My friend Megan called me last Wednesday for the sole purpose of wishing me a Happy October! on the first day of the month. It’s our shared favorite month of the entire year, so it was only appropriate — yet I was still caught off-guard by the call. Only because the month really snuck up on me; we’ve got a lot going on. It’s proving itself to be a month that will be busy every year for our family, since three of the five of us will have birthdays within the 31 days. I was halfway complaining about this fact to Megan; her response was that it was even more excuse to bake yummy fall treats throughout the month. Well, okay then. Twist my arm.
And it’s true. For four years now, I’ve had quite a fun time planning the menu for my daughter’s October birthday parties. Every year so far we’ve had caramel apples — an autumn favorite replete with Mississippi’s State Fair memories. We’ve also had pumpkin bars, spicy pumpkin seeds, and of course apple cider. This year I’ve got a hankerin’ for some popcorn balls on sticks, and I think they will replace the caramel apples. To date, I’ve gotten away with completely hijacking the menu — with the exception of the cake, which she is now old enough to choose. This year, it looks like it will be a “Barbie’s Chocolate Dream Cake,” which is fine by me, since the inspiration came from that very cake, on display behind the glass case at The Grit (one of the best places in town to get a slice of homemade, old-fashioned layer cake).
This year, though, there is that slight distraction of the impending birth of our third child. Any time now, as they say (officially, anytime in the next week or so). Funny things happen in the last weeks of pregnancy; women have been known to kick it up a notch in the housekeeping category. I have found myself fallen squarely into that stereotype — furniture has been painted, pillows sewn, drawers cleaned out (although none of this has occurred in a “nursery” — the third child doesn’t really get one of those). I’ve been brainstorming ways to make the birthday-party-preparations a bit less time-consuming; and in general, baking hasn’t been a top priority for me.
Until tonight. I’ve had snickerdoodles on the brain, for days now. Even mentioned them this morning to my friends Julie and Sarah, as they asked me about bringing us meals after the baby arrives. After that, I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and found myself telling my children that they could help me make cookies after rest time today. It was a bit of a harried experience, since we were out of cream of tartar, and by the time we found a neighbor who could provide, were well into dinner preparations. Making dinner and cookies at the same time isn’t the way I like to do things, especially when the eyes of your two-year old aren’t quite high enough, even when standing on a stool, to see into the mixer. Oh, the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But, one distracted toddler, one cinnamon-sugar-coated pair of five-year old hands, one hell of a mess later, we had ourselves a cooling rack full of crackle-topped snickerdoodles. Fall’s first cookies. Joy to be had. I used a Joy of Cooking recipe, which proved to be a little hard to work with due to the high ratio of fat to flour (leaving the dough in the refrigerator before rolling them into balls helped a little). They make a very simple version of the cookies; basically a wide-spreading sugar cookie with the addition of cinnamon (you can find some really complicated snickerdoodle recipes out there, as well as some that are more cakey). I’ll post the recipe with my minor alterations below. Make some for yourself, and see if the temperature outside doesn’t drop a few degrees, and the leaves get one shade closer to umber.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
For the cinnamon-sugar topping:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350º, and have cookie sheet(s) ready, lined with silpat, parchment, or lightly greased.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl (or the bowl of standing mixer), beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until very fluffy and well-blended. Add the eggs one at a time, until fully combined.
With the mixer on low, or stirring by hand, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until well-combined.
(At this point, you might want to stick the dough in the refrigerator to solidify a bit before rolling in sugar.)
In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon and sugar to make topping. Pull off pieces of dough to form 1 1/4″ (or larger) balls, and roll the entire ball in cinnamon-sugar. Place on cookie sheet, about 2-3 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-12 minutes, or until slightly golden. Remove pan to a cooling rack and let stand until slightly firm, then remove cookies to rack to cool.