the amount of baking soda accordingly (self-raising GF flour has baking soda in it). Feel free to use ordinary unbleached all-purpose flour. I also used demerara sugar, but I ground it up in the blender because I didn't want huge crystals but I wanted to keep the sugar unrefined. It's an easy trick that I use when I need powdered or caster sugar but don't want the white stuff.
for the dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
pinch of salt (not table salt) (omit if you have to use salted butter)
for the topping:
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
In one bowl, cream the butter and sugar with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the egg and mix well.
In a second bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt (if using) and cardamom. Do try to grind the cardamom yourself, the aroma and taste is amazing. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until it starts to clear the sides of the bowl and comes together into a dough. Pat down the top, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.
When you're ready, take out the dough and preheat the oven to 350F / 180C (I have an oven thermometer and I only have to set my UK oven to 130C! Obviously, these are handy). In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Scoop out spoonfuls of dough, enough for 1 inch balls, and form them by rolling the dough around gently between your two palms. Then toss them in the cinnamon mix to coat and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until just starting to brown around the edges. Makes about 32 cookies. These freeze well. In case you need to save them for the next time you see some teenagers.