Get Your Cookie Fix With Ras El Hanout Snickerdoodles

Not your usual snickerdoodles.
Not your usual snickerdoodles.

When it comes to cookies, my husband is decidedly “Basic Boy.”

Meaning, he likes his chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle. And doesn’t like to veer to far from them.

So, “Ras El Hanout Snickerdoodles” satisfied both of our appetites. His for the classic. And mine for something a little more adventurous.

This wonderfully chewy and warmly spiced cookie recipe is from “Love Is A Pink Cake” (W.W. Norton & Co.), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Claire Ptak, a Californian who moved to London to open her Violet Bakery. Of course, you may also know her as a former pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Or you may recognize her as the baker commissioned in 2018 to make the wedding cake for none other than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

That famous lemon and elderflower wedding cake recipe is included in this book, if you want to give it a go. For convenience, it’s sized down here — somewhat. Instead of having to feed more than 1,000 guests, this one serves 30 to 40.

The other 74 sweet and savory recipes may not have been served to royalty, but they are just as appealing. Take a taste of everything from “Huckleberry Basil Sugar Scones” and “Peach, Nectarine and Lard Pie” to “Double Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies” and “Blue Cheese Buns.”

You’ll notice some of the ingredients go by their British term. But Ptak includes a short list at the front of the book with American translations, so that you know that “strong flour” is “bread flour,” “caster sugar” is “granulated sugar,” and “single cream” is “half and half.”

Ras el hanout is so fragrant.
Ras el hanout is so fragrant.

Ras el hanout is a spice blend used liberally in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, typically in savory dishes. Ptak uses it in the snickerdoodle recipe instead of just plain cinnamon.

It’s traditionally made with more than a dozen different spices. The one I picked up at the store contained: coriander, paprika, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, red pepper, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and allspice.

She prefers a ras el hanout blend that has crushed rose petals in it. This one lacked that. But since I had some culinary dried rose petals at home, I simply pulverized some in a spice grinder (coffee grinder used exclusively for this purpose), and stirred it into the ras el hanout I was using.

The ras el hanout goes into both the buttery cookie dough, as well as the flavored sugar that the dough balls get rolled in before baking.

Although the recipe didn’t specify which rack to bake the cookies on, I decided to bake them in the upper third of the oven since they bake at 400 degrees. I have a gas oven, and I found that the first batch I baked on the middle rack in the oven were browning too quickly on the edges.

The coating means these cookies bake up with a top layer of crispy sugar granules all over, then give way to a tender, chewy interior.

Dried rose petals decorate the plate. I pulverized some to add to the ras el hanout used in the cookies.
Dried rose petals decorate the plate. I pulverized some to add to the ras el hanout used in the cookies.

They have that burst of cinnamon you expect from a snickerdoodle — but a whole lot more complexity, with earthy, peppery, citrus, and subtle astringent notes. There’s even a hint of prickly heat on the finish from the red pepper.

These cookies don’t necessarily taste savory. They are like the best version of a snickerdoodle, as if the favorite of childhood has grown up a little, gained a bit more maturity, but still managed to hang onto its winsome nostalgic appeal.

Ptak notes that these cookies are best the day or day after they are baked. That’s because the longer they hang around, the softer the exterior gets, erasing its initial crispness, so that the cookie becomes more one-note in texture.

I found that you really only notice that change on the third day after baking. Even so, they’re still plenty irresistible.

A cookie that's both old-fashioned and new-fangled.
A cookie that’s both old-fashioned and new-fangled.

Ras El Hanout Snickerdoodles

(Makes about 15 large cookies)

225g (2 sticks or 1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

300g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar (granulated sugar)

2 eggs

350g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour)

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

For rolling:

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Line a small baking sheet or container (one that will fit inside your freezer) with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy — you are not aiming for light and fluffy here. Add the eggs and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, ras el hanout, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda, and salt, than add this to the stand mixer and mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Roll individual portions (about the size of a golf ball) of cookie dough and place onto the lined baking sheet or container (they can be touching). Cover and freeze for at least 1 hour, or you can store them in the freezer for up to a month.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with baking paper. Let the dough come to temperature a little (10 minutes will do).

Mix the ras el hanout and sugar together and roll the balls in the mixture. Arrange the cookies evenly on the sheet, leaving enough space between them so they have room to expand during baking (they will almost double in size).

The cookies are best the day or day after they are baked, so it’s best to bake them as and when you need them. Bake for 12 minutes, until the center of each cookie is still slightly soft, but the edges are crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Look for ras el hanout that includes crushed rose petals. Or crush culinary dried rose petals (amount to taste), and stir into your ras el hanout.

Adapted from “Love Is A Pink Cake” by Claire Ptak

Another Claire Ptak Recipe to Enjoy: Ginger Molasses Cake

More Ras El Hanout Recipes: Chewy Ginger Spice Cookies with Ras El Hanout

And: Moroccan Lamb, Tomato, and Chickpea Soup

And: Roasted Lamb with Apricots, Pistachios, Mint & Pearled Barley

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4 comments

  • Interesting. Culinary rose petals are a new-to-me ingredient. The Google rabbit hole I emerged from just now has me thinking about trying a harvest of my most fragrant roses next year to see what I might do with them. Thanks (insert dubious smirk) for yet another “project” Carolyn!

  • Hi Carroll: Yes, dried rose petals are used in quite a few sweet and savory dishes. I just buy mine. But I like your idea of trying to make your own. You’ll have to report back to let us know how it goes. Can’t wait to hear.

  • How dare you mess with perfection! Snickerdoodles are forever my favorite, my these do sound enticing!

  • Hi Grace: You are too funny! My husband felt the same way — until he tried these. For him to love such a different take on a classic is really saying something. I think you will much enjoy them, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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