Cookies are my favorite dessert, something that I realized only recently. It was one of those lightening strikes that happened while writing a blog post. At least, I think that’s when it happened. Maybe I was trying to convey the deliciousness of Momofuku’s blueberries and cream cookies that didn’t appear in my bland photo. I could have been attempting to describe why on earth someone would care so much about the trinity of peanut butter, chocolate, oat flavors. Then again, I could have been eating one of these cookies. When there are cookies involved, precision kinda-sorta goes out the window.
If being in Italy has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t love all cookies. My deep cookie passion is limited to large, chunky, chewy specimens stuffed with every ingredient under the sun. They should be sweet, but not too-sweet. I want some butter and crispy edges are okay, but they better not overwhelm the cookie. Chocolate is good, so are raisins and oatmeal. Cinnamon is welcome and I love a generous dash of vanilla or an unexpected twist of almond extract.
I don’t want crispy. I don’t want to dunk my treat into tea or coffee to simply take a bite. I want the cookie that ’50’s housewives served to their kids with a glass of milk as they ran home from school.
During the course of my time in England and Italy, I’ve learnt that cookies are not a universal dessert. Americans have cookies, the Brits biscuits and the Italians biscotti. Cookie sounds a bit like cake, leading you to anticipate a soft, chewy experience (actually, it comes from the Dutch word for little cake). Biscuit means twice cooked in french and the British counterparts are suitably crispy and crumbly. Biscotto is, again, twice cooked and you better believe that all Italian cookies are as dry and crunchy as the name would suggest.
Cookies remind us of our childhood independent of the particular taste you grew up with. Even if you, like me, don’t remember having oreos as a kid, you probably regard them with nostalgia nonetheless (the same goes for thin mints). Peanut butter cookies better have those cross marks, just like the ones at the bakery near me had (City Bakery, however, makes the best peanut butter cookie out there, sans fork criss-cross). Chocolate chip cookies that are warm with melty chocolate are the best.
It’s not that I can’t enjoy the cookies from other countries, it’s just that they don’t tickle the same buttons. No matter how good they are, no matter how much I may appreaciate the flavor, a sablé, a hobnob or a tarallucci will never satisfy me in the same way as an oatmeal raisin or monster cookie will.
And I’m okay with that.
Do you have memories of a specific dessert from your childhood? What does cookie mean to you?