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A Quick Guide to Cookie Types

While cookies are often associated with the December holiday season, most people enjoy cookies just about any time of year, especially the home made kind! Nothing beats a warm cookie and a glass of milk or cup of tea for that extra special treat that warms the heart and reminds you of Grandma’s kitchen.

These days, there are a wealth of quick and easy options when it comes to baking cookies, from pre-packaged rolls of cookie dough that just need to be sliced to packages of dough that merely break off piece by piece and are placed on the sheet for baking, coming pretty close to the real thing.

But bakers who are purists wouldn’t dream of touching those. Instead, for them, it’s a joy to embark on making a variety of cookies from one of the different families of cookie types. Basically, there are 6 kinds of cookies – and, of course, thousands of varieties – and each one is a little different. Some are quick and easy while others demand a little more preparation time.

Drop Cookies – Though this might seem like a rather strange name, drop cookies are named for the method in which they’re placed on the cookie sheet. Most often, the technique involves scooping a small amount of cookie dough with a teaspoon or cookie baller and dropping it onto the sheet. Drop cookie dough is medium soft and the small mounds of dough spread when baked. (The dough should always be dropped on a cool cookie sheet to avoid spreading before baking.) A finished drop cookie should be light brown and a little springy to the touch, not hard. Chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies are good examples of drop cookies.

Rolled or Cut-Out Cookies – A favorite at Christmas time, rolled or cut-out cookies demand a little more attention than some other types. The dough is generally stiff and often chilled before rolling to be sure it stays firm during the process. Once rolled, it is fashioned into different shapes, usually with a cookie cutter or other cutting device. Cut-Out cookies are then frosted or decorated in some other manner. They can be made in a variety of flavors from the standard butter cookie to holiday gingerbread and much more.

Molded or Pressed Cookies – Quite simply, molded cookies are creations made from stiff dough and formed into a variety of shapes by hand, most often crescents, balls, candy canes, or logs. Sometimes, the balls are flattened with a glass or a fork before baking, such as with peanut butter cookies. A pressed cookie is extruded from a hand-held cookie press, which fashions the dough into a variety of shapes. The popular spritz, a simple butter cookie, is of the pressed variety.

Refrigerator Cookies – Dough for refrigerator cookies is usually quite stiff. After mixing, it is formed into a roll/log, wrapped in wax paper, and refrigerated (often overnight) to make it even stiffer for baking. After refrigeration, the dough is cut into slices and baked. Sugar cookies, pinwheels, and shortbread are commonly enjoyed varieties of refrigerator cookies.

Bar Cookies – Known as “tray bakes” in the United Kingdom, bar cookies are those that are made from ingredients pressed into a baking pan. Generally, they involve layers of ingredients, such as graham cracker crust topped with a cream cheese mixture or layered with chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut. Jams or jellies are often an ingredient as well. Brownies can also be considered a bar cookie.

No-Bake Cookies – No-Bake Cookies contain cookie-type ingredients that do not require baking, like cocoa, sugar, milk, butter, peanut butter, nuts, or oats. A common example of a no-bake cookie is the crispy rice treat, which contains melted marshmallow, butter, and cereal. This is a bar cookie but other no-bake cookies are dropped on wax paper and cooled until they’ve reached room temperature and are ready for eating.