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I've finally found a snickerdoodle recipe that results in cookies with that perfect "bite": a crispy outside -- not crunchy, but an almost-infinitesimal stiffness that resists your teeth just a little before "letting them in" -- leading to a chewy-soft inside that is neither too chewy nor too soft, but perfectly in between. The cookies also have a perfect balance of cinnamon vs. vanilla: they're snickerdoodles, not cinnamon cookies. (Well, unless you accidentally use the 1/2 tablespoon measure instead of the 1/2 teaspoon. Don't ask me how I know this.) The problem is, the cookies are just too sweet for my taste. They're not so overly sweet that I can't eat them, but every time I do eat one, I find myself wishing it weren't so sweet.

How can I modify this recipe to make the cookies less sweet, without ruining their texture?

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon for dipping

The method is the usual: cream butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla, then the dry ingredients, then the milk. Chill 30 minutes, then form into big balls - 1 1/2 inches, dip in the cinnamon sugar, put on parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 375°F for 10-12 minutes.

(I followed the recipe almost exactly1, except for substituting 3/4 cups of the AP flour with WWW [white whole wheat] flour.)

1OK, so I followed the recipe almost exactly the second time I made it. The first time, well, let's not talk about that. Stupid capital T vs. lowercase t.

  • Your sugar-to-flour ratio is actually smaller than most SD recipes. Perhaps the vanilla in your recipe is amplifying your awareness of the sugar (it's a little heavy this size recipe)? Not all recipes include vanilla in the cookie. None of the recipes I've seen include cinnamon IN the recipe - just ON the cookie with granulated sugar. Also, most recipes rely on baking soda and cream of tartar - not baking powder - for a huge rise followed by a collapse (that crinkles the cookies) the cream of tartar would also add a tart bite that might counteract some of the sweetness you're experiencing. – Stephen Eure Dec 21 '14 at 12:16
  • Are you willing to consider other types of sugar (i.e., sugars or sugar-alcohols that are less sweet) or sugar substitutes (i.e., "not sugar")? Have you tried simply using less sugar (e.g., does that ruin the texture?) Also, wholemeal flour is sometimes a disaster in cookies; have you contrasted the result of using straight AP flour? – hoc_age Dec 23 '14 at 20:58
  • @hoc_age: you keep asking questions to which the answer is already in my question, or at least implied by my question. Namely, no, I have not tried other types of sugar, reducing the sugar, other types of flour, or any of the other myriad possibilities, because if I wanted to waste time, money, and calories on dozens of experiments, I wouldn't have bothered posting a question. The whole point of asking a question is so that someone who has actual experience can post an answer, based on said experience. – Marti Dec 25 '14 at 22:21
  • I don't see whats wrong with hoc_age's approach - either he has to try your recipe and experiment, or give you suggestions on what to experiment with. – Batman Dec 28 '14 at 13:13
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+50

As I'm sure you know, sugar has many functions in baked goods, so replacing it can be tricky. Syrups will make your cookies too moist and just reducing the sugar can change the texture and browning. Sugar alcohols can add sweetness, but they usually don't brown and they can give people "digestive issues". I think your best route will be replace at least some of the sugar in your recipe with a different type of sugar, while keeping the total amount of sugar the same.

I think your best resource may be a brewing supply store, as they often sell other types of sugar to help control fermentation in beer. Brewing sugar, also called corn sugar, will be easiest to find and it's almost entirely glucose. In your case, granulated glucose will have the advantage of only being about 70-80% as sweet as sucrose. If this reduces the sweetness too much, you can try blending the granulated glucose with regular sugar. There are other sugars that are even less sweet, like maltose or lactose, that could be used to replace some of the regular sugar in the recipe, but they can be harder to find.

For reference, here is a chart of the relative sweetness of various sugars and sweeteners.

  • I guess people prefer short and "sweet" ;-) -- same link and conclusion with less cruft. Where do you get the 60% figure? Your link (same as one of the ones that I had posted) says 70-80% as sweet, but perhaps I'm splitting hairs. – hoc_age Dec 24 '14 at 17:39
  • Good catch. I wrote it at work and must have grabbed the 60 from something else in front of me. – SourDoh Dec 24 '14 at 17:47
  • @hoc_age, the problem with your answer is that you don't address the problem of how changing the sugar changes the texture. In fact, you're suggesting using sugar alcohols which, by your own admission, "yield some disastrous [results]". If I wanted to waste a bunch of time and ingredients (not to mention ingested calories) on experimentation, I wouldn't have posted a question. – Marti Dec 24 '14 at 18:38
  • @Marti - then we have different goals and different approaches! As you note, I did note the varying results without a link, because there are so many like this one that specifically talks about snickerdoodles, and gave that as justification for substituting only part of the sugar. Anyway, I'm simply interested in the topic, not trying to justify my answer. If you were to respond to any of the previously posted questions about your question, I think you would get more on-point responses. Best wishes. – hoc_age Dec 24 '14 at 19:13
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On second thought, I wanted to add some more information beyond my comment, so here's an "answer" and/or a continuation of the conversation...

As for my first thought: substitute something else for some or all of the table sugar: There are a pantload of different sugar-alternatives on the commercial market today -- some naturalish like sugar alcohols (erythritol, xylitol, ...), Stevia extractives, etc. Some not-so-naturalish (sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium). Some of these have alternatives with fillers that allegedly measure volume-for-volume as table sugar.

  • Sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol (and to a lesser extent, sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, ...) have relative sweetnesses of something like 60%-80% that of sugar, so could be an alternative if you'd like ~1/3 less sweet cookies. Xylitol and Erythritol have commercially available packages and can be measured volume-for-volume in place of sugar, according to some. Searching a bit for cookie baking results of wholly substituted (e.g., 1C xylitol in place of 1C sugar) yields some disastrous pictures (e.g., the ones with non-sugar only don't yield a result that looks like the cookie you're seeking). Consider substituting part (e.g., half of the volume) of the sugar to start. I've used xylitol, erythritol, and isomalt in various situations with reasonable success, but never in something sweet and delicate like cookies. Note, though: consumption of large quantities of sugar alcohols will result in exactly zero intoxication, but potentially non-zero bowel discomfort and related side-effects. Caveat emptor.
  • Sucralose and stevia have commercial formulations (i.e., mixed with various fillers) to make them measure like sugar. I find the actual taste and mouthfeel of both of these to be intolerable, but it is nonetheless an alternative for some.
  • Other (actual) sugars such as turbinado sugar, brown sugar, or even light molasses may have (to you) a less sweet taste that you might accept.

Have you tried simply using less sugar with no other modifications? Apologize if I missed this in your description above. I also must submit that you might consider a cookie other than a sugar cookie if you don't like the sweetness. Have you had snickerdoodles whose sweetness is acceptable? Gingerbread cookie, molasses cookie, peanut butter cookie, oatmeal raisin cookie, etc. I have done this (reduced sugar, along with reduction of baking temperature/time) with some success when making chewy ginger cookies.

As for flour substitutions, you might consider using some higher-protein flour (e.g., "bread flour") in place of some of the AP flour; this could make your cookies more chewy, but perhaps in a different way.

With a few dozen batches, perhaps you'll be able to perfect this by the New Year when belt-tightening resumes...

Edit: links to relative sweetness guides; search for more...

Xylitol is approximately the same as sucrose. Erythritol is about 65% as sweet. Glucose is about 75-80%. I.e., these are less sweet or as sweet as sucrose.

Based on that, I'd recommend trying glucose powder in place of your sucrose.

  • Sugar substitutes tend to be, if anything, sweeter than sugar. Also more bitter/metallic/what-have-you, but definitely sweeter. I'm not trying to reduce the calories; I'm trying to reduce the sweetness. – Marti Dec 24 '14 at 0:43
  • Also, I'm hoping someone has some advice to offer based on personal experience so I can avoid the few dozen batches. :) – Marti Dec 24 '14 at 0:45
  • @Marti - per your comment #1: As I noted above, the sugar alcohols xylitol and erythritol (for example) have effective sweetness less than sugar (volume-for-volume). Xylitol, for example, has virtually no aftertaste. Others (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin) have sweetnesses many times that of sugar, but are formulated with fillers (e.g., dextrose, maltodextrin) to make them have effectively the same (volume-for-volume) sweetness. You didn't previously mention caloric reduction, and neither did I; reducing calorie content is happenstance. Relative sweetness links added to answer above. – hoc_age Dec 24 '14 at 15:01
  • @Marti - per your comment #2: this is an answer, not necessarily the answer! Besides the personal experience I had noted above, your taste will be different than anyone else's! :) I maintain that a few batches will be inevitable. Are you willing to comment on any of the questions and comments that Stephen and I have offered? (what else have you tried; what are you willing to try (or not)) This would help! – hoc_age Dec 24 '14 at 15:20

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