There is something very special about a good cookie. And things we can learn from them, too.
Cookies are among the oldest form of food known to humankind. Luxurious pastries were well known in the Persian empire of the 7th century A.D. With the Muslim invasion of Spain, then the Crusades and the developing spice trade, the cooking techniques and ingredients of Arabia spread into Northern Europe.
The Dutch gave us the word “koekje,” meaning small cake—and both the word and the product it described spread. Renaissance cookbooks were rich in cookie recipes, and by the 17th century, cookies were commonplace throughout Europe.
For a good cookie you must start with good ingredients. If the ingredients aren’t great to start with, you can be almost certain that the cookie won’t be so hot either. The best cookie makers know how to combine tried-and-true ingredients and techniques with risk-taking, mouth-watering creativity. New ingredients, changing tastes, challenging situations: such are the laboratory of innovative cookie creating.
A great recipe yields an enduring product. There are thousands of recipes, many of them quite good. Even so, half of the cookies baked in US households each year are based on some version of the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie.
Following the recipe is key. Something as small as a few degrees in baking temperature can change a great batch of cookies into squirrel food. However, just because you can read a recipe doesn’t mean that you can create a cookie. A skillful cookie maker knows the process well and is observant of the qualities of the ingredients, the dough, the baking, and the entire process.
Cookie-making mastery consists of developing a precisely tuned set of skills for turning out batch after batch of perfect cookies—and it takes practice. Think times tables. Think F# scales. Think hitting a curve ball. Master cookie makers live on the finely honed edge of a well-practiced craft where you are really only as good as your last batch.
The average person will eat about 35,000 cookies in their lifetime. I think I’m doing pretty well, on average. I do love a good cookie.