"History does not tell us when, where, or by whom the first cooky was made. However, we credit the Dutch - famous for their honey and nut cookies - with having introduced the name to America, since cookie derives from the Dutch Koekje, meaning "little cakes." The early Dutch settlers brought their family recipes along with them, thereby endowing America with a wide variety of these delicacies.
The Germans brought over their Christmas cookies, many of which, like the famous Pfeffernuesse, where highly spiced. The English brought their tea biscuits, the Scotch their shortbreads and oatmeal cookies, and the Chinese their almond cakes.
Although cocoa is native to America, chocolate cookie came to the American Colonies by way of Europe long after Columbus and Sir Francis Drake had taken the cacao from the New World to Spain and France.
The use of sugar in cookies is relatively new. Early Europeans depended largely on honey for sweetening and, in Colonial times, molasses often provided the sweetening. It was not until the introduction of the modern sugar-refining equipment that we were able to cook with the sugar now familiar to us."
from The Spice Cookbook, 1964
Note: All cookies should be stored in closed containers to safeguard the moist, soft varieties from drying out, and the crisp ones against absorbing moisture from the air. Store soft and crisp cookies in separate containers. The crisp cookies should be cold before they are placed in the containers.
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen of cookies
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp. instant coffee
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup milk
- colored granulated sugar for decoration
- Confectioner's sugar for serving
Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough for mixing cookies. Stir in molasses and sugar. Sift together flour, baking soda, cocoa power, and instant coffee; add them to butter mixture along with milk and vanilla. Mix well. Chill dough 3 to 4 hours or until is stiff enough to handle.
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Shape as desired with assorted cookie cutters, dipped in flour. Transfer them to the prepared sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Gather the scraps, re-roll and cut out more cookies. Sprinkle the cookies with the colored sugar.
Bake the cookies until the edges are crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool briefly on the sheets, then transfer the cookies to the racks and let cool completely. Frost tops with Confectioner's sugar.