National Cookie Day

It sounds like something we might have made up, but it's not. December 4th is national cookie day. You may not be able to find a card for it at Hallmark (though we didn't check), but it is real. To recognize this special day, we've included a brief history on this famous dessert.

In English, the word "cookie" comes "koekje," which means little cake in Dutch. Once upon a time, these crafty Dutch bakers would place a small amount of cake batter in the oven to make sure they had the correct temperature. This was before electric ovens of course, and it's pretty hard to make a fire that's exactly 350 degrees. Upon sampling their mini cakes, the bakers soon figured out that they tasted pretty good on their own, and thus the cookie was born!

A lot has changed over the years since the humble cookie got its beginnings as oven temperature tester. You can now find hundreds of varieties baked throughout the world daily, from the quintessential chocolate chip to more exotic concoctions featuring with coffee beans, almods, dried fruit pieces and more. Despite all these varieties, cookies can still be classified into 3 main categories. First are "rolled" cookies. There are aptly named, since to make them, you must roll the dough out with a rolling pin, and then cut each cookie out using a cutter. The most popular example of this category are sugar cookies. Gingerbread cookies are also a popular rolled cookie during the holidays. Another options for this type is to roll up the dough into a cylinder and then slice them off to bake. When done, rolled cookies are firmer and flatter than other varieties, thus they are ideal for decorating with icing and other toppings. The second broad classification of cookies are "drop." These are made by dropping measurements of batter directly onto a cookie sheet for baking. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin are all classified as drop cookies. The third and last cookie class are pressed cookies. For this variety, the dough is first loaded into a cookie press and then extruded. On the end of the press you can use different dies depending on the shape you want to create. The most common pressed cookie variety are spritz. You could also consider brownies and bars as a fourth cookie, since they use similar ingredients and usually end up in single serving sizes like cookies.

If you add up the entire consumer cookie industry in the United States, from packaged boxes of Oreos at the supermarket to Mrs. Field's shops at the mall food court, and even direct ship bakeries found on the Internet, it adds up to several billion dollars. So next year when December 4 rolls around, remember this humble miniature cake by enjoying one or by sending a cookie gift to family and friends.