April 11, 2011
When I started making these cookies, I was pretty sure the name 1-2-3-4 cookie was derived from how many bowls you’re supposed to use during preparation. I used at least 4 mixing bowls. Turns out the name comes from the original list of ingredients from the 1884 edition of Boston Cooking School Cook Book: 1 cup butter, 2 cups granulated sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. The recipe is made more manageable by quartering it, though I’m sure you could bury yourself in 1-2-3-4 cookies by attempting the original proportions if you chose to do so. I also like the name of these cookies because it’s almost like they named them after how easy they are to make. One, two, three, four, COOKIES! Might just be me.
Title considerations aside, I had a hankering for non-chocolate cookies. My ideal non-chocolate cookie, aside from shortbread, is the snickerdoodle. This recipe called to me because it’s not exactly a snickerdoodle but has enough in common to make me smile and remember the good old days of stealing cookies from my friends in elementary school. To be fair, their mothers made THE best snickerdoodles. And eventually I got permission to take their cookies. Promise.
There is a note in the recipe, but I’ll mention that it’s important not to over bake these particular cookies; otherwise they will be all crisp and no chew. The beautiful thing about 1-2-3-4 cookies is the delicate balance between crispy exterior and chewy interior, and throwing off said balance would be a sad day, indeed. Also, they spread like crazy in the oven so it’s wise to follow the recipe and place cookies three inches apart on the baking sheet. I’m always that person who tries to cram as many cookies as possible on to baking sheets, and doing so in this case meant I ended up with a large, break-apart cookie instead of six lovely, golden circles.
(Recipe adapted from Baking in America)
Yields 12 large cookies
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, separated
Optional: 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar for rolling
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl (if completing recipe by hand), beat butter and ¼ cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, beat egg yolk until thickened only slightly, then gradually add remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar. Beat yolk and sugar for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Add yolk mixture to butter and beat until completely combined.
6. In a medium bowl, whip egg white until stiff peaks form. Fold into butter mixture and combine well.
7. Add flour mixture to batter and mix until stiff, sticky dough forms. If you were using a stand mixer, you might want to complete this step by hand to avoid over mixing.
8. Divide dough into 12 equal sized balls, about 1 tablespoon each. Roll tops in cinnamon sugar if desired.
9. Place balls of dough on baking sheets at least 3 inches apart (these cookies spread like crazy) and flatten them to ¼ inch thick rounds, using the bottom of a drinking glass or your palm.
10. Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes, being careful not to over bake. Cookies should be taken out before they start to brown.
11. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Cookies are best eaten the day they are made. Store them in a container with loose lid (or airtight, though you may lose some of the crispiness) at room temperature for up to a day.