When I was little, I was always confused by snickerdoodles — why are they called snickerdoodles when they have nothing to do with the Snickers candy bar or doodling? The most I’ve been able to figure out is that “snickerdoodle” is a corruption of a very long German word (aren’t they all?) meaning “snail dumpling,” or has roots in the Dutch word also for “snail.” Looking at Nigella’s snickerdoodles, which don’t look a whit like the kind you can buy in American bakeries or groceries today, I see and accept that as the root for the name “snickerdoodle.” They have a dumpling-ish, snail-ish appearance.

This is the text of Nigella’s recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, p. 58.

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 baking sheets, lined with parchment or wax paper

“Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

“Combine all the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt, and set aside for a moment.

“In a large bowl, cream the butter with the 1/3 cup of sugar until light in texture and pale in color, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Now stir in the dry ingredients until you have a smooth, coherent mixture. Spoon out the remaining sugar and the cinnamon onto a plate. Then, with your fingers, squeeze out pieces of dough and roll between the palms of your hands into walnut-sized balls. Roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and arrange on the prepared baking sheets.

“Bake for about 15 minutes, by which time they should be turning golden brown. Take out of the oven and leave to rest on the baking sheets for 1 minute before transfering to a wire rack to cool.”

Should make about 32.

I dutifully made the dough into regularly-sized balls, but I had expected that during baking they might flatten a little, become, you know, a typical cookie shape. This was before I knew that “snickerdoodle” might have its roots in the word “snail-shaped.” The dough expanded and the balls cracked a little, but they stayed round. I didn’t know at first this was how they were supposed to be, but a bit of internet searching produced pictures from other bakers whose end product was the same golden brown spheres I had ended up with.

Next time: Flattening the balls of unbaked dough a little when arranging on the baking sheets, so they are slightly more like cookies. Also, using half the cinnamon and maybe an extra tablespoon of sugar. These turned out to be quintessentially British cookies, full of spice and great with a glass of milk or cup of coffee, but Jim’s tastebuds are more American and crave a higher ratio of sugar.

Before baking


After baking — See? Like snails.


photos by Rachel