It is the holiday season.
What better time to celebrate one of the most popular traditions—the cookie!
And we are in luck because Bake Cookies Day is celebrated on December 18th!
Cookies and Their Names
A cookie is a baked good that is typically small, flat and sweet.
Cookies come in infinite varieties and can be made with an array of ingredients, including nut butters, nuts, dried fruit, oats and chocolate chips.
While in America we eat ‘cookies,’ each country has its own vocabulary for this popular snack.
Cookies are known as biscuits in England and Australia. (The word biscuit comes from the Latin bis coctum meaning ‘twice baked’). Similarly, they are called biscoitos in Brazil.
The Spaniards call their cookies galletas.
Germans have keks or Pizchen.
And the Italians eat ameretti or biscotti.
The History of the Cookie
Cookies first arrived in America in the 17th century, although the word itself originated much later from the Dutch word ‘koekje’ which means ‘little cake’.
Eventually, the Dutch name was shortened to ‘cooky’ or ‘cookie.’
Cookies date as far back as 7th century Persia when the use of sugar became common.
Cookies then spread to Europe and by the 14th century they were enjoyed at all levels of society—from the royal house to street vendors. Renaissance cookbooks were filled with cookie recipes, and you could even buy little wafers on the streets of Paris.
One of the most popular early cookies was the hardtack, a hard square biscuit made from flour and water. The biscuits were thoroughly baked to draw out the moisture, rendering them cracker-like and resistant to mold.
The hardtack was probably the first version of an Italian biscotti. Because of its ability to be stored, the hardtack became the ideal food for soldiers, explorers, and sailors. Legend has it that this early form of biscotti was a favorite of Christopher Columbus who relied on them during his explorations to the New World.
A combination of the English, Scotch and Dutch immigrants first brought cookies to the United States. A quick perusal of old American cookbooks—where you can find an array of cookie recipes with whimsical names like Jumbles, Plunkets and Cry Babies—reflects the long-time national love affair with these sweet snacks.
Interestingly, the changing popularity of various cookies often mirrored the geographic expansion of the United States.
For example, the country’s railroad boom in the early 1800s gave cookie aficionados access to coconuts from the South, a welcome addition to many cookie recipes. Later, oranges from the West were also happily added to favorite recipes.
It is hard to choose among cookies since there are so many delightful variations, but here are some of the world’s favorites.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
In our recent article about chocolate chip cookies, we explained how this classic recipe was invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield who ran the Toll House Restaurant.
Her guests loved her butterscotch nut cookies; one day she decided to give them something different and used bittersweet chocolate chunks instead.
Patrons were impressed with the result, so it became a hotel staple. She called her new invention Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies and later sold the recipe to Nestle.
This cookie is a Chinese-American wafer which, when broken open, reveals a piece of paper inside with a fortune written on it.
Some historians believe that today’s fortune cookies have their roots in the 12th and 13th centuries when Chinese soldiers would put rice paper messages into mooncakes to help organize their defense against Mongolian invaders. It is also an old Chinese custom that when a baby is born, cake rolls are sent out with a message inside that announces the birth.
In our article The Marvelous Macaroon, we shared the history of this small ‘cookie’, which has an irresistible crisp crust and soft interior and is most often made of almonds or coconuts.
This famous cookie originated in an Italian Monastery around 1792 where Carmelite nuns sought asylum during the French revolution. According to historians, these nuns adhered to the principle, “Almonds are good for girls who do abstain from meat.”
During the Revolution, two of these nuns made and sold macaroons, and they became known as the Macaroon Sisters.
Since that time, macaroons have become greatly beloved everywhere in the world.
How to Celebrate Bake Cookies Day
The best way to celebrate Bake Cookies Day is to…bake cookies!
And if you want to fill your cookies with great ingredients, then try Chef AJ’s 100 percent plant-based recipe for R&R Bakery’s Magical Cookies.
Enjoy the day and your cookies too!