Did we mention they have white chocolate and cream cheese in them?

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Brown Butter Snickerdoodles
Credit: Darcy Lenz

In the realm of cookie jar classics, the snickerdoodle is an icon. Soft and pillowy with a distinct chew, a delicate tartness, and a warming cinnamon-sugar kiss, there's no cookie quite like it. And aside from a thick and gooey chocolate chip cookie, it's the cookie I look forward to making/eating the most. 

This year, I wanted to take the classic snickerdoodle we all know and love, and give it a decadent boost. Not because the snickerdoodle isn't fantastic as-is, but because I believe the holiday season (especially this year) merits giving these whimsically named confections a little something extra. 

Here, we'll walk through the essential elements of a snickerdoodle, and highlight the simple swaps and additions that take this cookie up a notch. 

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles with White Chocolate
Credit: Darcy Lenz

The Architecture of a Snickerdoodle

The Tang

A key signature of the snickerdoodle is that subtle but welcome tang. Typically, this gentle twang is a product of the cream of tartar included in traditional snickerdoodle recipes. Of course, flavor isn't all that this often overlooked member of your spice cabinet contributes to the party. In fact, many would argue that the inclusion of this ingredient is what makes a snickerdoodle a snickerdoodle, versus just some cinnamon-spiked sugar cookie. See, the cream of tartar also gives the snickerdoodle its distinct chew by inhibiting the cookie dough's sugar from crystalizing into a crunchy texture. Additionally, cream of tartar's teamwork with baking soda creates the leavening power these cookies need to puff up during baking. 

Obviously, cream of tartar is pretty significant to the snickerdoodle's identity. However, one ingredient (that's likely waiting dutifully in your fridge right now) can magnify all of the greatness cream of tartar has to offer. That ingredient is none other than cream cheese. In these Brown Butter Snickerdoodles with White Chocolate, I broke out a block of cream cheese to both amplify and enrich the tang cream of tartar offers, as well as complement the work it does texturally. 

The Fluffiness

Let's keep talking about that crucial workhorse of holiday baking, cream cheese. Dense in fat, cream cheese lends delightful tenderness and body to the cookie dough. While butter invites cookie dough to spread during baking, cream cheese provides volume. Pairing these qualities with the chewiness cream of tartar encourages leaves you with a cookie that is quite structurally sound (this is not one of those cookies that's too delicate to travel), but is wonderfully fluffy. To tell the truth, snickerdoodles emboldened with cream cheese toe the line of being a melt-in-your-mouth kind of cookie. 

That Toasty Mmmm Factor

The cinnamon included in snickerdoodle dough lends even the simplest rendition of this cookie an inherent warmth — however, replacing a couple of sticks of softened butter with brown butter creates a level of toastiness you have to taste to understand. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of browning butter and all that it can do for your cooking/baking, consider today the start of a new era, my friend. Making brown butter simply means toasting the milk solids present in butter until they're fragrant and caramelized, yielding one of the most nutty and richly delicious flavor boosters imaginable. Basically, you melt butter and cook it over medium-low heat until the smell is irresistible. 

A Touch of Richness

Now, I'm here to tell you, if there's an obvious (and most welcome) third wheel to cinnamon and brown butter, it's got to be white chocolate. And I'm saying this as someone who is categorically not a white a chocolate enthusiast. That said, in the right places, at the right times, an intentional amount of white chocolate is just the ticket. This is one of those places and times. White chocolate, coarsely chopped and well-distributed throughout the batter, contributes a certain buttery luxe — and enhances the oomph of the other notable flavors mentioned.

The Iconic Cinnamon-Sugar Finish  

The final touch that seals the deal on a snickerdoodle is the cinnamon-sugar coating the unbaked cookie dough portions are rolled in. For me, ⅓ cup of white sugar whisked with 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon is the winning ratio for this mixture; however, you can always bump up the cinnamon content to 2-3 teaspoons if you'd like! And if you're looking to add another special touch to your snickerdoodles, consider using a different type of cinnamon, such as Saigon cinnamon, in your cinnamon-sugar coating.