Definitions

crispness

Cookie

[kook-ee]

In the United States and Canada, a cookie is a small, flat-baked treat, usually round, containing milk, flour, eggs, and sugar, etc. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, the most common word for this is biscuit; in many regions both terms are used, while in others the two words have different meanings—a cookie is a plain bun in Scotland, while in the United States a biscuit is a kind of quick bread similar to a scone.

Etymology

Its name derives from the Dutch word koekje or (informal) koekie which means little cake, and arrived in the English language through the Dutch in North America. It spread from American English to British English where biscuit is still the more general term.

Description

Cookies are most commonly baked until crisp or just long enough that they remain soft, but some kinds of cookies are not baked at all. Cookies are made in a wide variety of styles, using an array of ingredients including sugars, spices, chocolate, butter, peanut butter, nuts or dried fruits. The softness of the cookie may depend on how long it is baked.

A general theory of cookies may be formulated this way. Despite its descent from cakes and other sweetened breads, the cookie in almost all its forms has abandoned water as a medium for cohesion. Water in cakes serves to make the base (in the case of cakes called "batter) as thin as possible, which allows the bubbles – responsible for a cake's fluffiness – to form better. In the cookie, the agent of cohesion has become some form of oil. Oils, whether they be in the form of butter, egg yolks, vegetable oils or lard are much more viscous than water and evaporate freely at a much higher temperature than water. Thus a cake made with butter or eggs instead of water is far denser after removal from the oven.

Oils in baked cakes do not behave as soda in the finished result. Rather than evaporating and thickening the mixture, they remain, saturating the bubbles of escaped gases from what little water there might have been in the eggs, if added, and the carbon dioxide released by heating the baking powder. This saturation produces the most texturally attractive feature of the cookie, and indeed all fried foods: crispness saturated with a moisture (namely oil) that does not sink into it.

History

Cookie-like hard wafers have existed for as long as baking is documented, in part because they deal with travel very well, but they were usually not sweet enough to be considered cookies, by modern standards

Cookies appear to have their origins in 7th century AD Persia, shortly after the use of sugar became relatively common in the region They spread to Europe through the Muslim conquest of Spain. By the 14th century, they were common in all levels of society, throughout Europe, from royal cuisine to street vendors.

With global travel becoming widespread at that time, cookies made a natural travel companion, a modernized equivalent of the travel cakes used throughout history. One of the most popular early cookies, which travelled especially well and became known on every continent by similar names, was the jumble, a relatively hard cookie made largely from nuts, sweetener, and water.

Cookies came to America in the very first century of English settlement (the 1600s), although the name "koekje" arrived slightly later, with the Dutch. This became Anglicized to "cookie". Among the popular early American cookies were the macaroon, gingerbread cookies, and of course jumbles of various types.

The most common modern cookie, given its style by the creaming of butter and sugar, was not common until the 18th century

Classification of cookies

Cookies are broadly classified according to how they are formed, including at least these categories:

  • Drop cookies are made from a relatively soft dough that is dropped by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. During baking, the mounds of dough spread and flatten. Chocolate chip cookies (Tollhouse cookies), peanut butter cookies, and oatmeal (or oatmeal raisin) cookies are popular examples of drop cookies.
  • Refrigerator cookies are made from a stiff dough that is refrigerated to become even stiffer. The dough is typically shaped into cylinders which are sliced into round cookies before baking.
  • Molded cookies are also made from a stiffer dough that is molded into balls or cookie shapes by hand before baking. Snickerdoodles are an example of molded cookies.
  • Rolled cookies are made from a stiffer dough that is rolled out and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Gingerbread men are an example.
  • Pressed cookies are made from a soft dough that is extruded from a cookie press into various decorative shapes before baking. Spritzgebäck are an example of a pressed cookie.
  • Bar cookies consist of batter, cheese, or other ingredients that are poured or pressed into a pan (sometimes in multiple layers), and cut into cookie-sized pieces after baking. Brownies are an example of a batter-type bar cookie, while Rice Krispie treats are a bar cookie that doesn't require baking, perhaps similar to a cereal bar. In British English, bar cookies are known as "tray bakes".
  • Sandwich cookies are rolled or pressed cookies that are assembled as a sandwich with a sweet filling. Fillings may be with marshmallow, jam, or icing. The Oreo cookie, made of two chocolate cookies with a vanilla icing filling is an example.
  • Fried cookies including traditional cookies such as the krusczyki, rosettes and fattigmann as well as a newer American trend of deep-frying ordinary drop cookie dough.
  • Cookies also may be decorated with an icing, especially chocolate, and closely resemble a type of confectionery.

Biscuits (cookies) in the United Kingdom

A basic biscuit (cookie) recipe includes flour, shortening (often lard), baking powder or soda, milk (buttermilk or sweet milk) and sugar. Common savoury variations involve substituting sugar with an ingredient such as cheese or other dairy products. Shortbread is a popular biscuit in the UK.

In the United Kingdom the term cookie often just refers to chocolate chip cookies or a variation (e.g. cookies containing oats, Smarties).

See also

Notes

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