A Very Brief History of the Cookie

The history of the cookie is long, complicated, and involves many variations and debates (is a Fig Newton a cookie?). But who needs complicated? Let’s just all agree that a Fig Newton is not a cookie (just like cereal is not soup and a hot dog on a bun is not a sandwich) and review the CliffsNotes version of the cookie.

After all, there’s so many cookies and so little time.

The Very Beginning--The Foundation of the Modern Day Cookie – 7th Century AD

Cookies originated in Persia (now Iran) a loooong time ago when they began cultivating sugar. Bakers made small, round “test cakes” to check their oven temperature (obviously not regulated with electricity like they are now).

Cookies in the 14th Century

By now, cookies were popular enough to be found in Renaissance cookbooks. Were they as healthy and delicious as Maxine’s Heavenly cookies? No.

16th Century: Biscuits or Cookies? Potato - Potahto

In the Renaissance periods and later, cookies were called an array of things such as biscotti, bisetellos, rusks, morsels, wafers, and biscuits, among other thingsBiscuits called hard tack were a common food item, because it was inexpensive and they traveled well (much like our snack packs!). They were popular on boats. (Chips) Ahoy there, matey! #DadJoke

soldiers with cookies


17th and 18th Centuries - Cookies Travel To America

Being a baker was a serious profession and required years of apprenticeship through the Martha Stewart School of Bakery…just kidding about that last part. But bakers were part of guilds, (professional associations) which could be regulated by authorities.

Cookies made it to the United States at the end of the 1600s, usually in the form of tea cakes and shortbread. Housewives took cookies very seriously and in early cookbooks gave them playful names such as jumbles, plunkets, and cry babiesSpecial thanks to the English, Scottish, and Dutch immigrants for making that happen! #YouDaRealMVP

19th Century: Transformation of the Cookie

Trains change everything! Because people could travel farther distances in a shorter amount of time, bakers had access to new ingredients like coconut and oranges. Cookies break out of their shortbread-style mold.

The 20th Century Was a Game Changer for Cookies

Now it’s electricity’s turn to change everything. Refrigerators and iceboxes mean cookies can last longer. Also, people made cookies out of Kellogg’s cereal (Rice Krispie treats were invented in 1939. Do Rice Krispie Treats count as cookies?).

In 1937, Toll House Restaurant owner Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie, and the world was forever changed.

In 1939, Betty Crocker made Toll House cookies famous by talking about them on the radio. Ruth came to an agreement with Nestle – they could print the recipe for Toll House cookies on their semi-sweet chocolate bar packaging if they would give her a lifetime supply of chocolate. #GreatDeal

toll house cookies

In the 1950’s, Tim Miller’s mom, Maxine, was known as a real whiz in the kitchen. She had several cookie recipes that were always a hit at parties.

The Cookie of the 21st Century

In 2013, Tim Miller and Robert Petrarca started replacing the unhealthy ingredients in Maxine’s recipe with healthy ones. The result was so good that they started Maxine’s Heavenly so they could share it with the world.

And the world was forever changed…again.

Looking for a much, much longer history of the cookie? Here you go!

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