Cookies and shortbreads share a common origin story, having arisen as convenient, energy-rich bites made for life on-the-go.
Despite their shared roots, these sweet treats veer off in vastly different directions when it comes to preparation, texture, flavor, and history. From the diverse and rich history of cookies to the simple and buttery roots of shortbread, each baked good holds its own unique cultural influences and tales to tell.
Join us as we delve into the fascinating histories of cookies and shortbread.
Shortbread is an enriched version of biscuits that originated from the British Isles. This classic treat first made its appearance in written records in the 19th century and the term “short” in shortbread refers to its friable, easily crumbled texture.
The science behind the distinct texture of shortbread lies in its preparation method. By combining fats such as butter or lard with flour before liquids, the fat molecules encase the flour granules, disrupting the formation of gluten. This is due to the transfer of hydrogen from the fats to the flour, occupying the space that would normally be filled by hydrogen from water in the formation of gluten bonds.
In contrast, enriched doughs like brioche or pain au lait require a strong gluten structure to be formed before fats are added. These types of doughs are the polar opposite of shortbread, where gluten development is not a priority.
So, the next time you savor a piece of shortbread, remember that its unique texture is the result of a delicate interplay between science and tradition.
Contrary to popular belief, cookies are actually more similar to cakes than biscuits. This sweet treat gets its name from the Dutch word “koek,” which translates to “cake” in English. In many parts of Europe, the term “cookie” is used to describe a small, soft leaven cake.
The cookie made its debut in America in the 1600s, brought over by Dutch immigrants. After the Revolutionary War, America sought to disassociate itself from Britain, leading to the widespread adoption of the term “cookie” over “biscuit.”
One of the key differences between cookies and shortbreads is the use of a leavening agent. Unlike shortbreads, all cookies require a leavening agent to achieve their light and airy texture. This crucial ingredient works by producing carbon dioxide, which expands the cookie dough and creates the desired texture.
So, the next time you enjoy a freshly baked cookie, take a moment to appreciate its rich history and the science behind this beloved sweet treat.
Shortbreads and cookies share a common origin as convenient energy sources but differ in preparation, texture, taste, and history. Shortbreads are crumbly due to fats before liquids inhibiting gluten development, while cookies are leavened for a light and airy texture. Both treats offer something for everyone, making them popular choices for satisfying sweet cravings.