Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Common cookies are simple pleasures, but the microcosm of all cookies is a summa of the baker’s art. Cookies include sweet bitesized baked goods of all sorts: crumbly and laminated pastries, wafers, butter and sponge cakes, biscuits, meringues, nut pastes. The term comes from the medieval Dutch for “little cake.” The French equivalent is petits fours, or “little oven goods,” and the German klein Gebäck means much the same. Their miniature size and the numerous possibilities for shaping, decorating, and flavoring have resulted in a great diversity of cookies, many of them developed by the French and named in the same spirit that gave us Italian pastas called butterflies, little worms, and priest-stranglers: hence cat’s tongues, Russian cigarettes, eyeglasses, and Nero’s ears.