In addition to making people happy with their delicious taste, cookies often have very interesting stories to tell. Studying the etymology of a specific cookie's name and reading about how it came about can also tell us a lot about the history, customs and beliefs of a particular culture where the cookie is invented or commonly eaten. This surely makes everyone love cookies even more.
This delicious sweet roll filled with fig paste can be found around the world, although it originates from ancient Egypt.
Figs were first used as snacks in Anatolia, today's Turkey, from where they were traded by sailors to other countries, including Egypt.
There, fig rolls were developed in order to preserve figs in the pastry and store them for long-distance journeys.
American company Fig Newton started with mass production of this cookie in 1892, as many physicians believed that daily intakes of cookies and fruit could solve many digestion problems and illnesses. (Most cookies, however, like most processed foods, are really less healthy than natural foods like fruit and vegetables.)
The fortune cookie might not be the healthiest cookie ever, consisting mainly of flour, sugar and vanilla, but is definitely one of the most beloved ones.
Contrary to the popular belief, these cookies were not invented in China, but in the U.S., inspired by Japanese cookies called omikuji. Several people of Japanese origin living in the Los Angeles area made simultaneous claims that they were the first ones to make these cookies which contain a piece of paper, the so-called fortune (a person's future) or advice, inside. The paper is supposed to make a prophecy to the person eating the cookie.
Shortbread is a thick cookie made of flour, sugar, and a lot of shortening. Shortening is fat (such as butter) that is used in baking.
The popular caramel shortbread cookie builds upon the classic shortbread cookie base with its soft caramel filling and a chocolate topping.
It is commonly known as "millionaire shortbread" because of the rich variety of ingredients it includes.
Although it originates from Scotland, it became popular when it appeared in Australian cookbooks in the 1970s.
When it first appeared in Scotland, shortbread was very expensive so it was reserved for special occasions such as Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve). However, nowadays its ingredients are not pricy so everyone can enjoy it.
Originating from the 9th century Italian monasteries, macaroons are one of the oldest cookies in the world.
In Italian, "maccarone" means "paste", which refers to the almond paste which is macaroon's main and most original ingredient.
In Greek, the first part of the word "makar" means "blessed, happy", which perhaps explains why macaroons are so popular.
Made from ground almonds, coconut and other nuts, macaroons have no flour or leavening (a substance, especially yeast, that is used to make dough rise and become light). For this reason, they were adopted by Italian Jews as a perfect snack during the eight-day long Passover holiday.
There is another famous cookie with a very similar name. Made from egg whites, sugar and food coloring, two macaron cookies are joined with jam filing or ganache (chocolate and cream).
The name has the same origin as the macaroon cookie, but a slightly different history. First produced in Venice, Italy, macarons spread across Europe in the 18th century when two nuns seeking asylum in France baked and sold macarons in order to pay for their accommodation.
Nowadays, they are one of the more expensive cookies, and usually come in many different colors.
Several legends about a female character called Madeleine are attached to this delicious French cookie. While some say she was the cook of King Stanislaus (the last King of Poland), other believe she was a pilgrim who brought the recipe back to France from one of her journeys.
In any case, madeleines were first prepared in the 18th century, as metal molds were introduced to European baking. The madeleine is a small sponge cake made with ground nuts and lemon zest. Thanks to special madeleine pans, this cake traditionally comes in the shape of a shell.
A petit four is a small bite-sized decorated cake or cookie. The name is French, meaning "small oven" (as historically bakers would use the lower setting on their ovens to cook delicate cookies and cakes).
Petit fours can usually be eaten in one or two bites and are traditionally served with afternoon tea or after a fancy meal.
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