Monday, August 30, 2010

Lemon Snickerdoodles

Happy Monday, folks!

Back in the kitchen today baking cookies. After all the cake, frosting and fondant I was working with last week, simple cookies sound wonderful. In fact, perhaps I'll make a theme of it this week. Nothing but cookies.

I can do that and recharge my exhausted baking batteries.

So this recipe is an adaptation of one of the first cookies I ever baked. A basic Snickerdoodle recipe from my ancient, tattered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Mother Humble taught me how to make cookies with this recipe, demonstrating that how you make and bake cookies makes all the difference in the end result. She taught me to use high quality ingredients, how to properly cream butter and how to aim for slightly under-baking chewy cookies to give them the best texture when fully cool.

When my own batch of the ubiquitous Better Homes and Garden's recipe took a place for best in show for baking at the state fair when I was seven or eight, it cementing into my child-brain that good technique and quality ingredients are key to baking well.

Today we're taking that same old recipe, and putting a citrus twist on it. These lemon snickerdoodles are fragrant with lemon, soft and chewy, yet pack a big sugar crunch.

Simple and delicious.

Ms. Humble's Lemon Snickerdoodles
yields 3 dozen cookies
adapted from BH&G New Cookbook
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (but still firm)
1 cup granulated sugar
zest of two large lemons
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup coarse sugar or sanding sugar for rolling

Zest your lemons over your mixing bowl to capture any of the oils released. Be careful to remove only the lemon's zest and not the bitter white pith. A microplane makes easy work of this and produces very fine zest.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or hand beaters, cream together the butter, lemon zest and sugar on medium-high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the cream of tartar and baking soda then the flour, mixing until it forms a uniform dough.

Turn out the moist dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a rough rectangle and wrap in plastic. Place the dough into the refrigerator and allow to chill for several hours or over night. This will make the dough easier to handle and will prevent the cookies from melting too quickly (resulting in flat crinkly edges) when you put them into the oven.

When you're ready to roll and bake, pre-heat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Roll your dough into one inch balls and then roll each in a bowl of sanding or coarse sugar.

Arrange the balls on your pan, giving them plenty of room to spread.

Bake the cookies for approximately 10 minutes on the lower-middle rack of your oven. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.



  1. It's always refreshing to make something simple and familiar after making more challenging recipes. They look so tasty.

  2. I found a snickerdoodle recipe recently that produced really amazing fluffy works of art that were quickly demolished. The recipe called for not only refrigerating the dough but also the cookie pans/sheets. I think my friend and I will have to make your lemon ones with the same technique! NOM

  3. Love the lemon idea! I may have to try adding some zest to my Gluten-free Almond Snickerdoodles. Almond and Lemon together. Yum!

  4. gosh, with no nuts and no chocolate, perhaps these need a new name?

  5. Omgosh, I have to make these today! It's the month of Ramadan for Muslims, so that means I'm fasting during the day; these will totally hit the spot.

    Can regular sugar be used in place of sanding/coarse sugar?

  6. I've been on a lemon kick for a while. I will be making these immediately! Yum!

  7. These sound fantastic--I love lemon! With the hot weather here these are perfect.

  8. it's true what "they" say, the simple things in life are the best & these look awesome!

  9. Kate,

    A classic snickerdoodle is a soft cookie rolled in cinnamon and sugar. It bears little resemblance to the candy bar with a similar name.


    Yes, you can roll them in normal sugar or even raw sugar. I prefer to use coarse sugar as it gives them the lovely crunch and sparkle, but they're quite good without.

  10. Oh boy, I had to read this in the middle of the afternoon with no opportunity to get a snack! You've just combined two of my favorite things - I may have to make some tonight...

  11. I should note that coarse sugar is great, up until a point. The sugar these cookies are sitting on in the photographs would be too coarse.

    Yes, they'd pack quite the crunch but they're not recommended for rolling.

  12. I love lemon and these look perfect for an afternoon treat! Yum!

  13. Snickerdoodles are one of my favourite cookies but as much as I like lemon, I don't think I'm ready to give up my cinnamon just yet. I just love cinnamon too much but I think you're a real sport to show us new ways with old recipes (loved your take on lamingtons!).
    Snickerdoodles look plain but are amazing to eat. I think they deserve more credit than they get.
    I have found that I have a problem with cookies that don't seem to flatten. They just puff up and stay fat.
    I usually have to squash them half-bake just to make sure they stay down. It's very frustrating.

  14. Odd, do you always produce puffy cookies, regardless of recipe?

    Some recipes are designed to make puffy cookies, either through the use of shortening (which has a higher melting point than butter) or leavening agents.

    I've never been a fan of puffy, cakey cookies so the recipes on this blog emphasize either soft n' chewy or shortbread-like cookies (all of which should be relatively flat).

    Though, I do have a habit of giving my cookie sheets a firm tap on the counter right after pulling them out of the oven. I've convinced myself that this improves the texture and makes them uniformity flat.

  15. And here I thought snickerdoodles couldn't get any better...Yay for lemon!! Second only to chocolate! :)

  16. I have tried making snickerdoodles with three different recipes. One was the traditional cream of tartar recipe. I have also made them using a recipe without cream of tartar but where baking soda and cornstarch was substituted. The last one I tried was a recipe using baking powder.
    I still got good rise out of each of them and ended up having to manually press each cookie down mid-bake. I loathe puffy, cakey cookies too. I like my cookies crisp to the point of distraction.
    Could it be that I have over-creamed the butter? I have the same problem with Anzac cookies even where there isn't any baking powder and no creaming of butter.
    Admittedly, I am using an awful oven. I suspect this might be the culprit. It's older than you, Ms. Humble, being 30 years old. It fits a tray that bakes only 5 average-sized cookies at any one time and has both the top and bottom elements exposed.
    It makes your EasyBake Oven look professional. What's more, it's an ugly orange-enamel painted monster which belonged to my Mother-in-Law originally.
    At any length, I hope to give your snickerdoodle recipe a whirl in it before I cast this nasty beast into oblivion once and for all.
    Needless to say, I haven't had the courage to try your macaron recipes in my oven yet. I think it would be quite the futile cause.
    No, I shall save the macarons for a new oven. Do you recommend convection?

  17. 10.21 in the morning. I want them!

  18. thanks for the tip on giving the cookie sheets a firm tap after pulling out of oven.

    yes…you have done it again!!

  19. Yum! These look delicious. And how lucky you are to have Mother Humble to teach you her secrets -- it's taken me years to learn that under-baking secret!

  20. Ms. Humble, you are very humble. You kicked some serious State Fair backside with your snickerdoodles at the tender age of 7. Best in Show fo' 'sho. They were yummy and you were a cooking natural and I was so proud and I decided a had created a monster since from that time on you were messing up the kitchen on a regular basis. (Don't ever give me a hard time for leaving your kitchen messy.) How much money did you win? $7? Was that also the year that you got lost at the State Fair and I was sure you had run off to join the circus?

    Please make some of these and send them to me. xoxo, MH

  21. I think you "lost" me at the state fair at least twice, so the odds are pretty good that was one of the years.

    ...and did you seriously just say "fo' 'sho"?

  22. lemony snickets? (once the "r" is gone, the tie to the candy bar disappears?) besides, kids of cooking age will see the amusing link

  23. A snickerdoodle with baking soda and cornstarch instead of cream of tartar? Odd, the idea behind using the cream of tartar in these recipes is to reacts with the baking soda. Otherwise baking powder would be a better substitution, but it won't impart the same salty tang as the baking soda-CoT combination.

    Cornstarch (like rice flour) will make the cookie a little more sandy, which is desirable if you're looking to get away from cakey cookies but probably not the solution you need.

    I don't think it has to do with your butter being over creamed, you want a lot of air in the butter. Nor your oven, which actually sounds hip for it's orange enamel and pint size. I think you should try reducing the amount of flour you use in recipes (there is unfortunately a lot of variation between "all purpose" flours), not a lot, but a tablespoon or two per cup. Also, make sure you're not baking BIG cookies. Sometimes large drop cookies don't flatten well.

    A little less flour, keep your drop cookie balls under 1" in diameter, preheat the oven well, and allow the cookies to rise in the oven and then pull them out a little early before they're fully set and smack the pan.

    Short of being in your kitchen (and I wish I could see that oven!), that's my best advice for solving the mountainous cakey cookie problem.

  24. Thanks a trillion for your feedback. I would give my oven to you in gratitude but sadly we are oceans apart and I think it would be quarantined in customs well before it got to you. It would certainly give your microbiologist husband something to study. 30 oven years is probably about the equivalent of 150 human years. It's ancient and looks it and probably harbours gremlins from the Middle Ages. Gremlins that get their thrill from making cookies rise.
    I will look into the flour issue. It's starting to affect my baking confidence.
    Here is the link for the Baking Soda & Cornstarch Snickerdoodles -
    It's by Shuna Fish Lydon. I actually prefer it to the traditional Cream of Tartar recipe as it does away with the 'tartness'. If only mine stayed down .
    Anyhow, you're a saint, and I am really enjoying your homey cookie week.

  25. Another fabulous recipe, Ms Humble. These cookies are utterly addictive! I rolled mine in demerara sugar, as it's the coarsest sugar I can get. I'm interested to start trying variations (one of my best/worst baking habits) which should be able to begin soon as this batch of 30 which came out last night and it's nearly gone already at 11.22am!

  26. I just zested a bunch of meyer lemons before making lemonade. These cookies were the first things I thought of to use them the zest for. How much do you think would be the equivalent to two large lemons? 2-3 T?

    By the way, I absolutely love your blog. The time you took in working out every detail for your macaron posts was amazing!


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