Baker's dozen

Dex’s article on the origins of the phrase “baker’s dozen” was an interesting read. As a baker though, I have a bit of a conjecture as to where the term comes from.

My theory pins the origin to simple spacing. Most cookie sheets are something close to a 3:2 length/width ratio. Consider, say, an 18" by 12" sheet:

We can fit 12 cookies of 4" diameter onto the sheet with this pattern. This is an even dozen – numerically convenient, but most bakers prefer to economize on space. Taking a cue from some of nature’s finest and most efficient foodmakers, we simply adopt the honeycomb pattern:

That’s 13 cookies in the space designed for 12. Over the course of a day or week, that’s hundreds of extras for no additional effort. When we’re tallying our goods for a shipment, we usually count by sheet – one, two, three dozen, since “dozen” is as good a word for it as any, then multiply by 13. Hence, a dozen to a baker is 13 in this regard.

I can’t say for certain that this is how the term came into being, but it seems as good a reason as any, and is used regularly by bakers today.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Liberty, glad to have you here.

I have a problem with assuming that the size of today’s baking sheets and cookies is at all relevant to a several centuries’ old expression. But it’s an interesting theory.

Sounds like a darn good theory to me.

Except for the lack of documentation.

Why would all cookies be exactly one third the width of the baking sheet?

And does this somehow apply to bread loaves?

O yeh what about “mister” and “meister”?