I'm back to enter another contest, this time it's cookies. So of course, I had to do some research on where cookies came from and find the oldest recipe I could follow! Here comes the history: (It's not too long, I promise)

Flat, hard wafers of baked dough have basically existed for as long as people had flour, water and hot stones to bake it on. However, cookies as we know them - that is, sweet cookies - first appeared in the middle east in the 7th century, as that is where sugar was first refined. Sugar, and confections made with sugar, then spread west throughout Europe through trade routes etc.

The earliest recipes *I* could find (and read, Middle Persian is not a language I'm familiar with :P) and recognize as "cookies" in the modern sense were English ones from around the turn of the 17th century. Cookies at this time were often called, rather confusingly, "cakes". Sometimes they were called "jambals" or "jumbles" which may have been a transliteration of an earlier Persian word. Interestingly (at least to me) the word "jumble" for cookie came into use before the word "jumble" was used to mean "a mixture of stuff" so it could be that the word  originally came from cookies!

The modern American word "cookie" comes from the Dutch "koekje" meaning a little cake, while "biscuit", the word used by most of the rest of the English speaking word, comes from the Latin "bis coquere" meaning "twice cooked". Many early cookies were cooked in a two stage process which included baking gently and then drying in an oven, or boiling and then baking.

Ok, that's enough history and etymology for now. ;) Time for some cookies!

Step 1: The Ingredients

The original text:

To make Sugar-Cakes or Jambals.
Take two pound of flour, dry it, and season it very fine, then take a pound of loaf sugar, beat it very fine, and searse it, mingle your flour and sugar very well; then take a pound and a half of sweet butter, wash out the salt and break it into bits into the flour and sugar, then take the yolks of four new laid eggs, four or five spoonfuls of sack, and four spoonfuls of cream, beat all these together, put them into the flour, and work it up into paste, make them into what fashion you please, lay them upon papers or plates, and put them into the oven; be careful of them, for a very little thing bakes them.

From: The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May, which can be found here at Project Gutenberg.

My modernized version:

1/2 lb of flour
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 pinch saffron
1/4 lb of sugar
6 oz unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp sweet sherry
1 tbsp cream
Extra sugar (~1/4-1/2 cup) for decoration
parchment paper for baking

Some notes:
I did use unbleached flour for this recipe, since I was attempting, as usual, to be authentic. As for the sugar, though, I used plain white sugar in the recipe and raw sugar for decoration. If I had more, as well as the time to "pound it very fine", I might have used raw sugar for the whole thing.
"Sack" is pretty hard to find nowadays, so I used sweet sherry, which is pretty close.
I also reduced the whole recipe to 1/4 of the original quantity. It still made 3 dozen cookies, and being that it's just after christmas and we still have a ton of cookies in the house, I'm glad I did!
The spices get a bit more explanation...

The spices from the Middle Ages had to travel LOOOOONG distances strapped to camels or in the holds of ships on looong soggy journeys. No wonder they used so much---the quality of them surely suffered. And I am very sure that the spices sold to European vendors were NOT the same quality as those used by say the local spice merchants cook. When I had actual real FRESH spices in Israel I was amazed at the difference---and also in the Caribbean spice growing islands. <br><br>Even in our home kitchens with fairly fresh spices from a busy food coop the quality degrades after a while. I have looked at many an old cook book and wondered at the quantities and mixes of spices and gone--HUH??? <br><br>I deeply admire tackling these sorts of recipes tho! Just as long as you use fake blackbirds for the &quot;Four And Twenty&quot; when you make your pie---or the PETA People will be stopping by and it won't be for supper! LOL!
Thanks for the comment!<br><br>You make a good point about how far the spices had to travel, I hadn't thought of that. I always kind of assumed that the people who were wealthy enough to have plenty of exotic spices really wanted to make sure everyone noticed them ;)

About This Instructable




Bio: I make stuff. It's what I do. Recently I'm obsessed with making things in 1:3 scale miniature for Ball Jointed Dolls (BJD).
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