The name cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje. The British call them cookies, originating from the Latin bis coctum (sounds a little risque) and translates into “twice baked.” (Not to be confused with “half baked.”) Food historians appear to agree that cookies, or small cakes, were first used to check the temperature of an oven. A small spoonful of batter was dropped on a baking pan and put into the hearth oven. If it came out correctly, the heat was prepared for the whole cake or bread. Bakers and cooks used this method for centuries, usually tossing out the evaluation cake, until they eventually figured out they might be missing something.
Alexander the Great’s army took a primitive form of cookie in their many campaigns, gobbling them as a fast pick-me-up after trouncing and pillaging cities in their path, around the year 327 BC. As they became embraced by much of Europe, there are many documents referring to what is now our modern cookies (but no Oreos). Fast forward into the seventh century. Persians (now Iranians) cultivated sugar and began creating pastries and cookie-type sweets. The Chinese, always hoping to be first to the party, used honey and baked smallish cakes over an open fire in pots and small ovens. From the sixteenth century they created the almond cookie, sometimes substituting abundant walnuts. Asian immigrants brought these cookies to the New World, and they joined our growing list of popular variants.
In the Middle East and the Mediterranean, this newfound concoction found its way into Spain during the Crusades, and as the spice trade increased, due to explorers like Marco Polo, new and flavorful versions developed together with new baking techniques. Once it hit France, well, we understand how French bakers loved desserts and pastries. Cookies were added to their growing repertoire, and from the end of the 14th century, an individual could buy small filled wafers across the streets of Paris. Recipes started to appear in Renaissance cookbooks. Most were simple creations made out of butter or lard, honey or molasses, sometimes adding nuts, Orlando FL Bat Removal, and raisins. But when it comes to food, easy isn’t in the French language, so their fine pastry chefs raised the bar with Madeleines, macaroons, piroulines and meringue topping the list.
Biscuits (actually hardtack) became the ideal traveling food, since they stayed fresh for extended periods. For centuries, a “ship’s biscuit,” which some described as an iron-like feel, was aboard any boat that left port because it could last for the whole voyage. (Hopefully you had powerful teeth which would also last.)
It was only natural that early English, Scottish and Dutch immigrants brought the first cookies to America. Our simple butter cookies strongly resemble British teacakes and Scottish shortbread. Colonial housewives took great pride in their own biscuits, which were called “basic cakes.” In the end, the Brits had been enjoying afternoon tea with biscuits and cakes for centuries. In the early American cookbooks, cookies were relegated into the cake section and were known as Plunkets, Jumbles and Cry Babies. All three were your basic sugar or molasses cookies, but no one appears to know where these names originated. Certainly not to be left out of the combination, foodie president Thomas Jefferson served no shortage of biscuits and tea cakes to his guests, both in Monticello and the White House. Although more of an ice cream and pudding fan himself, he enjoyed treating and impressing his guests with a huge array of sweets. Later presidents counted cookies as their favorite desserts, one of them Teddy Roosevelt, who adored Fat Rascals (could I make that up?) , and James Monroe, who had a yen for Cry Babies. Notwithstanding their unusual names, both of these early recipes are basic molasses drop cookies, with candied fruits, nuts and raisins. They’re still around, we just don’t call them that anymore.
Brownies came about in a rather unusual manner. In 1897, the Sears, Roebuck catalog sold the first brownie mix, introducing Americans to one of their favorite bar cookies. Even though most cooks still baked their own sweets, they adapted the recipe with variations of nuts and flavorings.The twentieth century gave way to whoopie pies, Oreos, snickerdoodles, butter, Toll House, gingersnaps, Fig Newtons, shortbread, and countless others.
Americans purchase over $7.2 billion worth of biscuits annually, which obviously indicates a Cookie Monster nation.