Tidbits and Lore,
from Cookies Unlimited
From historical lore to how-to tips on technique, inside information on ingredients to the scoop on scoops and other cookie baking equipment, Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri, includes everything we always wanted to know about cookies—and quite a bit more. Here are just a few samples:
Small cakes have been served since baking as we know it began. The Romans celebrated important events such as weddings and fertility rites with cakes made with honey and rye flour and studded with nuts and dried fruit, the ancestors of fruitcake. The Greeks also produced small cookie like cakes called boen (that's how we got the word bun). The word cookie first appeared in an English dictionary in the eighteenth century in reference to the Dutch word koekje which means little cake.
By the end of the nineteenth century, wood- and coal-burning iron stoves had made cookie baking more accessible for home cooks. Cookies rapidly became a standard snack and lunch box item.
Brownies, which are a close relation to the cookie, first emerged before 1910. Their origins may have been a mistake, when a chocolate cake accidentally collapsed, resulting in something surprisingly edible.
Macaroons are chewy, egg white based confections, soft cousins of crisp meringues. For most Americans, coconut comes to mind if the word macaroon is mentioned. In fact, coconut macaroons are a fairly recent variation on an old theme. Almost all European countries with strong sweet baking traditions have a macaroon particular to them. Italy has several different types of amaretti; French macaroons are smooth-surfaced and elegant looking.
Molded cookies fall into several categories—some are made by pressing dough into a mold or form or pressing a mold or form onto a piece of dough to imprint a design or shape. Others are made by actually baking dough or batter in a plain or decorative mold. Still others are molded by hand into simple or complex shapes, the way a simple gingersnap is rolled into a ball before being placed on the pan to bake.
Deep-frying is not what you think of when you think of making cookies, though it produces some delicate and interesting ones. Fried pastries and cookies were originally the only type made at home.
If there is one cookie that can be identified definitively with America in the last decade of the twentieth century, it is biscotti. The name biscotti means "twice-baked" and it refers to the way these cookies are made. First the dough is formed into loaves or logs and baked. Then, after these cool, they are sliced and baked again. Mandelbrot, the most traditional Jewish cookie, is really a type of biscotti.
By Nick Malgieri
HarperCollins, October 2000
Color photographs throughout
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created November 2000