Tuesday, 6 May 2014

COOKIE! The History of Cookies

What's a cookie blog without the cookie monster doing it right?
My friend Anne, who is a serious food lover (she hates the term foodie), asked me to write more on her personal favourite desert item: the cookie. She loves the new edgy ones made with no gluten and chickpeas, but Anne also loves nothing more than baking up some perfect gingersnaps for her three kids, wife and anyone else who comes near them. So here you go, Anne, a little doughy history ready to be baked and served with ice cream.

A cookie is a thin, usually sweetened, small cake that is hand held, and can be either crisp or soft. The name cookie is from the Dutch word koekje, meaning small cake. Some historians believe that the first cookies were used as tests, and a small amount of cake batter was used to test over temperatures and the recipe. It can be baked or fried, and is seen in almost every country in the world.

The first record of what we'd call a cookie was in the Persian Empire (modern day Turkey and Iraq) around 600s CE, and made with honey. These cookies were usually only for the wealthy who could afford the flour and time to make these things. We can thank the Muslim invaders of Spain and the Crusaders heading to the holy land for giving Europe a taste of the good life. They brought the spices and recipes needed to improve some seriously boring cooking.

Many cookbooks of the 1400s detail how to make cookies, such as German springerles, or little jumpers, because these cookies rise while cooking. It's a anise-flavoured cookie first mentioned in 14th century, and usually is imprinted with designs or images of horses or biblical scenes with special rollers or molds.

The delicious taste of Christianity.
In Asia, cookies were usually less sweet but still loved. When sugar was first introduced to China from India in the 600s CE, the Chinese went nuts for it and created sesame see balls. It was a sweet dough rolled in seeds, expanded, then was filled with something yummy inside like red bean paste or crushed peanuts. 

Cookies fit for an Emperor...or a 21st century cookie fiend.
The Chinese almond cookie made of course with almonds is similar in appearance to Turkish cookies and also that they are usually dry, crisp and sweet. Another common cookies is the walnut cookie, first mentioned in the Ming Dynasty around 1500. It was considered a cookie only for the palace, but once word and the recipe got out, the common peasant made it with almonds, sesames, roasted melon seeds, cashews or other nuts.

My personal favourite is the chocolate chip cookie.  It has its humble beginnings during the American Great Depression. Ruth Wakefield of Whitman, Massachusetts ran the Toll House restaurant with her husband from 1930 to 1967. One day she messed up a chocolate cookie batch when she ran out of cocoa and put hunks of baker's chocolate into it thinking it would melt. It did not but it tasted darn good. She called it the Chocolate Crunch Cookie.

Ruth Wakefield my hero
She published it in her cookbook in 1938 and got the attention of the Betty Crocker radio show, and Nestle, who asked for the right to use her recipe and print it on their baking chocolate wrappers. Some of you might remember the Toll House cookie name: that was the original name of Ruth's cookies. Ruth originally thought these cookies should be served with ice cream, so do her proud people and break out that tradition.

A huge thanks goes to Sweet Tooth Design, who has done a ton on the history of cookies, and baking in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment