Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'Cookies'...because I live dangerously...
In the United States and Canada, a cookie is a small, flat, baked treat, usually containing fat, flour, eggs and sugar. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, the most common word for this is biscuit; in many regions both terms are used, while in others the two words have different meanings. A cookie is a plain bun in Scotland, while in the United States a biscuit is a kind of quick bread similar to a scone. In the United Kingdom, a cookie is referred to as a biscuit, although some types of cookies maintain this name, such as the American-inspired Maryland Cookies, which are also sold there. In South Africa they are called biscuits, and the word cookie refers to cupcakes.
om the Dutch word koekje or (informal) koekie which means little cake, and arrived in the English language through the Dutch in North America.
Cookies are most commonly baked until crisp or just long enough that they remain soft, but some kinds of cookies are not baked at all. Cookies are made in a wide variety of styles, using an array of ingredients including sugars, spices, chocolate, butter, peanut butter, nuts or dried fruits. The softness of the cookie may depend on how long it is baked.
A general theory of cookies may be formulated this way. Despite its descent from cakes and other sweetened breads, the cookie in almost all its forms has abandoned water as a medium for cohesion. Water in cakes serves to make the base (in the case of cakes called "batter") as thin as possible, which allows the bubbles – responsible for a cake's fluffiness – to form better. In the cookie, the agent of cohesion has become some form of oil. Oils, whether they be in the form of butter, egg yolks, vegetable oils or lard are much more viscous than water and evaporate freely at a much higher temperature than water. Thus a cake made with butter or eggs instead of water is far denser after removal from the oven.
Oils in baked cakes do not behave as soda tends to in the finished result. Rather than evaporating and thickening the mixture, they remain, saturating the bubbles of escaped gases from what little water there might have been in the eggs, if added, and the carbon dioxide released by heating the baking powder. This saturation produces the most texturally attractive feature of the cookie, and indeed all fried foods: crispness saturated with a moisture (namely oil) that does not sink into it.
Cookie-like hard wafers have existed for as long as baking is documented, in part because they deal with travel very well, but they were usually not sweet enough to be considered cookies by modern standards.
Cookies appear to have their origins in 7th century Persia, shortly after the use of sugar became relatively common in the region. They spread to Europe through the Muslim conquest of Spain. By the 14th century, they were common in all levels of society, throughout Europe, from royal cuisine to street vendors.
With global travel becoming widespread at that time, cookies made a natural travel companion, a modernized equivalent of the travel cakes used throughout history. One of the most popular early cookies, which traveled especially well and became known on every continent by similar names, was the jumble, a relatively hard cookie made largely from nuts, sweetener, and water.
Cookies came to America in the early English settlement (the 17th century), although the name "koekje" arrived with the Dutch. This became Anglicized to "cookie" or cooky. Among the popular early American cookies were the macaroon, gingerbread cookies, and of course jumbles of various types.
The most common modern cookie, given its style by the creaming of butter and sugar, was not common until the 18th century.
Cookies are broadly classified according to how they are formed, including at least these categories:
- Refrigerator cookies (also known as icebox cookies) are made from a stiff dough that is refrigerated to become even stiffer. The dough is typically shaped into cylinders which are sliced into round cookies before baking.
- Molded cookies are also made from a stiffer dough that is molded into balls or cookie shapes by hand before baking. Snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies are examples of molded cookies.
- Rolled cookies are made from a stiffer dough that is rolled out and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Gingerbread men are an example.
- Pressed cookies are made from a soft dough that is extruded from a cookie press into various decorative shapes before baking. Spritzgebäck are an example of a pressed cookie.
- Bar cookies consist of batter or other ingredients that are poured or pressed into a pan (sometimes in multiple layers), and cut into cookie-sized pieces after baking. In British English, bar cookies are known as "tray bakes".
- Sandwich cookies are rolled or pressed cookies that are assembled as a sandwich with a sweet filling. Fillings may be with marshmallow, jam, or icing. The Oreo cookie, made of two chocolate cookies with a vanilla icing filling is an example.
Cookies also may be decorated with an icing, especially chocolate, and closely resemble a type of confectionery.
A basic biscuit (cookie) recipe includes flour, shortening (often lard), baking powder or soda, milk (buttermilk or sweet milk) and sugar. Common savory variations involve substituting sugar with an ingredient such as cheese or other dairy products. Shortbread is a popular biscuit in the UK.