Weekly Link Roundup: National Cookie Day

One of my holiday “traditions”: my own box of Kirkland Signature European Cookies with Belgian Chocolate

♥ Happy National Cookie Day! I celebrated by ordering some of my favorite cookies online: Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies, Honolulu Cookie Company Chocolate Chip Macadamia Shortbread Cookies, Famous 4th Street Cookie Company Bunch of Nuts Cookies (free shipping on orders over $35 today), and Yoku Moku Bateau de Macadamia Cookies.

Everywhere You Can Get Free & Cheap Cookies Today for National Cookie Day (Thrillist)

How to Make the Perfect Cookie Box (The New York Times): “I believe in offering a wide assortment of cookies in every box. There’s nothing better than discovering a hidden almond snowball beneath a gingerbread frog. Being enthusiastic, I strive for eight kinds, but three or four is enough to create the thrill.”

A Comprehensive Guide to Sending Baked Goods in the Mail (Eater): “There are three main shipping carriers: USPS, UPS, and FedEx. USPS tends to be the most economical … UPS and FedEx can be pricier, but … they have a better track record with avoiding delays.”

The Great NASA Bake-Off (The Atlantic): “… astronauts don’t do any cooking or baking. Those hotel chocolate-chip cookies will be the closest astronauts have come to truly baking something in their high-flying kitchens. NASA says astronauts won’t actually eat the cookies, because they are, technically, a science experiment. The treats will be returned home for examination … For the chocolate-chip cookies, astronauts will receive detailed instructions for using the experimental oven, built by NanoRacks, a space company that helps develop experiments for the ISS. They’ll also get a heavy-duty oven mitt … In microgravity, ovens lose the efficacy of their most important properties: convection … There’s also the matter of keeping whatever you’re baking in place … NanoRacks created a cylinder-shaped oven lined with heating components that can bring the interior temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It bakes one slab of cookie dough, which is held in place inside a sealed tray, at a time. The oven will plug into an apparatus about the size of carry-on luggage that supports scientific experiments with electricity, cooling, and other needs … Unlike most space-station food, the cookie dough hasn’t been modified for the special dietary restrictions of space travel. No one knows for sure how the cookies will turn out.”

Space Cookies: First Food Baked in Space By Astronauts (The BBC): “The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet. A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would ‘soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment’ … These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat. For the experiment, five cookies were baked over several days to determine the ideal cooking temperature and time. On Earth, it takes about 20 minutes to bake cookies at a temperature of around 150C (300F). The astronauts found that, in space, it takes far longer. The first cookie – baked for 25 minutes – was undercooked, but the second – baked for 75 minutes – released a fresh scent in the ISS. The fourth and fifth cookies – one baked for 120 minutes and left to cool for 25 minutes, and the other baked for 130 minutes and left to cool for 10 minutes – were deemed to be the most successful.”

Google Tested Its AI by Having It Fine Tune Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes (Quartz): “Think of hyperparameters like a recipe to make a deep neural network. They define important aspects, like how complex the network is or how many layers it should have. Google Vizier makes the recipe millions of times, noting potentially thousands of differences when hyperparameters are changed. The network does this until some best solution is found, as originally defined by humans. However, the tuning algorithm is also a black box—this method gives no insight into biases it might instill into the original neural network. To test how well this optimization algorithm worked, Google applied it to another kind of recipe: chocolate chip cookie. The company gave its dessert contractor … recipes that change twice a week over several weeks … Employees gave feedback each time they ate the ‘machine learning cookies,’ which helped the algorithm learn what was good and bad. The cookie trial highlighted some of the things Vizier did well, like understand quickly that too little butter would make a cookie crumbly … or understand the differences between baking 20 cookies and baking 200. In the end, the cookies turned out to taste good.”

How to Pack and Mail Holiday Cookies (The New York Times): “If plan to ship the cookies, bake with sturdy treats in mind. Brownies, blondies, bar cookies, shortbread, chewy cookies like oatmeal raisin cookies or molasses cookies, rum balls, truffles and sandwich cookies are all good choices. They hold up better than delicate, thin cookies like wafers or lace cookies … Choose tins and airtight plastic containers over boxes when shipping … No matter what, don’t pack cookie boxes far in advance, if you can avoid it … Try to send your package priority or overnight, so the cookies are as fresh as possible when they arrive.”

The New Trophies of Domesticity (The Atlantic): “Young Americans are sometimes described as unwilling or unable to grow up; it might be more accurate to say they’re growing up differently. The traditional markers of adult achievement have yet to click into place for many people in their 20s and 30s, which has required them to reimagine what stability in America might now look like. A dream-kitchen renovation is out of reach for renters, but they can buy a few good tools and have their friends over for dinner. Maybe more important, they can show the world that they’re skilled and sophisticated enough to entertain … As it turns out, professionals and dedicated hobbyists have been using enameled Dutch ovens for generations because they work well. They distribute heat evenly, they brown foods well, they can be transferred to the oven without fear, and they clean up easily. Stand mixers really do make it less physically onerous to bake lots of recipes. In a consumer market full of innovation for the sake of miserable novelty, it’s a relief to spend a few hours a week with something that’s not trying to connect to my Bluetooth headphones, or that won’t be technologically irrelevant in 18 months.”

The Art of the Cookie Drop (The New York Times): “While many food purveyors have struggled in recent months to make their businesses comply with a socially distanced reality, My Cookie Dealer has always been a delivery-only business. That model has now proved itself crisis-proof.”

The Creation Myth of Chocolate-Chip Cookies (The Atlantic): “Any account of the cookie’s creation, though, has a hint of myth-making to it: No one was documenting the cookie’s creation at the time. Who could have known that it would be such an innovation? Like many great inventions, though, the chocolate cookie has been iterated and improved upon in the years since its creation—so much so that the chocolate-chip cookie eaters of today would hardly recognize Wakefield’s chocolate chip cookies as such.”

The Enduring Appeal of Royal Dansk Butter Cookies (Munchies): “Affection for this product, sold in the thick of the holiday season, seems hardwired into America’s arteries. It’s no stretch to say these cookies are iconic, as are the royal blue tins they’re packaged inside … The cookies are currently manufactured by Denmark-based company Kelsen.”

♥ (Video) How Girl Scout Cookies Are Made (Insider on YouTube)

The Best Holiday Cookie Recipes, According to Eater Editors (Eater): Chocolate crinkle cookiesTartine All DayPeanut butter swirled browniesChewy molasses cookiesRose pistachio shortbread cookiesMiso peanut butter cookiesSmitten Kitchen blondies … Walnut alfajores from Flavor Flours … Sugar cookiesMaple shortbread sandwich cookiesMexican wedding cookies.”

What the Hell Is This Cookie? (Heated): “The directions [for these miscutella] are a little wonky and include measurements like “baking powder — use enough.’ Grandma confirmed this on the phone, saying that when she was taught to make them they used guidelines like, ‘you don’t want it too hard, you don’t want it soft,’ rather than my preferred methods of cups and ounces … The most shocking thing about this recipe isn’t that the recipe has changed: It’s how little the changes have mattered. My cookies don’t have the same measurements, but they have the same texture. They don’t have the same ingredients, but they have the same flavors.”

The Rise, Fall, and Return of Hydrox Cookies, the Proto-Oreo (Atlas Obscura): “Intended to imply hydrogen and oxygen—the two chemicals that make up water—the result has a more clinical, less roll-off-the-tongue convention to it, and instead evokes hydrogen peroxide, a chemical you probably don’t want to drink. And it didn’t help that that there was an existing Hydrox Chemical Company on the market, one that sold hydrogen peroxide and was caught up in a trademark lawsuit at the time over the use of the word ‘hydrox’ … Long story short, it was a weird name for a cookie.”

♥ (Podcast): Episode 652: The Hydrox Resurrection (Planet Money)

The Rise of Anxiety Baking (The Atlantic): “In addition to the satisfaction of creating, the process of baking itself can be calming … baking does indeed force you to put down your phone, get your hands dirty, and pay close attention to what you’re doing … it can have an emotional impact akin to practices that are intended to more directly affect mood, such as meditation or breathing exercises.”

A ‘Perfect’ Chocolate Chip Cookie, and the Chef Who Created It (The New York Times): “She landed on a blend of dark brown and caster … sugars, and discovered that resting the dough in the refrigerator yielded a more substantive cookie … Rolling the dough into balls right away, as opposed to chilling it first, gave her the gentle domes you like to see in the center of a chocolate chip cookie. One surprising thing is the omission of vanilla, a given in most chocolate chip cookie recipes, starting with the standard on the Nestlé Toll House bag. Ms. Gill didn’t give it a second thought.”

If You Pay a Mouse To Eat a Cookie, Will He Like It More or Less? (The MIT Press Reader): “We found that the payment of 75 cents per cookie boosted output and productivity by a lot in the first session: Paid participants tasted and rated 62 percent more cookies than unpaid participants in the control group and tasted them 29 percent faster. But when pay was withdrawn in the second session participants did not produce less than those in the control group, nor were they less productive, as posited by the crowding out of enjoyment idea. In fact, they tasted and rated slightly more cookies and did so at a faster rate. And although they spent less time on the task, this effect was small and statistically insignificant. Interestingly, though participants tasted and evaluated cookies at a faster rate despite the withdrawal of pay, it seems that they did so at the expense of the quality of the evaluations. We find suggestive evidence that the evaluations they supplied to the market research team were sloppier than those in the control group. This pattern is consistent with prior research indicating that when pay expectations are not met people lose morale or retaliate.”

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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