The English word "cookie" is derived from the Dutch word "koekje," which means little cake. Bakers used to place a small amount of cake batter in the oven to test the temperature. They soon discovered that these little bits of cooked batter were quite tasty on their own, and the cookie was born!
The humble cookie has evolved a lot since then, and now there are hundreds of varieties baked across the world every day, from the classic chocolate chip to more exotic offerings with caramel, macadamia nuts, dried fruits and more. Cookies can be broadly classified into 3 categories. First are "drop" cookies. These are aptly named because the batter is dropped onto the cookie sheet. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin are all examples of drop cookies.
Second are "rolled" cookies. Rolled cookies are rolled out like pie dough, and then cut-out using a cutter. Sugar cookies are the most popular rolled cookies, followed closely by gingerbread. Rolled cookies may also be "rolled up" into a cylinder and then sliced off and baked. Rolled cookies bake up firmer and flatter than drop cookies, and are therefore ideal for personalizing with icing and other toppings. Third are pressed cookies. For pressed cookies, the dough is loaded into a cookie press, and then extruded, typically using various dies to create interesting shapes. Spritz cookies are the most common pressed cookie variety.
Some also consider bars and brownies as a fourth cookie variety, since the ingredients are very similar, and the resultant treats are typically cut into single serving sizes.
Cookies are a multi-billion dollar industry in the US, ranging from packaged cookies at the grocery store to fresh-baked cookies at the mall, and even Internet bakeries that ship direct to your or your gift recipients. So this year when December 4 comes around, remember this humble little cake by munching on one or by sending a cookie gift to your loved ones.