If you’re the kind of baker who likes knowing the quirky history behind the treats you bake, you’ll enjoy Stella Parks’ new “ BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts” (W. W. Norton & Company, $35), which connects the dots between your childhood treats and digs into the storied pasts of American favorites, such as cream pies, vanilla wafers, peanut brittle and even Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Snickerdoodles, it turns out, were more like coffee cake in their early years, Parks found in her research, so she shared a double recipe in the book, one that transforms a regular cookie dough into a lighter, thicker, sliceable square called Snip Doodles. You can use turbinado sugar to give the Snip Doodles a crunchy shell or cinnamon sugar.
For the snickerdoodle cookie dough:
2 1/3 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, pliable but cool — about 60 degrees
1/2 cup refined or virgin coconut oil, solid but creamy — about 70 degrees
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (half as much if iodized)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, straight from the fridge
For the Snip Doodles:
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or cornstarch for dusting baking sheet
1/4 cup sugar (can be flavored, such as cinnamon or vanilla sugar)
Make the snickerdoodle dough: Sift flour into a medium bowl (if using cup measures, spoon into the cups and level with a knife before sifting).
Combine butter, coconut oil, sugar, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to moisten, then increase to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, pausing to scrape with a flexible spatula halfway through. With the mixer running, crack in the egg and continue beating until smooth. If you wanted to make regular snickerdoodle cookies, at this point you would just mix in the flour after the egg — no milk — and scoop the stiffer dough onto a cookie sheet to bake at 400 degrees.
To make the Snip Doodles: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Turn the blender to low and add a third of the flour, followed by a third of the milk, alternating between the two until fully incorporated and smooth.
Fold once or twice with a flexible spatula to ensure the batter is well mixed from the bottom up. Butter a baking sheet and dust with the tablespoon of flour or cornstarch. Scrape the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a 15-inch-by-11-inch layer and dust with sugar.
Bake until the cake is puffed and firm, about 15 minutes; a toothpick inserted into the center should emerge with a few crumbs attached. Cool for roughly 10 minutes to set the crumb, then “snip” into squares with a pizza wheel or knife. Serve warm. Makes 20 3-inch squares. Wrapped tightly in foil, Snip Doodles will keep for up to three days at room temperature.
— From “ BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts” by Stella Parks (W. W. Norton & Company, $35)