In the United States and Canada, a cookie is a small, flat baked cake. (In most English-speaking countries outside North America, it is called a biscuit.)

Origin of name
Its name derives from the Dutch word koekje which means little cake, and arrived in the English language via the Scots language, rather than directly from the Dutch. In Scottish English the word denotes a small scone-like cake or bun, often filled with cream.

Cookies were first made from little pieces of cake batter that were cooked separately in order to test oven temperature. The ancestor of the cookie is said to have come from Persia (from the Persian kooluchih) in the 7th century according to many sources.

Cookies can be baked until crisp or just long enough that they remain soft, depending on the type of cookie. Some cookies are not cooked at all. Cookies are made in a wide variety of styles, using an array of ingredients including sugars, spices, chocolate, butter, peanut butter, nuts or dried fruits.

A general theory of cookies may be formulated this way. Despite their descent from cakes and other sweetened breads, the cookie in almost all its forms has abandoned water as a medium for cohesion. Water in cakes serves to make the base (in the case of cakes called 'batter') as thin as possible, which allows the bubbles – responsible for a cake's fluffiness – to form better. In the cookie, the agent of cohesion has become some variation of the theme of oil. Oils, be they in the form of butter, egg yolks, vegetable oils or lard are much more viscous than water and evaporate freely at a much higher temperature than water. Thus a cake made with butter or eggs instead of water is far denser after removal from the oven.

Oils in baked cakes do not behave as water in the finished product. Rather than evaporating and thickening the mixture, they remain, saturating the bubbles of escaped gasses from what little water there might have been in the eggs, if added, and the carbon dioxide released by heating the baking powder. This saturation produces the most texturally attractive feature of the cookie, and indeed all fried foods: crispness saturated with a moisture (namely oil) that does not sink into it.

Obviously there is some variation in that some cookies are purposely undercooked to retain a water-moist center.

Also of course there are many types of cookies and so not all are made in the same manner.

Classification of cookies

Cookies are broadly classified according to how they are formed, including at least these categories:

Drop cookies are made from a relatively soft dough that is dropped by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. During baking, the mounds of dough spread and flatten. Chocolate chip cookies are an example of drop cookies.
Refrigerator cookies are made from a stiff dough that is refrigerated to become even stiffer. The dough is typically shaped into cylinders which are sliced into round cookies before baking.
Molded cookies are also made from a stiffer dough that is molded into balls or cookie shapes by hand before baking. Snickerdoodles are an example of molded cookies.
Rolled cookies are made from a stiffer dough that is rolled out and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Gingerbread men are an example.
Pressed cookies are made from a soft dough that is extruded from a cookie press into various decorative shapes before baking. Spritzgebäck are an example of a pressed cookie.
Bar cookies consist of batter or other ingredients that are poured or pressed into a pan (sometimes in multiple layers), and cut into cookie-sized pieces after baking. Brownies are an example of a batter-type bar cookie, while Rice Krispie treats are a bar cookie that doesn't require baking, perhaps similar to a cereal bar. In British English, bar cookies are known as "tray bakes".
Commercially-produced cookies include many varieties of sandwich cookies filled with marshmallow, jam, or icing, as well as cookies covered with chocolate which may more closely resemble a type of confectionery.

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