When I was barely out of kindergarten I had my first baking lesson. My mother taught me how to make sugar cookies, about as simple as a recipe can get. Measure, stir, put teaspoons full on a baking sheet, bake, and eat. Here was a household task I could really get into. I made those cookies again and again, being highly motivated by the immediate reward. I became so proficient that I once bragged to my mother that I didn’t need to open the cookbook (the big red Betty Crocker of the 1950’s) because I had the recipe memorized.
Over time my repertoire of cookies expanded to peanut butter, chocolate chip, and beyond. I added other baked items – cakes, brownies, muffins, cheesecake, pies, and more. But my favorites have always been cookies in general and snickerdoodles in particular, a delicious cookie with an odd name – and an unusual ingredient.
Snickerdoodles contain cream of tartar, an item I never used in anything else. When I was a child I assumed the grown-ups knew what it was. Years later I learned the truth. People buy it but haven’t a clue as to where it comes from. A little digging on the Internet revealed that cream of tartar was first discovered as a by-product of wine making. Crystals of cream of tartar (aka potassium bitartrate) form on the underside of a cork in a wine bottle kept chilled in wine cellars. How anyone thought of trying this in baking is beyond me. However it happened, the result is a cookie with a unique flavor. If you’ve never tried them, here’s the recipe I use. They’re perfect for munching on in crisp fall weather. Add a cup of hot chocolate or cider and you have a real treat.