The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th century A.D. Persia (now Iran), one of the first countries to cultivate sugar (luxurious cakes and pastries in large and small versions were well-known in the Persian empire). According to historians, sugar originated either in the lowlands of Bengal or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Sugar spread to Persia and then to the Eastern Mediterranean. With the Muslim invasion of Spain, then the Crusades and the developing spice trade, the cooking techniques and ingredients of Arabia spread into Northern Europe.
In America, a cookie is described as a thin, sweet, usually small cake. By definition, a cookie can be any of a variety of hand-held, flour-based sweet cakes, either crisp or soft. According to culinary historians, the first historic record of cookies was their use as test cakes. A small amount of cake batter was baked to test the oven temperature.
The Nazareth sugar cookie, also called Amish sugar cookies’, recipe was perfected by Moravians, Protestant settlers from Germany, who made Nazareth, Pennsylvania their home during the mid-1700s. Nazareth has provided much of the stimulus for the founding, settlement and growth of the commonwealth. The sturdy sugar cookie is baked in the shape of a Keystone, the state’s symbol. (History of Cookies, article by Linda Stradley of What’s Cooking America)
Amish Sugar Cookies
2¼ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
pinch (1/16 tsp) salt
1 cup unsalted butter (two 4 oz butter sticks) at room temperature
1½ cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
- Place rack on middle oven shelf and preheat oven to 375F.
- In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cream of tartar.
- In a separate large bowl, with electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for one more minute.
- Into the liquid mixture, sprinkle the flour in several batches and stir with a spatula until mixed well and thick.
- Line with parchment paper 16″x11″ baking sheet(s). Drop dough by teaspoonfuls in 6 rows of 3 each, 2″ space in between each dough ball. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned. Use spatula to gently remove the still soft cookies from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.
- If you have only one baking sheet, this process needs to be repeated 4 times (use the same parchment paper). Yields 72 cookies.