Saturday, November 21, 2009

What is a cookie?

You probably think you know a cookie when you see one. You know when something is a cracker, a brownie, etc. But did you ever try to define it? Don't ask me why, but I tried. Here's what I came up with:
  • A cookie’s dominant flavor is always sweet.
  • A cookie’s size is somewhere between one bite and one portion:
  • A cookie should not exceed a single portion. Super-sized cookies are often too big for one portion, but people eat them all at once anyway. Or share them. This may be a passing fad.
  • Some manufacturers sell abnormally small versions of well-known cookies like vanilla wafers or oreos. Whatever.
  • A cookie is made from cookie dough:
  • Cookie dough basic ingredients include flour or finely-ground nuts, sugar, leavening, sometimes egg, and sometimes butter, oil or other fat.
  • Special ingredients like oatmeal, peanut butter, fruit bits, nuts, liqueurs, chocolate chips, ginger, or vanilla allow for a huge variety of cookies. You know their names.
  • Cookies may have something like cinnamon-sugar, jam, or even a whole Hershey’s kiss added to the top or inside before baking. Think fig newtons, jam tots.
  • Macaroons and meringues are not exactly made from dough but are sometimes classified as cookies because they fit the rest of the definition.
  • Cookie dough generally holds its shape during baking, though the cookies may rise or expand.
  • Cookies are formed:
  • By rolling and cutting with a cookie cutter or a knife,
  • By dropping lumps of batter and optionally flattening them, or
  • By making a roll, chilling it, and making slices.
  • Shortbread may be an exception.
  • You know any other way? Oh yes, by extruding from a cookie press.
  • Cookies are baked in batches on a flat baking sheet.
  • After baking, a cookie may be iced, glazed, sugared, embellished with candy-like substances, otherwise decorated, or sandwiched with another cookie, but no size or shape changes to the cookie-as-baked are tolerated.
  • When served, a cookie is intended to be eaten as is – except if you are of the school that permits dunking, you boor.
Coming tomorrow: what is not a cookie?

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