Cookies–the good, the bad and the sweet ones

English: Peanut butter cookie with a chocolate...

There are the edible kind, and the not so edible kinds, which may be stored in your computer.

Let’s talk about the non-edible kind first.

Cookies were developed back in the 1990s by Netscape of early browser fame, and ‘cookies’ was a term in the programming languages for data shared between cooperating pieces of software.

Nowadays cookies are used to make interaction between you and the websites you are visiting easy and fast. From the point of view of the website owner, a cookie makes it possible to remember your

preferences or your registration details for your next visit, and saves time as well as making your browsing more enjoyable and efficient.

It also allows the website to find out which products or services you habitually use or look for so they can better target their advertising to your interests.

There are more than one type of cookie and they are usually known as ‘session’ or ‘transient’, ‘permanent’, and ‘Flash’ or ‘LSO’ cookies.

The most commonly used by commercial web site is the session type and they are stored in your computer’s memory during your browsing session and then deleted when you close your browser. The purpose is to allow you to move from page to page without logging in each time and to keep track of what is in your shopping cart so you can go on shopping for more items.

The permanent or persistent type is not deleted when the browser is closed. This type may be used to identify individual users and retain your preferences for a particular website as well as provide information of various kinds such as number of visitors, time spent on a particular page and performance of a web site. This type are normally set to keep track of you for an extended period, sometime years into the future.

Most computer also have Adobe flash cookies installed to deal with small files containing Flash media such as video clips.

English: Computer icon of Adobe Flash CS4 Prof...Flash cookies can also back up the data stored in a regular cookie so that when you delete cookies using browser controls then your Flash cookies are unaffected. With other words, a website that placed a cookie on your computer to recognize you next time and then backed up that information to a Flash cookie then even if the original cookie was deleted the Flash cookie has the information.

Yes, you can control Flash Cookies [also known as LSOs or Local Shared Objects] and this is where you go for the details: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager07.html

If you use the Firefox browser you can get an Add-on to detect and delete LSOs/Flash cookies: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/betterprivacy/

By now I may have worried you about the dangers of cookies, however cookies are just small pieces of text, not in code like computer programmes and they cannot be used to spread viruses. Both Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer allow you to set or limit the number of cookies saved on your hard drive, and they cannot access your hard drive so can’t read other information or get hold of your email address or personal details stored there.

They basically contain and transfer only information you yourself have disclosed to a website you have visited. However, it is not unknown for companies in the business of selling advertising to other companies and their websites to pass such user information to 3rd party web sites without your knowledge or consent and that is the reason for people fearing cookies and rejecting their storage.

For that reason we should take a look at simple ways of keep cookies under control or deleting them.

You can set your browser to accept or reject any or all cookies or have your browser alert you each time a cookie is proffered.

browser logosInternet Explorer 8: Choose Tools, then Internet Options. Click Privacy Tab and move  the slider to choose your preferred setting.

Internet Explorer 9: Click ‘tools’ button, point to ‘Safety’ and click ‘delete browsing history’. Tick the ‘cookies’ box, then click ‘delete’.

Firefox: http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/enable-and-disable-cookies-website-preferences  or click on ‘Tools’, then Options [or Edit], select ‘Privacy’.  In the cookies panel click on ‘Show Cookies’, to remove a single cookie click the entry in the list and click ‘Remove Cookie’ button.  To remove all cookies click ‘Remove all Cookies’  button.

Firefox 13: Click on ‘Tools’, then Options, select ‘Privacy’. Under ‘Tracking’ tick box, and under ‘History’ click on ‘Never remember History’. Then click on down arrow to the right in box and click on ‘Use custom settings for history’. Below the box you can tick or untick your choices for accepting cookies, but be careful, some websites need you to accept cookies to access. Click OK to finish.

Google Chrome: Click ‘Tools’ menu, select ‘Options’. Click ‘Under the bonnet’ tab, locate ‘Privacy’ section, click ‘Clear browsing data’ button. Select ‘Delete Cookies and other site data’ to delete all cookies from the list.

Select ‘Clear browsing history’ to delete traces of which websites you’ve visited. Select ‘Clear download history’ to delete records of your downloads. Select ‘Empty the Cache’ to delete cached website pages.

You can also delete saved passwords that are log-ins to websites and saved form data. The click on the ‘Clear browsing data’ button, and finally click on the ‘Close’ button when finished.

Now that you have patiently read through all the guff above we come to the sweet cookies, the edible ones:

Cookie Baker

  • 100 grams butter
  • 50 grams caster sugar
  • 60 grams brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
  • 125 grams of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • A big bar of chocolate (at least 200 grams) chopped
  • A couple of handfuls of coarsely chopped walnuts (if you’ve got small hands, add an extra handful just for luck)

Turn your oven on to preheat at 180 degrees Celsius. Now get some baking trays ready (if they’re not non-stick then you better line them or grease them).

In a big bowl add the butter and both sugars, and then beat them until they are light and fluffy. If you like your mixing by the old fashioned way you’d probably use a wooden spoon; but a whisk would work too. Of course a food processor would make it light work. You’ll know you’re pretty much there when the colour starts to lighten, and the sugar starts to look less granular.

Add the egg and vanilla essence and mix together well. Try and use vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence – it’s much closer to the real thing.

To give your arm a bit of a rest from all that mixing, in a separate bowl measure out the flour, salt, and bicarbonate of soda. Best to pass them through a sieve if you have one. (Handy kitchen tip: tennis rackets, while ideal for draining pasta, are not of much use when sieving flour, so don’t bother.)

Now add the dry ingrediCookie doughents to the sugary egg-butter mix and use a wooden spoon to mix them all together well.

Time to prepare the chocolate chips and walnuts. For the walnuts start with some walnut halves and then chop them up into bite-size pieces.

The choice of which chocolate to use is entirely up to you. Frankly, I’m a sucker for a big bar of Whittaker’s Dark, but just about anything will do.

Now, the size of chunk is a subject of much discussion, some people prefer a dainty chip. But I say you should never be too scared to go large – a centimetre square would work just fine. The cooking process makes the chocolate go soft in the middle, meaning it’s not hard when you bite in – so sometimes the bigger the better. But don’t be afraid to experiment.

Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Try and resist the temptation at this stage just to sit down with a spoon and eat it out of the bowl. Instead, drop the mix in tablespoon-sized scoops onto the baking trays. Remember to leave plenty of space between scoops – these cookies need space to spread out. If you’re being economical you’ll get about 10 to 12 cookies.

Pop them in the oven and bake until they go golden brown, and the centres are still slightly soft to the touch. It’s going to take about 12 to 15 minutes. Take them out, leave them to sit for 5 minutes then pop them on a cooling rack.

Eureka! The world’s finest cookies, in the comfort of your own home with compliments of SeniorNet Kapiti.

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