Like many people, I too truly believe that ‘cookies are made of butter and love.’ After all, who doesn’t love a cookie? Thanks to the invention of ovens, which gave us an opportunity to make these delightful treats. As a matter of fact, the vividness in the appearance of a cookie to its taste, etc. makes it an adorable snack, sometimes an indulgent dessert too.
Cookies are generally flour-based but can be flourless too. In addition to this, the other ingredients that may go into it are eggs, almond flour, coconut, etc. For example, the main ingredient in a ‘macaroon’ is shredded coconut along with grain sugar and egg whites. These must not be confused with a ‘macaron’ which is typically made of ground almonds. Gooey or crumbly, whatever your choice is, your inquisitiveness to know more about them doesn’t limit to just the taste. Today, I’m going to take you on a trip to a rich history and interesting facts associated with some of the popular cookies of the world.
Its cookie o’ clock!
Aeons ago, cookies were not made to please the sweet tooth. As per culinary historians, when cookies first came into the picture they were used to test cakes. A small amount of cake batter was dropped on the baking pans to test the oven’s temperature before actually baking the cake. This was prevalent then since we didn’t have access to the thermostat feature.
Interestingly, each country had its own name kept for a test cookie. The Dutch called it a koek, in the Netherlands it was known as koekje. The British named it cookie/biscuit which was derived from the Latin word coctum, which meant twice baked. The entire concept revolved around making small and individual baked portions, which were allowed to dry in order to make them turn into hard textured eatables. The idea behind removing the moisture was to let them stay fresher for a longer time as compared to the cakes. It was in the year 1703 that the word ‘cookie’ was published for the first time in print media.
A snickerdoodle is a cookie rolled in ground cinnamon and sugar. It possesses a cracked surface, made in both crisp and soft form. There is no definite history about it, however, historians believe that the word ‘snicker’ is derived from the Dutch word snekrad or German word schnecke, which would mean ‘snail-shaped.’ This was in the 19th century. Some people even believe that it might have come from New England since this country usually has playful cookie names.
You may be knowing about the alfajore as a delicious sandwich cookie popular in South America, Spain, Southern France, etc. Also referred to as alajú, meaning something that is stuffed or filled in Arabic. Earlier, these cookies consisted of dried fruit preserves which were rolled into a dough. Later in the 1950s, as a result of mass production, these cookies became famous. This led to the habit of tourists to buy these foil-wrapped cookies and take it back home. An alfajore is often made with a filling made from a combination of chocolate mousse, fruit and cream, along with a topping which is usually of milk chocolate, coconut, sugar glaze, etc.
A macaron is a little sandwich, which is made with meringue, almond flour and buttercream filling, etc. It first appeared in Europe, way back in the Middle Age. At that time, these were a small sweet made using almonds, egg whites and sugar, crunchy on the outside and soft inside. It was also called as the priest’s belly buttons, owing to its shape. In the 17th century in France, its first written recipe was introduced. Since then, macarons have witnessed a never-ending process of reinvention in their shapes, flavours and colours.
Also known as ginger biscuit or ginger nut, a gingersnap is a cookie variant flavoured with ginger powder along with other spices, popular around the world especially during the Christmas and New Year season. A crisper version as compared to the more chewy gingerbread cookies, these are known to have originated in Europe which reached America through the English, German and Dutch settlers. Commercially, this cookie became popular in 1862 when it was first baked. In fact, the origin of the word ‘gingersnap,’ lies in the word snappen, that meant ‘to seize quickly.’ According to culinarians, the recipe of a real, traditional gingersnap will have lots of butter and molasses, with no eggs and is cooked down on a stovetop.
Believed to have originated in the 16th century in Surat, Gujarat, the nankhatai is indeed a unique and special cookie in its own way and has been made in India from centuries now. The name is derived from two words – nan meaning a type of flatbread in Persian and khatai meaning a biscuit in Afghani. Thus, this cookie is also famous in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, where they call it Kulcha-e-Khataye. Some of the other ingredients of a nankhatai include refined flour, gram flour, butter, powdered sugar, milk/curd, etc. Here are some versions of a nankhatai that might just interest you. I say, go ahead and experiment in your kitchens! All these are worth a try.
Amaretti (singular: amaretto), the bitter-sweet Italian cookie/macaron has a beautiful story attached to it. In the year 1719, a cardinal from Milan paid a visit to the local church in the town of Saronno. A newly-wed couple decided to make a special treat to commemorate this occasion. However, they lacked in the ingredients and had only ground apricot kernels, sugar and egg whites with them. So, they decided to utilise these and made thin cookies out of whatever they had. After tasting them, the cardinal was extremely happy and blessed the couple for a long, prosperous married life. This also resulted in the preservation of the ‘secret recipe’ which then got passed from generation to generation.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.