As students around the area head back to school after a long hiatus from the classroom, now is the perfect time to pad your pantry with some quality after-school treats.

As a child I adored Snickerdoodles, an old-fashioned cookie with a soft and chewy center and the perfect blend of cinnamon and sugar. My son, Giovanni, asked me to bake them this week, and I was delighted that he chose this classic to celebrate (not his words) his return to school.

Cinnamon is the ingredient that separates this cookie from a regular sugar cookie, and the spice is featured twice in my recipe — first in the dough, and then in the cinnamon sugar mix that coats each cookie.

Unlike other cookies with a cinnamon profile, like molasses cookies, Snickerdoodles are not heavily spiced. Instead, they are the perfect flavor combination of cinnamon, sugar and butter.

Cinnamon is used twice in these Snickerdoodle Cookies — first in the dough mix, and then mixed with sugar to coat the dough balls. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Cinnamon is used twice in these Snickerdoodle Cookies — first in the dough mix, and then mixed with sugar to coat the dough balls. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Old-fashioned cookie recipes often recommend using a blend of fats, like butter and vegetable shortening, and there are good reasons to follow this advice. Butter will bring its lovely flavor to your cookies, but its water content and low melting point can yield cookies that spread too far and end up too crispy.

On the other hand, vegetable shortening has no water content but also zero flavor, so the cookies will hold their shape well and be tender in texture but can taste bland when used alone. By using equal parts butter and vegetable shortening, like Crisco, your cookies can have the best in both flavor and texture.

Sarah's Snickerdoodle Cookies use a combination of butter and shortening, which are creamed together with sugar until pale and fluffy to ensure the best result. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Sarah's Snickerdoodle Cookies use a combination of butter and shortening, which are creamed together with sugar until pale and fluffy to ensure the best result. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Take the time to cream the fat with the sugar before adding any more ingredients to the dough. This step only takes about three minutes of mixing time, which allows the sugar to aerate the butter, thus creating a network of bubbles that will be trapped by the leavening agents to create the ideal texture.

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Snickerdoodles are a molded cookie, and they are shaped into balls before going in the oven. I use an ice cream scoop to ensure each cookie is the same size (but you could use a tablespoon), then shape the scoops into balls by hand. Next, I roll each ball in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon until evenly coated to give the cookie a cinnamon sugary crust.

To ensure each cookie is the same size, use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough before rolling into balls. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
To ensure each cookie is the same size, use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough before rolling into balls. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

When I was a kid, we used to press the cookies with the bottom of a glass before baking, but I have had better results in both appearance and texture when I leave them round. You can line your baking sheets with parchment paper, or just leave them ungreased as there is enough fat in the cookie for easy removal.

Snickerdoodle Cookies are shaped into balls and then rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon before baking. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Snickerdoodle Cookies are shaped into balls and then rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon before baking. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The Snickerdoodles will puff up as they bake and then flatten as they cool. They can be stored at room temperature for up to one week, or frozen for up to three months, making them the perfect back-to-school treat for your student, and you, to enjoy.

To all the students, teachers, staff and parents who have been waiting for this return to school, we salute you and wish you all the best this school year!

Classic Snickerdoodle Cookies

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Makes: About 4 dozen cookies (1 ½-inch balls), or 6 dozen smaller cookies (1-inch balls)

Ingredients:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup shortening (Crisco), room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

Coating:

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or leave ungreased.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening and sugar together on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating hard on medium speed after each until well combined. Add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl and beater before adding the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt until combined. With the mixer on the lowest setting, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating just until combined after each addition.

In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon until fully combined.

Use your hands to roll the dough into 1- or 1 ½-inch balls — a scoop will help to ensure that each ball is uniform in size. Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar until evenly coated all around.

Place balls on the baking sheet, 2 inches apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes until puffy and lightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. The cookies will deflate somewhat as they cool.

To store: Place cookies in an airtight container and keep at room temperature for up to 1 week. Snickerdoodles also freeze well for up to 3 months.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.