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Who baked the first cookies?

Cookies are good any time of the year, but December is the month when cookies are the stars. They are featured on Christmas dessert trays, at cookie parties, and sometimes hang from trees. Even the word cookie is fun to say and reminds of you something sweet and crunchy.

There are many different stories of how cookies began. My favorite story is that they were made by mistake.

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Hundreds of years ago, ovens were not as modern as they are today. There were no thermometers to test the oven's heat. At that time bakers noticed that when some cakes baked, they would overflow the pans and make droppings on the bottom of the oven. That was a good way to test to see if the oven was hot enough to bake a cake, the bakers thought. Rather than risk overbaking the whole cake, they tested the oven with small bits of batter baked on the bottom.

Then the cooks handed these tidbits to children. They discovered how delicious they were - sweet, crunchy and good. And perhaps word got around that "cookie" had made a treat. So the treat caught on and was dubbed "cookie" after the cook.

Another idea is that the word "cookie" came from the French words bis cuit, which means twice cooked. During the Middle Ages, biscuits were pieces of dough baked and stored in tins and then baked again before eating - or twice cooked.

Because these twice-baked biscuits lasted a long time, they were used by sailors on long ocean voyages. At first they were not sweet. But eventually someone added sugar and eggs to the dough to made it richer. The Dutch called them koekje, which means "small cake."

Today, cookies are baked on cookie sheets, not on the bottom of the oven. And there are hundreds of recipes. practically a whole alphabet from A to Z - almond, banana, cinnamon to walnut, yeasties, and zest of lemon. There are sandwich cookies, animal cookies, sugar cutouts, oatmeal raisin, brownies, and more.

If you want to have a cookie party for your friends, you can start baking a week or two ahead of time. Most baked cookies or unbaked cookie dough will keep in the freezer for months. Many cookies will also keep for several weeks in an airtight container.