Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kit's Chocolate Chip Cookies

C is for Cookie, and that's definitely good enough for me.

I often claim that one of the desserts I've made for this blog is my new favorite thing, or has been a favorite thing of mine for years, and that's often true. I have a lot of favorite things, as I'm sure we all do, especially when it comes to food.

But I'm pretty sure that if I had to pick one dessert only to eat for the rest of my life, I'd be pretty comfortable picking the chocolate chip cookie. Some people might claim otherwise, but I've never had a bad chocolate chip cookie in my life, no matter where it came from. Sure, there are better ones than others, but a bad one? No way.

So imagine how weird it was for seven year old me to find out that there was once a time before chocolate chip cookies, and it's basically within living memory!

Honestly, even after learning about the history of the chocolate chip - or Toll House - cookie years and years ago, it's still difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that there are people alive today who existed in a world without chocolate chip cookies. How is that possible? It seems like the most logical combination. They're super simple to make, loved by most of the population, and have become as iconic a piece of American cuisine as hamburgers and apple pie... even if both of those technically aren't 100% American.

That said, somehow, I don't seem to have one in my collection of doll cookies. I think we should rectify that.

There are a couple different origin stories of the Toll House cookie, which would become known as the chocolate chip cookie once the association with the original creator faded from the public consciousness. The version I've heard the most frequently is that Ruth Graves Wakefield, the owner of the Toll House Inn restaurant in Whitman, MA created the cookies by accident in 1933 when she was trying to make chocolate flavored cookies. As she was out of baking chocolate, she chopped up some semi sweet chocolate and hoped it would melt in the batter the same way baking chocolate would. It didn't, but people loved the cookies anyway.

But like most recipes, there's an alternate story: allegedly, Wakefield made the cookie intentionally, looking to expand the restaurant's range of baked offerings. This does sound more realistic, considering Wakefield was an accomplished cook and baker and would probably know that the chocolate wouldn't melt the way she would have wanted to in the other origin story. There's another accidental origin story though: an electric mixer might have sent cracked bits of Nestle chocolate tumbling into a sugar cookie dough and the head chef at the restaurant convinced Wakefield not to throw the dough out. I'm not going to claim to know what the true story is, but it does seem like the quasi accidental addition of semi sweet chocolate to cookie dough is the common thread here, so I definitely think this was either a kitchen experiment that turned out very well for Ms. Wakefield and her restaurant, or was genuinely an accident.

Whatever the case may be, the cookie first appeared in the 1938 edition of her cookbook, and quickly started to catch on in other New England kitchens. Originally, it was a pretty regional favorite, and apparently it wasn't until people from Massachusetts serving overseas in World War II started sharing the Toll House cookies in their care packages from home that they became nationally popular.

The Toll House Inn isn't in business anymore, but the recipe for Toll House cookies can be found on the back of all 12 oz Nestle semi sweet chocolate morsel packets, and the cookie's been elevated to the Official State Cookie of Massachusetts. Not bad for a cookie that might have started life as an accident, and narrowly avoided being thrown in the garbage!

The recipe on the back of Nestle chocolate chip packets was probably the first from scratch recipe for anything I learned how to make by myself. Before I started this blog, I enjoyed baking, but thought that meant throwing a couple wet ingredients into a box mix and calling it a day, so I didn't have any real experience making a cake from the ground up. This recipe was the one exception, and it's pretty much a guaranteed great cookie every single time you make it.

(I say "pretty much" because my sister is notoriously bad at making these cookies correctly. Once, she and her best friend forgot the second cup of flour so the cookies came out as bubbly puddles of burned sugar, and another time, she used so much flour that the cookies never flattened out in the oven, so they looked like little ice cream scoops!)

I'm pretty sure you've eaten or made a version of this recipe before, and the one published on the back of Nestle chocolate chips isn't exactly the original, but it's still pretty great. Two sticks of softened butter, and 3/4 of a cup each of white sugar and brown sugar get creamed together, and then two eggs are beaten in with a teaspoon of vanilla to get the dough started.

Fun fact: if you want to just eat the cookie dough, but you're worried about getting sick from the raw eggs, you can replace them with unsweetened applesauce! They won't bake like regular chocolate chip cookies, but the dough will have more or less the same texture and flavor, with none of the food poisoning risks. Pretty cool, right?

Anyway, a mixture of 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt gets gradually added into the wet ingredients. Next comes a 12 oz package of semi sweet chocolate morsels, and everything gets mixed together.

You might remember I've mentioned I tend not to like nuts in my cookies or brownies, so my one deviation from the official recipe is I omit the chopped nuts. I can't say most chocolate chip cookies I've eaten in my lifetime include nuts, and I wonder if it's totally the fault of an increasing awareness of nut allergies, or if people's tastes and expectations have just changed over the years.

The dough gets spooned out onto your baking sheet...

And they get baked in the oven for about ten minutes at 375 degrees before they're ready to be devoured with the insatiable voracity of a certain Sesame Street character we all know and love.

I don't think I need to tell you how good these taste. I'll admit, these cookies have been taking the place of birthday cake for me for the last couple years! They're just that good, and they're a fun part of my region's culinary history, making them all the more comforting and familiar.

Don't get me wrong, I love doing unusual, unique historical recipes, but taking the time to explore some of the classic old favorites is also a lot of fun, even when it's a recipe I've made dozens of times before, especially when you find a connection to one of your favorite points in history! I had no idea that GIs in World War II and their families helped spread this cookie around the country before I started doing research for this post. That connection really just makes them even more appealing to me. Maybe I should start working on a discussion of all the foods made popular by people from around the country coming together during the war...

Do you guys have a favorite cookie with an interesting backstory, or an old fall back you always turn to when you need something tasty? I'd love to know!

In the mean time, if you'll excuse me, I have a certain Muppet to imitate...


  1. If you're aiming to make chocolate chip cookies for your dolls, My Froggy Stuff has you covered! There's also a slightly more involved (but more realistic-looking) tutorial on Sugar Charm Shop.

    Also, ever get any use out of those doll-sized cookie cutters I sent? ;-) I was highly amused to send you bear-shaped ones!

    1. Ah, I'd love to do either of these, but I never have time to craft, haha. Maybe someday, though, so those links are getting bookmarked!

      And I did, actually! I made some sugar cookies for a friend, they came out pretty cute. :D

  2. Hands down the best cookie out there!!