The State of the Cookie

Bubbie's Mandelbrot and Aunt Pearl's Bourbon Balls
What to eat. What not to eat.
Dec. 12 2008 6:30 PM

The State of the Cookie


It's hard to imagine a world without Thin Mints! Although everyone I know is cutting back in one way or another, I think this could still be a good year for cookies. Butter is dear this season, to be sure, but that makes the gift of something baked all the more considerate. And after all, homemade cookies are both more frugal and more fragrant than fine leather goods or cashmere mittens.

In terms of innovation, I think Dorie is right that even with tweaks like mesquite (!) flour, it's the basics that make a cookie great. Even working within Fran Gage's sweet quartet of basic baking ingredients (sugar, almonds, eggs, and butter), there are plenty of decisions we can make to improve the state of our cookies. I grew up in a household that allowed only Blue Bonnet margarine in the butter compartment of the fridge—at the time, it was considered a healthy choice—and I still marvel at the sea change that took place when I started cooking with butter. Talk about an innovation! Beyond that, over the past decade or so we've watched our chocolate get better, our access to organic eggs and higher-fat butter grow, and our sugar options diversify.

And on the subject of sugar and butter and health: Dorie and David, I agree that cookies can be part of a healthful diet, even as I stay wary of "healthy" cookies. For the most part, I've been doing my best to replace mediocre sweets with smaller bites of more intensely flavored goodies. One delicious square of brownie is better—and, I wager, better for you—than omega-3 fortified biscuits by the handful. The more one can consciously appreciate the workmanship in a cookie— the shattering brown-sugar crisp of a lace cookie, the candied nougat chew of the inside of a meringue, or the anise fragrance of a biscochito—the easier it is to be satisfied with just three or four bites of goodness.

That reminds me: Much has been made of artisanal foods over the past decades. We shouldn't forget (and I'm sure neither of you do) that as home bakers, we are all artisans. That's true whether one is passing on long-standing traditions like Bubbie's mandelbrot or Aunt Pearl's bourbon balls or seeing whether oatmeal cookies could be even better with candied ginger and goji berries. Thanks so much for your wit and your passion, Dorie and David—I can't wait to see what you each bake next.




The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.


See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
Sept. 30 2014 11:25 AM Naomi Klein Is Wrong Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 10:59 AM “For People, Food Is Heaven” Boer Deng on the story behind her piece “How to Order Chinese Food.”
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 10:48 AM One of Last Year’s Best Animated Shorts Is Finally Online for Free
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.