Monday, June 20, 2011

James Buchanan Snickerdoodles

Presiding over the nation during a time of great strife, James Buchanan is the only president who never had a wife. And while he dined very fine at many White House parties, historians say that James retained a childhood taste for Scrapple, Confederate Pudding, and sweet Dutch-German cookies called Apees.

Snickerdoodles are another traditional Dutch-German cookie that are usually covered with cinnamon and sugar and baked in the shape of a snail. Some food historians say that their fanciful name comes from the German term Schnecke Knödel which can be translated as “snail dumpling.” Others say that “snicker” comes from the Dutch word snekrad or the German word schnecke, both of which refer to a small, snail-like shape.

Although no one knows who came up with their name, we do know that these sweet little sugar cookies have been popular in Buchanan's native state of Pennsylvania for centuries. If you'd like to whip up a batch of Snickerdoodles your next party or large social gathering, here is a simple and simply delicious recipe to try from Emeril Lagasse:

For the topping:

3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cookie dough:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside. To make the cookie dough, stir together the dry ingredients. In a bowl with a paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add the sugar and continue to mix, then add the eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Chill dough 1 hour if it's sticky or difficult to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll balls of dough about the size of a walnut then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Place on an ungreased sheet pan 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until puffed up and the surface is slightly cracked. Let cool on the sheet a few minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool.

FOOD FACT: At Buchanan’s inaugural reception in 1857, five thousand guests dined on eight rounds of beef, seventy-five hams, sixty saddles of mutton, four saddles of venison, four hundred gallons of oysters, five quarts of jellies, twelve hundred quarts of ice cream, and "pates of infinite variety." The high point of the night was a Pyramid Cake that stood four feet high and was decorated with a flag bearing the insignia of each state. As president, Buchanan’s annual $25,000 salary wasn’t enough to cover his tabs and he often had to pay the bills for his extravagant White House parties out of his own pocket!

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