The word “cookie” is a corruption of the Dutch koekje, meaning “little cake.” But cookies are not a Dutch invention. Cookie-like confections date to 7th-century Persia, not coincidentally one of the first regions to cultivate sugar cane. As sugar spread, cookies followed. In the United States, successive waves of immigrants have contributed to our collective cookie jar—a heritage that’s unique even by name, since most English-speaking countries call them “biscuits.”

Speculation has it that many cookies were accidental byproducts of cake baking when bakers tested the temperature of their ovens with small bits of batter. Fanciful cookie shapes date to Medieval Germany, where gingerbread was a high art strictly regulated by guilds.

One of the most famous cookies, the Toll House Cookie, was invented in 1930 by Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts. Hoping to devise a chocolate sugar cookie, she chopped bar chocolate into her batter, expecting it to melt. It didn’t. She subsequently licensed her recipe to Nestle.

Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies

Recipe by Julie Hession

These addictive cookies are certain to be the hit of any bake sale or cookie swap. Hearty oats and shredded coconut provide a chewy texture while toasted pecans add crunch. Tightly covered, these cookies will keep 1 week, although they seldom last that long.

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon maple flavoring

2 cups chopped toasted pecans

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 300F degrees and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine oats, coconut, flour, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large bowl; whisk to blend.

3. Combine butter, maple syrup and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.

4. Combine baking soda and boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Add to maple syrup mixture, stirring well. Add maple extract. Stir into dry ingredients. Add pecans; stir well.

5. Place 1/4-cup size balls of dough on baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Flatten balls slightly.

6. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and set, rotating positions halfway through the baking process. Cool on the baking sheets 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Swedish Butter Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 ounce almond extract

3 tablespoons cream

1– egg, beaten

— Swedish pearl sugar or cake decorating sprinkles

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Combine butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Using a mixer at medium-high speed, beat until light. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat well. Add almond extract and heavy cream. Mix well.

3. Turn dough out and work into a ball. Cut into 4 portions and shape each into a ball. Flatten each ball into a 4-inch circle. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

4. Place dough rounds on a baking sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg. Sprinkle pearl sugar on top.

5. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Decrease oven temperature to 300F.

6. Cut each round into 10 slices, then cut each slice in half (except the short ends). Return to oven and bake 20 minutes for crispy cookies or 10 minutes for chewier cookies. Makes about 70 cookies.

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients

2 cups Basic Cookie Dough

1/4 cup Nutella

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment.

Divide 2 cups of Basic Cookie Dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 pieces individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll remaining piece on a sheet of lightly floured wax paper to about 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into 9 (2-inch rounds); arrange 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until tops look done. Let cool on cookie sheet 3 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack; let cool completely.

Spread Nutella on half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies. Dust with powdered sugar.