Chocolate Chip Cookie: The Mistake America Loves.

When Ruth Wakefield ran out of Baker’s chocolate to make her chocolate cookies and decided to use pieces of a chocolate bar to finish the task, she never thought it would result in the creation of America’s favorite cookie. But it did, and the rest, so they say, is history.

ruth-wakefield-butter-drop-do-cookieRuth Graves Wakefield graduated in 1924 from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts, and for a time worked as a dietitian and food lecturer. Then in the 1930s, she and her husband Kenneth bought a small bed and breakfast near Whitman, Massachusetts named the Toll House Inn, where she prepared the meals. Soon, Ruth gained a reputation with the guests and locals alike as a fantastic cook and exceptional baker. One of her more well known treats was Butter Drop Do cookies, in which the recipe called for Baker’s chocolate. One evening in 1937, while making this popular cookie, she found herself without the necessary chocolate so she decided to cut-up a chocolate bar given to her as a gift by Andrew Nestle and use it to 1277926533965176920chocolate_chip_cookiefinish her cookies. Mistakenly, she thought the pieces would melt into the dough to produce her delicious chocolate cookies. However, instead of melting, the chocolate pieces only softened.

As the story goes, while Wakefield was disappointed in her little fiasco, the resulting cookies were “decent,” so she went ahead and served them to her guests. Needless to say, they were an instant hit. In fact, they were so well liked that more and more guests began requesting her to bake them during their stay at the inn.

Soon Ruth Wakefield’s cookie, which she named the Chocolate Crunch Cookie, had grown so popular and the recipe in such demand that she allowed it to be printed in several New England newspapers. And as the popularity of Ruth’s new cookie increased, so increased the sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bar. So much so that soon Andrew Nestle expressed the desire to print the recipe on its packaging.

history-of-chocolate-chip-cookiesThen in 1938, Ruth and the Nestle Chocolate Company reached an agreement by which Nestle would print what was renamed the Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of the bright yellow Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar package in exchange for a lifetime supply of free chocolate with which to bake her cookies.

In order to make their chocolate bar more convenient for housewives to use in making Toll House cookies, the company scored the bar so it would break more easily, and even included a small cutting device in the package. In 1939, Nestle introduced the Chocolate Morsels we all know today, and the back of each and every package includes Ruth Wakefield’s original cookie recipe, or a variation thereof.

tollhouseThe Toll House Inn was built on the site of an actual 1709 toll house built on the highway between Boston and New Bedford, a prosperous whaling town. It was the place where coach passengers enjoyed a meal and short rest while the horses were changed and the toll was paid. The Wakefields operated the Inn until 1966 when it was sold. Ruth Wakefield died in 1977, and the building burned down on New Year’s Eve in 1984.

Try Em: Famous Amos, Chips Ahoy! (Nabisco), Chips Deluxe (Keebler), The Decadent (Loblaw)

Make Em: Mrs. Wakefield’s Original Chocolate Crunch Cookies, NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some Cookie Trivia:

  • It is estimated that 50% of all cookies baked at home are chocolate chip.
  • The average American will eat about 35,000 cookies in their lifetime.
  • Americans bake, spend more money on, and eat more cookies than any other nation in the world.
  • There is an official Chocolate Chip Day in America–August 4
  • The world’s record for the biggest cookie ever baked is held by a 102 foot wide chocolate chip cookie that weighed 40,000 pounds, or 20 tons.
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The All American Peanut Butter Cookie

Although the cookie was introduced in America by Dutch settlers in the early seventeenth century, it wasn’t until the early 1900s, with the development of peanut butter, that the first recipe for peanut butter cookies first appeared.

PeanutButterCookieWhen the cotton crop was heavily damaged by the boll weevil, the now famous African-American botanist and agricultural educator George Washington Carver, promoted the peanut as a replacement crop. In 1916, Carver published a research bulletin called How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, in which he included three recipes for peanut cookies listing crushed or chopped peanuts as an ingredient. It wasn’t until the 1920s that peanut butter was first listed as an ingredient in cookies.

Peanut butter’s beginning can be credited to a Canadian named Marcellus Gilmore Edson in 1884. Then in 1895, an American doctor in Battle Creek, Michigan, John Kellogg, was granted a patent for his method of making peanut butter, quickly followed by number of other inventors and entrepreneurs. By 1922, Joseph L. Rosefield had developed and patented the first method for a smooth-churned and shelf stable peanut butter. By 1928, his process had be adopted by Swift & Company, and the still popular Peter Pan brand was born, followed a few years later by Skippy, today’s leading peanut butter.

Early peanut butter cookies were formed into small balls, or the dough was rolled thin and the cookies cut into various shapes. It was not until 1932 that the distinguishing criss-cross marks were first referenced in a recipe published in the Schenectady Gazette–“shape into balls and after placing them on the cookie sheet, press each one down with a fork, first one way and then the other, so they look like squares on waffles.” The technique was further popularized by Mary Ellis Ames, Director of Pillsbury Cooking Service, in the 1933 edition of Balanced Recipes, which contained a recipe for Peanut Butter Balls. And although this practice continues today, neither Ms. Ames nor the Schenectady recipe explains its reasoning. Perhaps the following observations by Craig Claiborne covers the subject best:

It has been pointed out, on occasion, that you never can tell what on earth interests readers of this column and to what degree. With tongue in cheek, we stated recently that we had a file of letters marked Unanswered and Unanswerable. We quoted one of those letters, not fictional, in which someone asked if we could explain why peanut butter cookies were creased with a fork before baking. We didn’t really expect an answer to that, but replies we got. One reader wrote as follows: The cookies are creased with a fork, she informed us, to make them crisper. “One of my sons,” she continued, “once answered this technique and baked one pan of cookies plain, the other with the traditional fork creases on top. The plain peanut butter cookies did not taste as good and seemed a bit soggy in the center. “Since the peanut butter cookie dough is quite rich, I think the fork creases expose just enough dough to add a bit more crispy crust for better results. Another reader offered this conjecture: “Most cookies dropped by rounded teaspoonsful will flatten in the oven and bake evenly. Is there something in peanut butter cookie dough that prevents it from flattening out by itself? The peanut butter, for example? Pressing the dollop with the tines of a fork would assure the dough flattens properly and, therefore, bakes evenly.” But the explanation about pressing those cookies that we like best came from Sylvia Lavietes of New Haven, Conn.: “Your column today contained an inquiry regarding peanut butter cookies. Well, a stupid question calls for a stupid answer. Peanut butter cookies are crisscrossed in order to make it possible to distinguish them from chocolate chip cookies in the cookie jar.

“The Fork and the Cookie,” Craig Claiborne, New York Times, April 2, 1979

Try Em: Peanut Butter Balls, Triple Peanut Butter Cookies, Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies