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February 10, 2010 > Cookies - then and now

Cookies - then and now

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis

Guess which ingredient was responsible for the evolution of cookies... sugar. Bengal's lowlands and Southeast Asia first used it. Then this sweet stuff reached Persia, the eastern Mediterranean, traveled to northern Europe and around the world.

The Persian Empire, in the 7th century, was famous for fancy cakes in large and small sizes. To test the temperature of ovens, Persian cooks baked a small amount of cake batter. These test cakes evolved into cookies and were called "koekje." Made in individual sizes, they were eaten out of hand.

Cookies now are eaten worldwide and are known by these various names: biscuits (England), galletas (Spain), keks (Germany), biscotti (Italy), and koulouria (Greece). Cookies came to America, thanks to English, Scots, and Dutch immigrants.

Another bit of folklore involves the invention of chocolate chip cookies. In the 1930's, an innkeeper, Ruth Wakefield, in Massachusetts was making cookie dough and ran out of nuts. Ingenuously she found a bar of baking chocolate, broke it into pieces, and added them to the dough. These cookies were immediately big hits and Toll House Cookies were born. Not too surprisingly, the name of the inn from which they came was the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts, originally built 1709. For trivia buffs, the chocolate chip cookie is the state cookie of Massachusetts.

Cookie recipes are endless. One healthy tip is to reduce the amount of sugar by 25 to 50 percent, and cakes and cookies will still be tasty. In addition, most recipes can be adapted for diabetics. Just use sugar substitute proportionally to replace the sugar. Try the Creative Cookies recipe given below. Making homemade cookies for Valentine's Day is a special treat.

Creative Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts or shredded coconut
Tinted confectioners' sugar frosting and sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix softened butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour. Stir into butter mixture. Add nuts or coconuts. Roll dough into balls (1 tsp. per ball). Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet; make gentle thumb print into center of each ball. Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until set. Cool. Fill thumb prints with tinted frosting. Add a few sprinkles.

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