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What's the difference between biscuits & cookies?

Publish Serena On 2015-10-26

What's the difference between biscuits & cookies?
Excellent question!

The answer is an interesting buffet of linguistics, history, and technology. The original term "biscuit" derives from the Latin "bis coctus," or "twice baked." Ancient Roman armies were issued biscuits as part of their rations. hardtack & ship's biscuit, rusk, mandelbrot and zweiback all descend from this culinary lineage. Advances in technology permitted a wider range of biscuit products. Small cakes and delicate wafers were gradually added to the family of biscuits. In most English-speaking countries, the traditional definition of biscuit remains. In the United States the term "biscuit" was reassigned to denote a small, soft, quick-leavened bread product served piping hot. It generally accompanied meals in lieu of bread. About American biscuits.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "biscuit" debuted in the 14th century. Primary definition here:
"Biscuit: 1. a. A kind of crisp dry bread more or less hard, prepared generally in thin flat cakes. The essential ingredients are flour and water, or milk, without leaven; but confectionery and fancy biscuits are very variously composed and flavoured. Even the characteristic of hardness implied in the name is lost in the sense  kind of small, baked cake, usually fermented, made of flour, milk, etc.used, according to Webster, in U.S."
The OED states "cookie" was introduced to the Engish language during the 18th century via the Dutch:
"Cookie: 1. a. In Scotland the usual name for a baker's plain bun; in U.S. usually a small flat sweet cake (a biscuit in U.K.), but locally a name for small cakes of various form with or without sweetening. Also S. Afr. and Canad."
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