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What is a Butter Cookie and Where Did They Come From?

Published March 05, 2013        by Sarah

Crisp, tender, and delicious, many people associate butter cookies with Christmas. Whether it’s the holiday season, though, or an average rainy Tuesday afternoon, butter cookies are the stuff of legend, and if you’ve never had one, you’re certainly missing something special.

What is a Butter Cookie?

Butter cookies are sometimes called butter biscuits in other countries. The basic ingredients for any recipe include sugar, butter, and flour, and thanks to the ratio at which you combine them, you get a fairly crispy cookie. It can be tough to work with these kinds of cookies, so most of the recipes you’ll find have you chill them for up to twenty-four hours just so you can create the perfect cookie. You often see these in a number of different shapes, though ovals and pretzels are, by far, the most common. There are a variety of different flavorings associated with them too including vanilla and chocolate. Coconut is also quite common. On top of this delicious combo, you’ll usually find large, clear sugar crystals for an added taste and texture.

Where Did They Come From?

It’s difficult to trace the exact origins of the butter cookie, as it resembles the Scottish shortbread so closely. Cookies themselves were first mentioned in a cookbook printed in 1596, and even then, butter was the primary ingredient for cookies around the world. The butter cookie most people think of today most resembles the Danish version of this classic, and the history here seems to coincide with the history of cookies themselves. Baked goods were always an important part of the Danish table. Butter was widely available, as it was readily accessible on the family farm. Dutch society was rooted in their agrarian lifestyle for some time. By the time people were headed for the Americas, these treats were growing in popularity, though they were still very much reserved for luxurious occasions and the rich thanks to the sugar involved in the process.

Making Your Own Butter Cookies

Interested in tasting some of these delicious cookies? Or maybe you want to give them as a non-traditional cookie gift. There are a number of different recipes to follow, but here’s a fairly basic one you may want to try.

You’ll need: a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, an egg, ¼ teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of vanilla, and two and a half cups of flour.

To get started, you simply cream the butter and sugar together. You’re looking for a light, fluffy texture. Add in the egg, then the vanilla. In a different bowl, you’ll want to combine the remaining dry ingredients together, then add them to the sugar. Cover the dough, and chill it for two hours. Preheat your oven to 400, and shape the dough as you like. You can also put it through a cookie press if you wish. Once you get the cookies on a baking sheet (make certain it is ungreased and chilled), you’ll want to bake them for nine minutes. They should be lightly browned around the edges when you pull them from the oven. Place them on wire racks to cool immediately.