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The Sweet History of the Snickerdoodle

My Recipes logo My Recipes 11/29/2018 Corey Williams
a doughnut on a plate

Anne Byrn’s new cookbook, American Cookie, beautifully details the histories of 100 iconic cookies from the United States. If you’ve ever wondered what Girl Scouts sold in their early days, or what Thomas Jefferson liked to bake in his spare time, this is the book for you.

The New York Times bestselling author clearly researched the heck out of her latest work—something that is evident in her thorough explanation of how snickerdoodles came to be.

The cinnamon cookie that we know and love was likely brought to America by Dutch-German immigrants. While they were always popular in Mennonite and Amish baking communities, their popularity skyrocketed in 1891.

According to Byrn, a New York City cooking teacher and newspaper columnist shared her recipe for the cookies in a local newspaper. Cornelia “Nellie” Campbell Bedford’s recipe—sugar cookie dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar--quickly went viral, so to speak.

“Which, at the end of the 19th century, meant the bar cookie was discussed in newspaper columns daily for the next year,” Byrn writes.

Since then, the snickerdoodle has been a staple of American baking.

The standard recipe has seen only minor tweaks over the years. Most notably, its shape shifted from bar to round cookie in the ‘30s.

Related video: How to Make Snickerdoodle Puppy Chow

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The origin of the funny-sounding name is a bit more unclear than its rise to popularity.

The Joy of Cooking claims that “snickerdoodle” comes from “Schneckennudel,” a German word that literally means “snail noodles.” Schneckennudels don’t have anything to do with snails or noodles, though—they’re actually delicious-looking German cinnamon rolls.

Other experts say that the word doesn’t actually mean anything, and it’s just a product of New Englanders’ tendency to call cookies whimsical names.

Meanwhile, The Food Lover’s Companion suggests that the name appears to have “no particular meaning or purpose … other than fun.”

Got a hankering for some sweet, cinnamon-y goodness now? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.

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