Cookie vs Biscuit

What is the difference between a cookie and a biscuit?

Depending on where you are in the world, the difference between a cookie and a biscuit can be an unnecessarily confusing topic. I’m sure there have been countless arguments with cross-continent friends over this age-old baking debate. 

According to the Brits, and their Oxford Dictionary, a cookie is “a sweet biscuit with a soft, chewy texture containing pieces of chocolate or fruit.” You will also find that their dictionary definition of a biscuit is “a small baked unleavened cake, typically crisp, flat and sweet.” 

In contrast,  Americans will tell you that a biscuit is similar to a British scone. And a cookie, by the American definition, is a flat round snack made of sweet dough.

So which one is it? To help end the cookie vs biscuit argument once and for all, , I wanted to wade in on this argument and share some of, what I think, are the key differences between these sweet treats.

In a hurry? Here’s my no BS answer:

Americans use the word ‘cookie’ as a general term for what the British, and many other English-speaking countries, would consider being both a biscuit and a cookie. In the UK, a biscuit is a baked sweet treat that typically ‘snaps’, whereas a cookie has a soft, doughy texture, like the classic NYC chocolate chip cookie.

Does that help clear things up?

No? This cookie vs biscuit business is confusing stuff. Let me break this down a little bit more for you. 

What is a biscuit?

While biscuits have origins going back to Roman times, the word biscuit actually originates from the Latin “bis coctum” translating to  “twice-cooked”. The biscuit is first baked so it can set and is then baked again, this time at a lower temperature, in order to remove the excess moisture.

On the other hand, the American version of a biscuit would be similar, although slightly different, to that of an English scone. A scone, for those that don’t know, is a flour-based baked treat that is hard and unleavened, usually served warm with butter, jam, or if you are feeling really fancy, clotted cream.

Again, calling on my trusty Oxford Dictionary, a British biscuit can be defined as a small baked unleavened cake, typically crisp, flat, and sweet. These sweet treats are lighter in texture and less dense than the cookie, contain less fat, and are drier, therefore crisper. 

Often the sweet biscuit versions are sandwiched with a filling of sorts like a jam or buttercream.

What is a cookie?

difference between cookies and biscuits

The first origins of what many would consider a  cookie take us to Persia, now known as Iran. The word cookie, however, is derived by the Americans from the Dutch word ‘koekje’, meaning ‘little cake’. Historically, they used little portions of cookie dough to test the oven’s temperature before baking a real cake. 

So, what are cookies called in England, you ask? Well, luckily, this is easier to understand and less confusing, as the English cookie is like the American cookie! Hallelujah for that!

A cookie is a round and flat-baked goodie that contains more fat and sugar than its biscuit cousin. It also is usally flavored with chocolate chips, nuts, or fruit, although there are plenty of other great cookie flavors out there for you to try.

If you feel energetic and make the cookies from scratch, the recipe would call for the cookie dough to be portioned and rolled. You can also buy the ready-made cookie dough from the grocery store if you feel less energetic. Try resisting the urge to eat the raw cookie dough though, before you have baked the little gems. 

After all, they now sell cookie dough for that exact purpose of being eaten raw. It’s a thing! I suppose for most people, it brings back the nostalgia of licking the bowl while granny baked, and the cookie companies coined on to this idea. 

When cooked to perfection, cookies are slightly crisp on the outside with a moist, chewy center. These sweet treats can be served as a tea time treat or warm out of the oven as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.  

Cookie dough is so delicious that it has even been incorporated to flavor up ice cream. If you haven’t tried it, do yourself a favor, and you can thank me later.

What are the key differences between a cookie and biscuit?

Hopefully, by now you are a little more clear on the definition of both a cookie and a biscuit. To really drive it home, here are a few of the key differences between cookies and biscuits.

  • Cookies are known to be slightly thicker and larger in size and sometimes served as a dessert
  • A cookie contains more fat and therefore is more dense and chewy than the biscuit. The biscuits tend to be lighter in texture and more crisp.
  • Cookie dough is either rolled or dolloped and then baked in comparison to the Biscuit dough, which can be rolled into little rounds or cut out into shapes
  • Cookies are often packed with flavor in the form of chocolate chips, nuts, or fruit. Compared to the biscuit, which is generally more plain flavored. 
  • Cookies are one dimensional, and they are eaten as is because they are packed with flavor. Biscuits tend to be plainer and are often sandwiched with a filling of sorts, like a buttercream, jam, or ganache, to sparkle them up.
  • Cookie dough is often eaten raw and is even incorporated into ice cream as a flavor, whereas biscuit dough is not. 

Now you are starting to understand the differences between a cookie and a biscuit, I am hoping your next question will be “which one is better?”. To be honest, answering this question is like choosing a favorite child. I do love them both – but for me – the cookie wins by a few chocolate chips.

A triple chocolate chip cookie is first prize, but if not, just the classic will do. Warm out the oven, with its crispy outside and chewy center, with the chocolate chips just melted paired with a good cup of English breakfast tea. 

Regardless of where you hail from in the world, I’m sure we can all agree that sipping on a cuppa and nibbling on either of these baked treats can turn a bad day into a good day in seconds. 

Some may even choose to dunk the cookies or biscuits into their choice of hot beverage or just milk, softening the texture of the baked goods and making for a melt-in-your-mouth moment!

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