General recipe development
You can’t get a better cookie than an American chocolate chip cookie.
Okay, Britain also makes chocolate chip cookies, but they are small, dry things and bear no resemblance to the large, chewy and moist American versions. Clearly, it was only a matter of time before UK consumers would demand American style cookies – indeed; they’re already here, pushing their weight around on our supermarket shelves.
Cookies are an important part of American life. They’re taken to family picnics and Scouting Jamborees, they piled on Sunday School refreshment tables and get tucked into lunchboxes. Girl Scouts sell cookies sold door-to-door to help raise funds for the movement. Americans grow up with cookies, playing with – and then eating – animal crackers, they decorate Easter and Christmas cookies, and they learn about baking and cookery by making cookies.
Americans love to make cookies. It’s a quick way to bake something homemade to offer to family and friends. So when guests arrive, out will come the usual treats – coffee cake, cinnamon buns, angel food cake and of course cookies.
It’s no wonder the Muppets’ ‘Cookie Monster’ was such a popular character. Most American kitchens have a large cookie jar (and their own in-house cookie monsters). The jar is usually full – hardly surprising considering that most home-cooked recipes for cookies will yield around four to five dozen cookies.
Cookies are flavoured with all manner of ingredients, and can include fruit, nuts, molasses, apple sauce, butterscotch and chocolate, they come in all shapes and sizes and can be decorated or frosted, chewy or crisp. Popular cookies include ridged peanut butter cookies, cracked ‘sugar’ cookies and the ubiquitous refrigerator cookies… There are cookies with odd names: the ‘sand tart’, ‘wasps’ nest’ and ‘snickerdoodle*’. My copy of the classic American cookbook, Fannie Farmer lists over 60 different cookies – and that doesn’t include tray bakes, bars and brownies.
However, whatever the social occasion, the one thing you will never see an American do, is dunk a cookie into a cup of tea. Therefore, so long as the tradition of the great British tea break exists, the demure ginger snap’s and rich teas’ place on the supermarket shelf will be secure; safe from any swaggering American interlopers.
The snickerdoodle is thought to have been brought to America by the Pennsylvanian Dutch. The name is said to be derived from the German pastry shnecken, but it’s probably made-up, devised simply to be silly and fun to say… In American folklore snickerdoodles are historically known as an Amish specialty, but whatever their heritage they are now one of America’s favourite cookies.
What makes the snickerdoodle distinctive is that it is rolled in cinnamon-flavoured sugar before baking. In the UK we associate cinnamon with winter, but Americans like cinnamon at any time of the year. The homely and aromatic spice appeals to adolescent and adult tastes alike and is sprinkled on buttered toast, coated on crunchy cereals and as the main flavouring in cinnamon buns and the quintessentially American apple pie.