I love classic cookies just as much as the next person, but I find a lot of joy in putting a modern spin on old-school classics. Sometimes this means changing the recipe completely, and sometimes it means just swapping out one ingredient for another.
Doug has always adored snickerdoodles, a traditional sugary Christmas cookie that’s rolled in cinnamon-sugar before baking and that’s characterized by a cracked surface. I’d never made them before, and while the recipe looked good, I thought it could use a little pizzazz.
A light went off in my head: Why not swap in Chinese Five Spice Powder, a unique spice blend that epitomizes the Chinese cooking philosophy of keeping all four tastes—sweet, warm, cool and spicy—properly balanced, for half of the cinnamon called for in the recipe?
I knew the spice blend’s fragrant combination of cloves, star anise, China’s #1 ginger powder, Chinese cinnamon, and powdered cassia (often a substitute for the more expensive “true” cinnamon) would take these cookies out of Christmas past and make them a staple on your modern Christmas table—and it really did. The Five Spice gives these snickernoodles a pleasant warming sensation on the tip of your tongue, and the subtlety of the flavors builds as you make your way through the cookie(s), leaving you wanting more, more, more! Which could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. This is a cookie that really tastes like Christmas.
Doug, our in-house snickerdoodle expert, happily ate half a dozen of these cookies before declaring them, “the best snickerdoodles in world.” He continued, “The regular snickerdoodle recipe is good, but the Five Spice makes them taste like magic.”
So there you have it, folks. This is officially the best snickerdoodle recipe in the world. Go on, eat your little heart out.
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Five Spice Snickerdoodles
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. After rolling the balls of dough in the spiced sugar, give them ample room on cookie sheets; they spread a lot as they bake. You can find Five Spice Powder in the spice aisle of most supermarkets, specialty shops, and at thespicehouse.com. Yield: Makes about 4 dozen. Click here to download a printable PDF copy of this recipe.
2¾ c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ c. pure vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1¾ cups sugar, divided
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
1 Tbs. Chinese Five Spice powder
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 400˚F, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
Combine the dry ingredients. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Combine wet ingredients. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and 1½ cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
Make rolling sugar. In a small bowl, combine remaining ¼ cup sugar, the ground cinnamon, and the Chinese Five Spice powder. Use a small (1¼-ounce) ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and then roll them in the spiced sugar. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 5 minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.