Once upon a time, Persian bakers found that by placing a small portion of dough in their ovens, they could determine the temperature of those ovens before baking. Thus it is believed by historians that the cookie was born, or at least, something resembling a cookie. Sugar cane had only been discovered recently by Persian soldiers under the command of Alexander the Great. Within a few years, sugar had found its’ way to the Mediterranean, and recipes for sweet, unrisen cakes began to proliferate.
The earliest known cookie is the pizzelle, an Italian wafer cookie that is also known as a “piazelle,” “piazella,” “pizzele,” and “pizelle.” The name is derived from the Italian “pizza,” which means round and flat. Although it is an Italian cookie, the Pizzelle eventually found its’ way into other areas of Europe such as Scandinavia. Here, the same recipe is known as “Lukken.”
Snakes had become a serious problem in approximately 700 b.c. in the Italian village of Colcullo, and legend has it that Apollo told local shepherds that they should capture the snakes, and then drape them over his statue, domesticating them. Since that time, the Italian “Festival of the Snakes” has taken place every year. The festival is now held in the honor of the Christian Saint Domenica, and includes fireworks and a feast in which pizzelles play a central role.
There is debate as to what America’s favorite cookie is, from one group who say that the sales figures of Nabisco mean that the Oreo Cookie is America’s favorite, while others say that the ubiquitous chocolate chip “Tollhouse” cookie, homemade or otherwise is, in fact the favorite.
Chocolate chip cookies were first created by Ruth Wakefield in the 1930’s. While baking a cookie popular since colonial days, the “Butter drop do,” Ruth found that she had run out of the type of chocolate which she normally used, and attempted to use chopped-up bits of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bar instead. Unexpectedly, the chunks of chocolate did not melt when baked, and became an instant hit at the tiny “Toll house Inn.” Eventually, Ruth reached an agreement with the Nestle company in which her then and now famous cookie recipe would be printed on the back of the Nestle Semi-sweet chocolate bar (and subsequent chips in 1939.) Rumor has it that part of the agreement was that Ruth was to receive the chocolate bits to make her famous cookies with for free for the rest of her life. To millions of people around the world, that stands as an eminently fair and equitable thing for Nestle to have done, and our thanks go out to them for it.
In following installments, Oreos, Snickerdoodles, and early recipies for cookies which were forerunners to what we have today!