Cooks in the ancient Middle East were the first to make no-bake cookies, says the website Food Timeline, a font of historical food information. These cooks from a millennium ago made their cookies from nuts, seeds, dried fruits and sweetener. The recipes first seen in American cookbooks in the Great Depression of the 1930s just go to show there is nothing new under the sun, even if it seems that way. These Depression-era recipes called for similar ingredients -- dried fruits and/or nuts bound together with peanut butter, butter/margarine or cream cheese. Honey or white corn syrup often acted as the sweetener. The next resurgence of no-bake recipes came in the 1950s. Besides similar ingredients, there is one defining aspect of no-bake cookies: They never contain eggs or flour.
This no-bake oatmeal chocolate fudge cookie recipe was popular in the mid-20th century and remains a classic. No-bake cookies are an especially good choice in the summer when turning on the oven is not appealing. If you need cookies in a rush, these fit the bill. Plus even though they are filled with decadent chocolate, they also include healthy oatmeal. A balanced cookie, as it were. They're also a good idea if you have little cooks around your kitchen who can't wait to mix up some goodies. They're easy and provide nearly immediate gratification. But you'll need to supervise the stovetop action.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and milk and cook until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from heat.
- Stir in the peanut butter and oats.
- Drop by the spoonful onto a sheet of waxed or parchment paper or aluminum foil. Allow to cool until firm before serving. Refrigerate if you wish.
Other No-Bake Cookies
Some examples of different no-bake cookies that are characteristic of their era, Food Timeline reports, are date balls in the 1930s, with dates, pecans, and powdered sugar; fruit cookies in the 1940s, with raisins, dates, figs, prunes, nuts, graham crackers and honey; honey bars, with raisins, mixed nuts and honey in the 1950s; cookie balls in the 1960s, with chocolate, walnuts, instant coffee and crushed vanilla wafers, typical of the decade; and holiday apricot balls, with apricots, coconut, condensed milk and nuts, also from the 1960s.
All these recipes share characteristic ingredients -- nuts, dried fruit, and sweetener.