[Sca-cooks] A Cookie by Any Other Name

Elise Fleming alysk at ix.netcom.com
Thu Jan 25 16:58:02 PST 2007

-Doc wrote:
> My viewpoint is that a "cookie" is a "flat, thin, round or otherwise- 
> shaped crisp-ish think made of flour, sugar and other  
> ingredients" ... and is leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda.

No leavening, just lots of beating. ("...as hard as you can for the space
of halfe an houre..."

> Shrewsbury cakes, and other similar baked goods made with flour,  
> sugar, and fat, but without leavening, fall into a category of things  
> I'd refer to as "shortbreads".

Murrell's recipe has a quart of flour, 8 ounces of sugar and 12 ounces of
butter.  One dictionary definition of "shortbread" says "a thick cookie
made of flour, sugar, and a large amount of shortening."  Shrewsbury cakes
(in Murrell's recipe) are the thickness of three shillings, one on top of
the other.

> If the proportion of fat was significantly smaller than would be in  
> "shortbreads", then I'd probably call them "crackers", or maybe  
> "biscuits" if I was in a UK sort of mood (I believe this would  
> include Hildegarde Von Bingen's flour-spice things).

I'm terrible with math but I'm guessing that the Murrell recipe above has a
high amount of fat??  The dictionary again says that a cracker is "a dry
thin cryspy baked bread product that may be leavened or unleavened".

> So using these definitions I'd consider "cookies" to be out of period.
> ... Of course from my (admittedly warped) viewpoint, anything after  
> 1500 is OOP.

I would surmise that if a Shrewsbury cake were put in front of a
modern-world person (SCA or not) the person would probably say "Mmmm, good
cookie!"  That, however, doesn't make them a "cookie", merely a close
analog.  For me, my mental concept of shortbread is of a crumbly thing. 
Shrewsbury cakes aren't crumbly.  At least, I didn't find them crumbly. 
And, actually I'm not disagreeing with what you are saying.  If I read you
correctly, you are approaching the description from a cooking viewpoint. 
I'm looking at it from modern eyes backwards - what would we assume the
thing to be.

Anyhow, I'm getting too muddled to be coherent.  I've already fallen asleep
watching a TV show and it was only 6:45 p.m.!

Alys Katharine

Elise Fleming
alysk at ix.netcom.com

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