15 Facts About Cookies for National Cookie Day

iStock/Aneese
iStock/Aneese

Today is National Cookie Day! Grab some cookies and read up.

1. Mallomars are still a seasonal item—available only from September to March. It was a necessity back in 1913, before the advent of refrigerated trucks. Now the limited availability is all about building hype. 

2. Ever wonder why Barnum's Animal Crackers have a string on the box? It's because they were originally a seasonal treat meant to be hung as an ornament and then eaten on Christmas day. 

3. Secretary of State John Kerry isn't just a smart cookie. He opened Boston's Kilvert & Forbes Bakeshop in 1976, the same year he started practicing law. Kerry sold the bakery in the mid-'80s, but still enjoys the chocolate chip cookies.

4. Who, who? The Pillsbury Doughboy's official name is Poppin' Fresh.

5. Fig Newtons are named after Newton, Massachusetts because the Kennedy Biscuit Works named their cookies after nearby cities, such as Shrewsbury and Beacon Hill. One name that was never a contender: Cambridgeport, the actual birthplace of the "fruit and cake" cookie.

6. Most people assume that Hydrox sandwich cookies are Oreo knock-offs, but it's actually the other way around. Hydrox have been around since 1908. Oreos were invented four years later.

7. How's this for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Amos? Wally Amos was the first African-American talent agent at William Morris, where he represented superstars including Simon & Garfunkel, Diana Ross, and Patti LaBelle. He opened the first Famous Amos bakery in 1975 with a loan from Marvin Gaye and Helen Reddy.

8. Pepperidge Farm's most famous cookie was a complete accident. The Naples was a single vanilla wafer cookie with dark chocolate topping that often melted during shipping. Cookies got stuck together, and the Milano was born.

9. In 1989, New Mexico became the first U.S. state with an official cookie—the crispy, buttery, cinnamon-and-anise-flavored bizcochito.

10. The beloved Toll House chocolate chip cookie was named after the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, owned by Terry and Ruth Wakefield. Around 1938, Ruth put broken pieces of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate into her cookie batter. While commonly thought to be accidental, modern scholarship indicates that it was a purposeful experiment. The inn's guests loved them ... and so did everyone else. Supposedly, Ruth allowed Nestle to print the recipe in exchange for one dollar—which she never received. But she got a lifetime supply of chocolate, which is probably better anyway. 

11. Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, inventor of the eponymous graham cracker and Graham Diet, claimed that unhealthy carnal urges could be curbed by eating bland foods. Needless to say, he never had s'mores. 

12. The brand name Chips Ahoy, founded in 1963, is a play on the nautical phrase "ships ahoy." But the first well-known use of chips ahoy dates back to 1859 in a series of articles called "The Uncommercial Traveler" by Charles Dickens. Walt Disney made the name even more famous in a 1956 Donald Duck short of the same name.

13. 'C' wasn't always for cookie. Cookie Monster appeared in a 1969 commercial for Munchos potato crisps before appearing on Sesame Street. Even then, his insatiable appetite for cookies wasn't established until the show's second season.

14. Americans love their milk and cookies. But Japanese bars often serve chocolate-coated Pocky sticks in ice water.

15. Girl Scout cookies are baked by Little Brownie Bakers, a subsidiary of Keebler, and ABC Smart Cookies. Here's how to tell which bakery your cookies came from: Brand name boxes, like Samoas and Tagalongs, come from Little Brownie Bakers. Generic descriptive names, like "Peanut Butter Patties" come from ABC. Thin Mints come from both.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

How to Make Queen Elizabeth’s Beloved Chocolate Biscuit Cake at Home

Queen Elizabeth II at an afternoon tea event in 1999.
Queen Elizabeth II at an afternoon tea event in 1999.
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Between living in regal palaces and owning all the dolphins in the UK, Queen Elizabeth II is not like the rest of us in most ways. But there is one thing that many of us do have in common with her: a weakness for chocolate cake. Back in 2017, former royal chef Darren McGrady shared that the queen is especially partial to a certain chocolate biscuit cake that he served each day for afternoon tea.

"The chocolate biscuit cake is the only cake that goes back again and again and again, every day until it's all gone," McGrady told RecipesPlus. "She'll take a small slice every day until eventually there is only one tiny piece, but you have to send that up; she wants to finish the whole of that cake."

If the queen relocated from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle before she made it to the last slice, McGrady brought the leftover cake with him by train. Wishing you could sample the royal dessert yourself? If you’re willing to spend a little time in the kitchen, you can: The full recipe is available on McGrady’s website.

For novice bakers picturing something decadent and complicated, don’t worry—the recipe is refreshingly simple, calling only for sugar, butter, dark chocolate, one egg, and rich tea biscuits or other sweet, hard cookies. Essentially, all you have to do is crumble the biscuits into small chunks, melt the dark chocolate, combine all the ingredients in a certain order, and let the cake chill in a pan in the refrigerator for a few hours. Then, you use additional melted dark chocolate as frosting.

Step-by-step instructions and ingredient amounts can be found here. And if you’re a little wary about using a raw egg in a no-bake cake, here’s a similar recipe that calls for whipping cream instead.

[h/t The Royal Chef]

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