Of all the ways this vast tapestry of a nation has been described, the most repeated cliché is the melting pot. But as a baker, I like to think of the United States as another culinary metaphor: the mixing bowl.

Truly, is there a more delightful and delicious lens through which to view American history, ingenuity and diversity than the humble cookie?

Pore over cookbooks, baking blogs, magazines and any other source you can think of, and you may begin to wonder whether there are as many American cookie recipes as there are Americans. At least that’s how I felt while compiling these recipes, which hail from California to Manhattan and everywhere in between.

“Cookies can be assembled from whatever you’ve got,” says Anne Byrn, author of “American Cookie.” “They are not fussy or fancy, and that’s why their recipes have lasted for generations.”

Come along on this great American cookie tour.

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California is a land of plenty when it comes to fruit, especially dates. Many West Coast regional cookbooks have recipes for these thick, soft date-and-nut cookies. In other parts of the country, they used to be called “rocks” because of their shape, not because of their texture.

Billy Goats

Active: 30 minutes | Total: 55 minutes

Makes 50 cookies

½ cup vegetable shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup sour cream

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 cups chopped walnuts

2 cups finely chopped pitted dates

Preheat the oven to 375 F with a rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again on medium-high until smooth and blended, scrape down the bowl, then beat in the sour cream.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Add to the shortening mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Stir in the nuts and dates.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are delicately browned around the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition: Calories: 110; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 10 mg; Sodium: 45 mg; Carbohydrates: 13 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 2 g

Adapted from “The Fannie Farmer Baking Book,” by Marion Cunningham. Gramercy, 1996

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Spiced cookies are a popular holiday treat all over the world, but we’re a fan of this one you’ll find in the American Southwest.

Biscochitos

Active: 50 minutes | Total: 1 hours 10 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling

Makes 60 to 72 cookies

1¼ cups lard, at room temperature (may substitute vegetable shortening)

1¾ cups granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 1 navel orange

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 to 4 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons anise seed

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, combine the lard and 1 cup sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, liqueur, vanilla extract and zest, and beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder until aerated and combined. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the bowl, then just enough of the water to form a dough. Add the anise seed and mix on low just until distributed.

Divide the dough into two equal 1-inch-thick disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 350 F with the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap one dough disk and roll it out to a thickness of ¼ inch. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes, transferring the cookies to the baking sheets and spacing them about 1 inch apart. If the dough is still fairly chilled/firm, it can be rerolled a few times; otherwise, gather together the scraps and refrigerate for 15 minutes before rerolling.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar over each cookie cutout.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until just set and lightly golden, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Nutrition (based on 72 cookies): Calories: 70; Total Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Sodium: 10 mg; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 0 g

From the December 2001 issue of Martha Stewart Living

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Baltimore lays claim to these delicious, decadent chocolate-frosted cookies, where the layer of chocolate is about as thick as the cookie itself.

Baltimore Berger Cookies

Active: 1 hour 10 minutes | Total: 1 hour 40 minutes

Makes 24 cookies

FOR THE COOKIES

2 cups cake flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick unsalted butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg white

1½ tablespoons heavy cream

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

FOR THE FROSTING

3 cups milk chocolate chips

1¼ cups heavy cream

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 2/3 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder

1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in the middle. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg white, cream and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Working with 1 heaping tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls and space 2 inches apart, with a maximum of 12 per sheet. Using your moistened fingers, press on the dough balls to form disks about ¼-inch thick and 2 inches wide. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges, 8 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool completely on the sheet before frosting.

Make the frosting: Once the cookies have cooled, in a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips, cream and salt. Microwave the mixture at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk the cocoa, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until smooth. (The frosting should be the texture of thick brownie batter and register about 95 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.)

Frost the cookies: Flip the cookies on the sheets. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of frosting over the flat side of each cookie to form a mound. Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the frosting is set, about 3 hours, before serving.

Nutrition: Calories: 280; Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 10 g; Cholesterol: 30 mg; Sodium: 100 mg; Carbohydrates: 38 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 20 g; Protein: 4 g

Adapted from Cook’s Country

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Benne seed wafers are the signature cookie of Charleston, South Carolina. The crisps are sweet, rich and gorgeously lacy.

Benne Seed Crisps

Active: 25 minutes | Total: 45 minutes

Makes 48 cookies

½ cup white sesame seeds

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 F with the rack in the middle. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Scatter the sesame seeds on one of the baking sheets and bake until lightly toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool and then transfer the seeds to a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high until it’s the consistency of wet sand, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, add the flour mixture, and then fold in the cooled toasted sesame seeds.

Drop level teaspoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. (The cookies will spread.)

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes total, until the tops of the cookies bubble and the edges turn deep brown, rotating the baking sheets once during baking. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, then use an offset spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. (If you leave the cookies on the baking sheet to cool completely, they will be more crisp; if you remove them immediately, they will be slightly softer.) Repeat with the remaining dough.

Nutrition: Calories: 25; Total Fat: 1 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Sodium: 35 mg; Carbohydrates: 4 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 0 g

Adapted from “Secrets of the Southern Table” by Virginia Willis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

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Who doesn’t love a no-bake treat? Southern food authority Edna Lewis called these chewy, nutty treats one of her favorite childhood cookies.

Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies

Total: 25 minutes

Makes 32 cookies

3 cups quick-cooking oats

½ cup crunchy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons (1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup whole milk

2 cups granulated sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, peanut butter and vanilla until combined.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter and milk, stirring a few times, until the butter is melted. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa and salt until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 1½ minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Stir in the oat mixture and continue cooking for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly.

Drop the cooked mixture by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper or aluminum foil. Let the cookies cool and become firm.

Nutrition: Calories: 140; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 10 mg; Sodium: 35 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 13 g; Protein: 3 g

Adapted from “The Gift of Southern Cooking” by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Knopf, 2003

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Buckeyes are one of the signature confections of the Midwest. The balls of peanut butter filling, coated in chocolate save for a circle at the top, pay homage to the buckeye nuts of Ohio. They’re time-consuming to make; this bar version is just as satisfying without all the work. The recipe can be doubled for a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Buckeye Bars

Total: 20 minutes, plus chilling time

Makes 18 bars (one 8-inch slab)

FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER LAYER

1¾ cups very finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from 14 rectangles, crushed in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or in a food processor)

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

¾ cup creamy peanut butter

2 ounces full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

FOR THE CHOCOLATE LAYER

¾ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling (optional)

Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides to form a sling that you can use to lift the slab out later.

Make the peanut butter layer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a handheld mixer, combine the graham cracker crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt on medium-low speed until well blended. Pat evenly into the prepared pan. Refrigerate until lightly set and cool to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Make the chocolate layer: In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and peanut butter. Microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring well after each interval, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Let cool slightly, then spread evenly over the peanut butter layer. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if desired.

Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Using the parchment handles, transfer the slab from the pan to a cutting board, and cut into fingers.

Nutrition: Calories: 240; Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 170 mg; Carbohydrates: 24 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 15 g; Protein: 4 g

Adapted from “Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland” by Shauna Sever. Running Press, 2019

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Butter brickle ice cream is a Midwest classic. The legend goes that it was created at an Omaha hotel in the 1920s. These buttery cookies take their inspiration from the ice cream and are studded with crunchy toffee bits.

Butter Brickle Cookies

Active: 30 minutes | Total: 50 minutes

Makes 48 cookies

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

One 8-ounce package Heath Bits ’O Brickle Toffee Bits

Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in the middle. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugars and vanilla, and beat on medium-high until fluffy and thoroughly combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating on low until incorporated. Fold in the toffee bits.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, or until slightly brown. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Nutrition: Calories: 90; Total Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 65 mg; Carbohydrates: 14 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 10 g; Protein: 0 g

Adapted from a recipe on anaffairfromtheheart.com

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