Cookies, Biscuits, Biscotti, and More!
It’s a really tough choice. Do you stick with the middle-ground and take a chocolate chip one? Do you go wild and pick a raspberry-something with sugar? Choose one with icing, or grab a Snickerdoodle and get all nostalgic? When it comes to cookies, maybe you want to learn a few things first....
While we may never know for certain, it’s thought that the first cookies as we know them were made in the seventh century in Persia. The people in that general area were among the first to grow and harvest sugar cane after warriors first noticed it growing wild. The next step, in a way, was to start experimenting with the plant’s yield in baked goods. It’s believed that the earliest cookies may have been intended not as an actual product by themselves, but resulted from experiments with oven temperature. Even then, bakers were allowed to eat their mistakes.
Exploration and warfare moved sugar cane northward into Europe and sweet treats made in an oven came along, too. By the Renaissance, cookies were a popular item in cookbooks, tables, and pantries, and home bakers had already gotten creative with spices and other ingredients. Still, the basic cookie was made of flour, sugar, oil, and butter.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the perception of baking changed, becoming a well-regarded profession requiring years of apprenticeship and serious schooling. The benefit: knowing how to bake on a large-scale was not a crummy (crumby?) thing at all during the Industrial Revolution, when technology allowed major bakeries to open to everyday consumers.
As humans spread across the globe, immigrants and explorers traveled everywhere with simple “biscuits” because they were highly portable, handy, yummy, and often the only nutrition available. When the Dutch, English, Scotch, and Spanish explorers came to the shores of the New World, they brought their favorites with them. That included the metal tools for making cut-out cookies and the idea of decorating cookies for holidays.
The Dutch gave us the word koekje, from which “cookie” derives. In England, Australia, and New Zealand, the treat we know as a cookie is still a “biscuit.” They’re gallettas in Spain and keks in Germany (although fancy Christmas German cookies are known as Plzchen). Cookies are generally biscotto in Italy and koulouri in Greece.
You, however, can feel free to just call them yummy. ▼
Terri Schlichenmeyer’s second book, The Book of American Facts and Trivia, comes out this winter. Her first (Big Book of Facts) is available now.