Economic Multipliers (91)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Optimization is many times an economic multiplier.


Mathematically, optimizing everything in the whole world would seem to be a very practical and economically beneficial thing. If it were possible, everyone would be a lot wealthier. Right?

In the context of the design of systems and things, not only can you not do it, the process wouldn’t necessarily create a lot of excess wealth.

Of course, if all people and all things existed completely in isolation and had no impact on other people and things, economic multipliers would theoretically be much easier to create. But alas, real life is messy.

I’ve noted before (in so many words) that optimization coupled with:

    • practicality (related to knowledge, materials, resources and time),

    • common sense (related to accessibility, ease of use and desirability against other things desired that could consume knowledge, materials, resources and time) and

    • robustness (related to the ability to easily make adjustments and modifications in the face of changing conditions)

all determine whether the optimization of anything is an economic multiplier.

I never thought much about the optimization of ingredients for food until a woman named Mollie Gauerke (a family member’s close friend two generations removed and since passed) gave me a recipe for peppernuts (I believe she hoped that I would become a baker and perhaps redirect my interests). I did end up being fascinated with the full flavor of the cookies balanced against the ingredients.

If you have never made cookies, it might be hard to fully appreciate how a recipe could be designed volume-wise to use the least expensive, most readily available ingredients for a particular generation while maximizing flavor with very small amounts volume-wise of what would have been more expensive ingredients for that same generation.

Although this site is clearly not a cooking and baking site, bakers will probably understand why I’m including this recipe in an otherwise short article on optimization: Before many people had access to almost everything if they had enough dollars in their pocket, people were always thinking about all sorts of ways to have great lives using what they had (I’m sure they still do!).

Peppernuts (or Pfeffernüsse)

(Note: Many other recipes are available and some even include pepper.)

Combine and mix:

    • 1 c. white sugar

    • 1 c. brown sugar

    • 1-1/2 c. soft (i.e. not cold) butter

    • 3 eggs

Add and then mix:

    • 1/2 tsp. salt

    • 1 tsp. allspice (a substitute: 1/2 tsp. cloves; 1/3 tsp. nutmeg; 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)

    • 1 tsp. cinnamon

    • 2/3 tsp. nutmeg

    • 1 tsp. anise seed

    • 1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/4 c. hot water

    • 1 tsp. vanilla

Add enough flour to stiffen (I use ~5 cups).

Add, and if using a small hand mixer, mix by hand:

    • 1/2 c. chopped dates (I like to add a bit more)

    • 1/2 c. chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°F; then reduce to 350°F.

Bake: I use a timer and bake 6 minutes on the lower rack and 6 minutes on the upper rack (simultaneously). I start on the lower rack and keep feeding cookies up and out. Three fully prepared ungreased cookie sheets (you need to remove the cookies immediately once they come out of the oven) of ½ - ¾ inch diameter cookies (like slightly flattened large marbles) are readied prior to baking so I can easily prepare more during baking and also have time to remove cookies from the pans. To do this, you need at least 4 cookie sheets.

If you’ll never bake a lot of cookies (this really only makes sense for special occasion cookies which will be given away, for large groups or long storage), you can freeze part of the dough (as a chunk or already balled up for baking … wax paper is a good separator) and once softened, bake smaller amounts at your leisure.

When cool, store cookies in tins in a cool location (makes about 10 dozen very small cookies) or freeze for indefinite storage.


The woman who shared this recipe with me (and now it belongs to you too) was rail thin, could make a tin of cookies last for months and lived a very long time.

As a carbohydrate addict (who has never fully recovered), I do not recommend learning how to bake cookies before learning how to prepare vegetables.

And, although these cookies are not particularly ‘pretty’ in an artistic way (some people do dress them up with a coating of powdered sugar), the cookies themselves just have a particularly good flavor.


A tip from Kate Heyhoe of Cooking Green: Bright green vegetables go drab if you cook them longer than 7 minutes. (There is even a scientific reason for this tied to cell walls breaking down and ‘stuff’ mixing together.)


It is now possible (due to Internet flexibility) to list ingredients that you have and find recipes for what you can make or quickly identify substitutes if you lack one thing but have something else.