Snickerdoodles might actually be my absolute favorite cookie. Of course a crunchy peanut butter cookie will always have a soft spot in my heart. Chocolate chip if it’s salted with large pools of chocolate. I’ll never turn down a molasses-ginger, but they are more seasonal. But I have never walked into a bakery, seen a fresh baked, puffy, cracked lidded snickerdoodle, and passed it up. How could anyone do such a thing?
There’s a family here in Chiang Mai that my husband and I have drawn quite close to. The parents run a restaurant out of their home that we frequent. They've had us over a few times to feed us local, exclusively Northern Thai dishes and often they want me to watch and learn how to make them. These evenings have been a highlight of our time here, not to mention a lesson in generosity.
Because I don’t like to show up empty handed, I always come toting a dessert. They are fans of American style cookies, so naturally the subject of snickerdoodles came up at some point. As it turns out, the father lived in America for a time when he was younger, where he tried his first snickerdoodle, and never stopped dreaming about them since. But the rest of his family— his two sons and wife had never had one! He begged me to teach them all how to make them because we agreed that no one should live life not having experienced a good ‘doodle.
So this time I was cooking in their kitchen and they were watching & learning from me. We made up a big batch and we all gorged. I scribbled out a recipe for them out on an index card and the next time we were over, I found it taped to the outside of their pantry cabinet on display. They sheepishly admitted they had made them numerous times since. I beamed with pride.
But a month or so ago I was thinking how good a snickerdoodle would taste if it could be elevated by just a few small changes: rolled in cardamom sugar (instead of cinnamon), and rose water added to the traditionally vanilla scented, mildly tangy cookie dough. This middle eastern duo of cardamom and rose water is certainly not a pairing that I invented, but one that I am constantly looking to incorporate in desserts, because I love sweets with a floral or herbal note to them.
Rose water is a dream in this buttery, soft sugar cookie and the spicy, smoky, earthy warmth of the cardamom rounds the whole thing out. It’s extremely reminiscent of the classic snickerdoodle in shape and texture, but just with slightly more exotic flavors infused into them. I’ve been a traditional cinnamon snickerdoodle die hard my whole life, but there might be no going back now. My husband has deemed these “his favorite non-chocolate-chip cookie” that I have ever made, which is extremely high praise in my book. See if they don't become your favorite too.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups + 4 Tbs sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs rose water*
3 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 Tbs ground cardamom
*Rose water can be found at most Middle eastern or Asian grocers as well as online. I used Nielsen Massey, which is the most potent version there is. Other brands tend to be more mild. If you are unsure if you will like the flavor, start with less and build from there.
WHAT YOU'LL DO
Beat the butter and 1.5 cups of the sugar together until lightened in color and fluffy. Next add the eggs, and beat again. Then add the vanilla and rose water and mix again.
In another bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together. Then add this dry mix into your wet ingredients and beat again until well combined.
Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 30 mins to one hour, until chilled but still malleable.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a cookie scoop or your hands to divide your dough into 24 even(ish) portions.
In a small shallow bowl or rimmed plate, combine the remaining 4 Tbs sugar with 1.5 Tbs cardamom.
Roll each dough ball in your hands to smooth the surface, then roll it in the cardamom sugar until thoroughly coated. When you have rolled them all, place them on cookie sheets at least 2 inches apart from each other.
Bake for 13 mins (the top of the cookie will puff up and begin to crack). Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack and serve as soon as they are at room temp**.
Makes 24 cookies.
**My husband would tell you these were his favorite straight out of the oven, still warm and almost falling apart because of it, but I actually liked these slightly chilled too. You’ll find your favorite way, I’m sure of it.