Global Cookie Jar
As long as people have been baking, we have been making cookies. Before they were a tasty dessert, cookies were solely utilitarian. They were eaten as a travel wafer since they didn’t go bad as quickly as other foods like bread or fruits and were small and easy to store. However, cookies as the dessert we know them today weren’t officially recorded until the seventh century when Persians introduced sugar to these bland travel snacks—making the rest history.
For centuries, cultures all over the world have been finding new ways to improve on this traditional travel wafer in their own unique methods—whether that’s changing the shape, color, or flavor. While we can’t cover every cookie from every culture (that’s a different lengthy, mouth-watering article for another day), we can cover a few representing the most diverse and delicious in the cookie world.
Short for feuille de palmier, or “palm tree leaf,” this cookie easily catches your eye with its unique shape. In fact, this swirl shape has earned it the nicknames of “pig’s ear,” “palm heart,” “elephant ear,” “French hearts,” and many more. Yet, for all of the fond names this cookie has collected, it was only first invented at the beginning of the twentieth century. It just goes to show that since cookies are such a classic staple of our societies, we’re always finding new ways to improve on this must-have dessert.
This cookie, like other French pastries, needs only a few ingredients—but what the French lack in a long ingredients list, they make up with difficult cooking techniques. Luckily, we live in the twenty-first century where things like easy-to-make puff pastry rolls exist, making this recipe even easier. All it takes to make these delectable cookies is sugar, butter, puff pastry, and some friends or family to enjoy them with.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cane sugar (or cinnamon sugar as an alternative)
Unwrap puff pastry. Using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten out any seams your puff pastry may have, making an even rectangle. Brush melted butter evenly over puff pastry. Sprinkle half of the sugar on the pastry, then spread it around evenly.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry, pressing sugar into the pastry. Flip over the pastry and repeat the process, brushing with butter and rolling in the rest of the sugar.
Tightly roll one side of the rectangle toward the middle, stopping at the center, and then roll the other side of the pastry to meet in the center. The rolls should be the same size. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the plastic wrap and cut the double rolls into 1/2-inch rounds. They should look like smushed hearts. Place the slices on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 11 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway, until sugar is caramelized and cookies are golden brown.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from tasty.com.
This cookie is a popular choice found in the Southern part of the United States (specifically Texas). Many believe this cookie was the nineteenth-century version of a power bar, one cowboys would bring on long days in the Wild West. Just imagine rough-and-tumble cowboys covered in dust, grime, and grim expressions, enjoying a few bites of these tasty cookies.
One of the most popular cowboy cookie recipes, titled “Texas Governor’s House Cowboy Cookies,” was Laura Bush’s submission for the Family Circle magazine’s First Lady Bake-Off in 2000. Unsurprisingly, it won the bake-off and has stuck in our hearts since. Loaded with a medley of flavors, including pecans, coconut shavings, oats, chocolate, and more, they would leave any cowboy on the trail stuffed and wanting more.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chopped pecans
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.
In a separate 8-quart bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in white and brown sugars to combine, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla.
Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips, oats, coconut, and pecans.
For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.
Bake 17 to 20 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. Remove cookies to a rack to cool.
Makes 24 servings.
Adapted from southernliving.com.
Chinese Almond Cookie
Don’t be deceived by this cookie’s seemingly simple title. These cookies are so popular, you can find them in almost any Asian market. And surprisingly, these cookies were first given the title “almond cookie” not because they had almonds, but because they used to be in an almond shape. But, since the name stuck, the cookies have been changed so that you only see them with almonds as one of the main ingredients—often a slivered or whole almond in the center.
1 1/3 cups almond flour, lightly packed
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup and 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
Thinly sliced almonds
Combine almond flour, salt, and butter in electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. The mixture will become coarse and chunky looking.
Add 1 egg and the almond extract. Mix on low speed until just incorporated.
In a separate bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, sugar, and baking soda. Then add to the butter mixture and mix at low speed until just combined.
Take the dough, flatten it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the other egg into a bowl and beat it.
Take pieces of dough and roll into balls about 3/4 inches wide. Place on the sheet about an inch apart and press down slightly with your palm to make a coin shape.
Place a slivered almond onto each cookie and lightly press into place, then paint surface of the cookie with the beaten egg using a pastry brush or your finger.
Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Cool on the sheet or on a wire rack.
Makes 60 servings.
Adapted from www.simplyrecipes.com.
For Ashkenazi Jews, this is a very familiar and favorite cookie. Associated with the holiday Purim, these cookies celebrate the Jews’ liberation from Haman thanks to Queen Esther (you may have read about it in the Bible). These tricorn-looking cookies go by many names, including “Haman’s hat,” “Haman’s pocket,” and “Haman’s ears.”
There are also numerous options for the center filling, making a perfect excuse to try all different flavors! The most popular fillings include poppy seed, apricot, prune, Nutella, and even savory options like pizza ingredients or spinach with feta cheese. Try it today using this buttery hamantaschen recipe, and experiment to find which fillings are best!
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups jam or preserves (options include date-orange filling, honey-nut filling, poppy seed filling, etc.)
3 1/2-inch diameter round cookie cutter
Do ahead: Dough can be made 2 days ahead; keep chilled. Cookies can be made 2 days ahead; let cool and store airtight at room temperature.
Whisk baking powder, salt, and 4 cups of flour in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl.
Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture; mix until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and form into two 3/4-inch-thick disks. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350 F. While the oven is preheating, let the disks of dough sit at room temperature until softened slightly, about 30 minutes.
Roll out dough on a very lightly floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick, dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking (use as little flour as possible). Cut out 3 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter and, using an offset spatula or bench scraper, transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather up scraps, reroll, and cut out additional rounds.
Lightly beat remaining egg in a small bowl to blend. Working a few cookies at a time, brush edge of rounds with egg, then place 1 1/2 teaspoon filling in the center. Fold 3 sides up to make a triangle, pinching points gently to seal and leaving about 1-inch surface of filling exposed.
Brush sides of folded dough with egg. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets.
Makes 24 servings.
Adapted from www.bonappetit.com.