snickerdoodles

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this past summer, I took some time to visit old friends who had moved to europe. it is wonderful, the way that time and distance can disappear when one reunites with a good friend. my first leg was berlin, a city I could see myself living in one day.

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view from the french cathedral, gendarmenmarkt

in berlin, evenings spent at hole-in-the-wall restaurants where the tables spilled into the streets turned into late nights spent sipping beers with good company and counting rats along the riverbank, or dancing, or chatting around sticky tables in smoke-filled dark bars. days were spent biking to flea markets, napping in the dry blazing heat at parks, stopping through coffee shops across the city, and marveling at the artifacts, paintings, and bullet hole-riddled walls of berlin’s museums. everything was closed on sundays, and the city seemed all the more alive for it.

I have to say that I failed to try any traditional german fare, instead enjoying the cuisine of their sizable immigrant population, from delicious south vietnamese fish to burning hot korean fried chicken wings to late-night doner kebabs.

since returning from europe, I have moved to washington, dc. to break in the oven (and bribe/befriend my new classmates), I decided to bake up a batch of cookies. apparently, snickerdoodles might come from an english butchering of a german word, schneckennudel, or “snail noodles”… or it might just be a nonsensical name invented by someone in new england. either way, in my mind, snickerdoodles are a quintessential american cookie, a food of comfort after weeks on the road.

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makes ~1 1/2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
10 tbsp (138g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar + 2 tbsp (divided)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon
samantha seneviratne. snickerdoodles. new york times. 17 february 2017. accessed 23 august 2017.

1 heat oven to 375ºF. (I baked different batches at 350ºF, 375ºF, and 400ºF in my electric non-convection oven and the 375ºF worked best; if you have a convection oven, you may want to lower the temperature.)
2 in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
3 in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and 3/4 cup guar until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. beat in the egg until creamy, then add the vanilla, again scraping down the sides. add the flower mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until just combined. (don’t over beat, as your cookies will become too tough!)
4 place the dough in the fridge, covered, for 10-30 minutes.
5 in a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and cinnamon. roll the dough into golf ball-sized balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
6 transfer the dough to parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets, at least 3 inches apart. bake the cookies unitil just set and dry in the center, 10-12 minutes. transfer each sheet to a rack to cool for 1-3 minutes, then transfer the cookies to racks to cool completely.
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pumpkin snickerdoodles

pumpkin snickerdoodle 2

my first memory of baking was as a child, standing on a new purple rubbermaid stool and feeling important as my sister and I measured out ingredients for snickerdoodles and mixed them together under the watchful gaze of my college-aged aunt.

my aunt had seemed confident and in control at the time, but when the cookies came out of the oven and we tried them, she had this look on her face that I didn’t understand at the time. however, after years of baking, I have finally come to recognize as the expression I wear every time someone first tries my baked goods, or reads something I’ve written for the first time – that desire for approval.

when I was a child, I baked for myself. even if everyone else thought gummy worms in muffins was weird, if I liked it, I was happy. but as I grew older and fell into the routine of endlessly seeking approval for papers, for piano, for most of my decisions, I began to develop worries that even if I loved something, others would not. and when others expressed disappointment or concerns, I took in their comments as a reflection of my personal flaws.

it’s strange to look back on that moment when my aunt watched my sister and I take the first bite of her cookie recipe and recognize that in that moment, my aunt, a fiercely independent world traveler and one of the smartest people I know, was vulnerable to the opinions of two kids.

as I navigate 23 (apparently the age when nobody likes you), I am still trying to figure out my next move. but there’s something I realized – not everyone has the same tastes, and not every decision can be met with unanimous approval, and ultimately, my image of adulthood was not truth, but (mis)perception.

we’ve been told that growing up means letting childhood become memories, but I don’t want to just remember the girl who tried to bake bread in a car parked outside on a hot summer day (and then tried to eat it, to her mother’s dismay). I want to take a lesson from her that life has no recipe, that really, no one has it all together and it’s okay to do things (and even totally mess them up) because you want to, not because it is the formulaically “right” thing to do.

my sister has started her final year of dorm living; it is a bit shocking to think that we are now both older than my aunt was back then (and even more shocking to think that my aunt is married and about to have her first child!). I sent my sister some pumpkin snickerdoodles, a combination of her favorite cookie and favorite fall ingredient. fluffy, tangy, and with warm spiced pumpkin flavor, these snickerdoodles are as delicious as those of my childhood memories.

pumpkin snickerdoodle 1
makes 30-36 snickerdoodles

3 1/4 cup (406g) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
scant 1 cup (185g) sugar
3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (187.5g) canned pumpkin purée
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

jaclyn bell. pumpkin snickerdoodles. cooking classy. 24 oct 2014. accessed 17 sept 2015.

1 in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice for 20 seconds; set aside.
2 in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar (until combined; not pale and fluffy). occasionally scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout mixing. mix in egg yolk, then mix in pumpkin and vanilla extract. with mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients, then mix until just combined.
3 divide dough in half and cover each half in plastic wrap, then chill for 45 min to 1 hour.
4 preheat oven to 350ºF. in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. scoop dough out, ~2 tbsp per ball, then roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture until evenly coated and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. space cookies ~2 in apart and using your palm, flatten cookies slightly.
5 bake 12-14 minutes (slightly under-baked, as they’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet after being removed from the oven.) cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

cinnamon honey scones

honey cinnamon scones 3

I’m starting to have the feeling that juniper kitchen is turning into a baking blog.

oops.

I had all these fun savories planned at some point when I first started juniper kitchen, but so many of them are dinner dishes, and with work and life and all, I never have time to shoot them in daylight. I’m also just too cheap to invest in nice photography indoor lighting gadgets – isn’t it just a little ridiculous that a white lightbulb covered with a thin sheet of plastic can cost $100?!

one day I’ll get around to tackling all the savory dishes that I cook but never photograph. but for now, here’s another sweet recipe, a scone elevated to ultra-luxurious levels of decadence by pastry genius sebastian rouxel. (you know if he’s part of thomas keller’s team, he’s gotta be pretty damn amazing.) it’s the best scone I’ve ever eaten, and best of all, they are supposed to be frozen so every time I’m feeling sad or hungry or just in the mood for a yummy scone (which is almost all the time, really), I just pop a couple in the oven and half an hour later, perfect scones!

they do take a while, but they are absolutely worth it. make the full recipe, freeze whatever dough you don’t bake that day, and have scones at your fingertips for months (or for weeks, or when the addiction really kicks in, for days…).

honey cinnamon scone diptych
makes twelve scones

cinnamon honey cubes
3 tbsp (30g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp (30g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp (4g) ground cinnamon
1oz (30g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-in cubes
1 tbsp (20g) clover honey
plain scone dough
1 cup, 1 1/2 tbsp (152g) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups, 2 tbsp (304g) cake flour
2 1/2 tsp (12.5g) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2.5g) baking soda
1/4 cup, 3 1/2 tbsp (91g) granulated sugar
8oz (227g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-in cubes
1/2 cup, 1 1/2 tbsp (135g) heavy cream
1/2 cup, 2 tbsp (135g) crème fraîche
honey butter glaze
3 tbsp, 2 tsp (45g) unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp (20g) clover honey

thomas keller and sebastien rouxel. bouchon bakery. new york: artisan, 2012.

cinnamon honey cubes|1 sift flour, sugar, and cinnamon into medium bowl and whisk to combine. toss in butter cutes, coating in flour mixture. using your fingertips, break up butter until there are no large visible pieces. using a spatula, mix in honey to form smooth paste. 2 press paste into 4-inch square on sheet of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and freeze until solid (~2 hours minimum).
plain scone dough|1 sift all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and granulated sugar into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. mix for ~15 seconds to combine. stop mixer, add butter, and on lowest setting (“stir” on kitchenaid), begin incorporating butter. increase speed to low (2 on kitchenaid) and mix for ~3 minutes to break up butter and incorporate it into dry mixture. keep mixing until all large pieces of butter are incorporated. 2 with mixture running, slowly pour in cream. add crème fraîche and mix for ~30 seconds, until dry ingredients are moistened and dough comes together around paddle. scrape down sides, add cinnamon honey cubes, and pulse to combine. 3 place dough between two pieces of plastic wrap on cool work surface and roll into a 6×9-in block. using hands, straighten the sides of the block. wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ~2 hours, until firm (sometimes I don’t refrigerate them and they turn out just fine). 4 using pizza cutter, cut dough in thirds lengthwise and in fourths crosswise. wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until solid (~2 hours minimum, can be frozen for one month). 5 preheat oven to 325ºF. line sheet pan with parchment paper and arrange scones 1-inch apart. bake for 20-23 minutes, until golden.
honey butter glaze|1 stir butter and honey together in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and combines with honey. brush over baked scones and let cool completely. (scones can be stored in covered container for one day)