As I have written about snickerdoodles before, snickerdoodle cookies have absolutely nothing to do with Snickers candy bars. The distinctive features of snickerdoodles include their final condition — rolled in cinnamon and sugar — and the fact that they call for cream of tartar. Every time I talk about snickerdoodles and mention cream of tartar to non-Americans and/or non-bakers, I always have to try to explain cream of tartar.
Bottom line — cream of tartar (a byproduct of wine making) is a powder that is an acidic component of baking powder. It can be used for some household cleaning but is best known, perhaps, as an ingredient in baking and cooking. Generally my only uses for it are for stabilizing egg whites and for recipes like snickerdoodles. Cream of tartar prevents sugar crystallization, making the final baked product smoother and creamier. Because cream of tartar is used in conjunction with baking soda in the snickerdoodles, the result is actually something like a double-acting baking powder. (If people get past the idea that cream of tartar has nothing to do with tartar sauce, they may ask whether there are valid substitutes for cream of tartar — it does not seem to be widely available where I live. The answer is no. There are not any really good substitutes for cream of tartar, and in recipes like snickerdoodles, where the cream of tartar works in combination with the baking soda, you would have to find a substitution for the baking soda as well to achieve a similar consistency. I don’t think it would be easy to find something else.)
I mention all of this because today I am using the last of my cream of tartar supply to make a massive quantity of snickerdoodle dough for Sunday’s big bake for a work PR event.