The History of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

If one cookie got baked during the Christmas season in my house while growing up, it was the chocolate chip cookie. Even if sometimes they were of the slice and bake variety. Everyone in the house loved them. They were the cookie that we left out for Santa long before we realized that Santa’s favorite cookie was also our father’s favorite cookie.

By who and where were Chocolate Chip Cookies created?

ruthgraveswakefieldA women by the name of Ruth Wakefield is credited with the creation of this classic cookie. In the 1930s, Ruth and her husband bought a 1709 Cape Cod style house in Whitman, Massachusetts. It used to be a toll house which basically was a place where someone while paying their road tolls could also change out their horses or have something to eat. Hence why they named the inn the Toll House Inn. Ruth who was a nutritionist soon became known for her desserts among the locals.

Now the lore around how she came to created the recipe does change slightly from source to source. Everyone can agree that she was in the kitchen making a cookie called Butter Drop Do. Some say she ran out of her normal Baker’s chocolate so instead substituted a Nestle chocolate bar cut up in small pieces. Others says she used the the cut up chocolate bar in hopes that it would melt and save her a step on melting chocolate. Another theory is that she ran out of nuts and instead substituted two semi-sweet Nestle Yellow Label Chocolate bars cut up in small pieces. No matter how she got there, the end result was always the same as she was quite amazed that the chocolate didn’t melt just softened a little bit. The accident payed off as her guest quite enjoyed the cookies originally called “Chocolate Crispies”.

What ingredients are in Chocolate Chip Cookies?
I don’t think I really need to tell anybody what is in a chocolate cookie but just in case I will. The cookie obviously uses most of the basic cookie making ingredients such as flour, sugar (usually half granulated and half brown), vanilla, eggs, butter, baking soda, salt and of course semi-sweet chocolate chips. Some variations uses milk chocolate or dark chocolate as well as many recipes stir in some walnuts.

When was Chocolate Chip Cookies popular?
This one is quite easy to answer. The cookie was quite popular from the get go and has never left still remaining on the top of most cookie lists. In the 1980s, chocolate chip cookies were baked by the billions each year and with them taking up about half of the cookies made. I am sure that not much as changed since then.

tollhousecookiead

Toll House Cookies ad from the 1950s. source: flickr

In the 1930s the recipe became quite popular with the locals around the inn. Ruth Wakefield included the recipe in her 1930 Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Cookie. Also a Boston newspaper posted the recipe around this time as well. Then Nestle started noticing a major rise of their chocolate bars in New England. After investigating and talking to Mrs. Wakefield, they started packaging a tool with the chocolate bar to help chop it into small pieces. It wasn’t until 1939 when Nestle finally introduced the chocolate chip. As well, Ruth Wakefield signed a forty year contract with the company to allow them to print her recipe on the back of every package.

1940sBaker'sChocolateChips

A 1950s Baker’s chocolate chip ad featuring chocolate chip cookies. source: Life Magazine Feb. 7, 1955.

A 1939 newspaper article proclaimed that any confusion of what to served when entertaining can be “solved by a batch of these delicious cookies” and that they are “sure to delight your Bridge Club and the family too”. Also to further this recipe’s reach, Betty Crocker shares the recipe on her 1939 radio program “Famous Foods from Famous Eating Places”. By 1940, both the Joy of Cooking and Fannie Farmer cookbooks included a chocolate chip recipe.

chipsahoy1964

Chips Ahoy! ad from the 1960s. source: Life Magazine March 17, 1967

In a 1955 article, popular and attractive (yes they made sure to note that) Brooklyn senior, Jane Topper was asked what was popular with the teenage set. She answered with chocolate chip cookies. Dorothy Dean in one of her columns in the 1960s surmised that the reason these cookies were so popular to make was because making the batter was basically fail proof. In 1964, Nabisco introduced Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookie and it fast became the best selling chocolate chip cookie in America.

Famous Amos

Wallace “Wally” Amos, the found of Famous Amos Cookies. source: Ebony Magazine, Sept. 1979

Wallace “Wally” Amos opened up his first cookie store in 1975 and soon his Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies were insanely popular especially among celebrities of the time. In a 1979 Ebony article he said, “Since I was 12, I had a fetish for chocolate chip cookies. I think that it is more than a fetish. I think it is bordering on being fanatical. I’ve got a love affair with chocolate chip cookies.” Also a 1977 article said that “just about everyone has a sweet tooth for chocolate chip cookies whether store bought, homemade or refrigerator variety, they are a favorite”.

Hilary Clinton in 1992 made the comment during the presidential race that she was not going to stay home and bake chocolate chip cookies. It caused such an uproar that both Hilary Clinton and Barbara Bush submitted dueling chocolate chip cookie recipes to Family Circle magazine at the time.

Why should I make Chocolate Chip Cookies?
I mean if are already not on board with the greatness that is a chocolate chip cookie I don’t know what I can say to change your mind. Those chocolate chips surrounded by buttery dough especially when they are slightly warm with a cold glass of whatever milk is your jam. Life does not get any better than that!

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How do I make Chocolate Chip Cookies?
So I was debating not even putting a recipe for chocolate chip cookies in this post. Why you ask? Take any bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, flip it over and you have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Not to mention how many recipes that are on the internet. Really stop reading and type chocolate chip cookie recipe into Google (or Yahoo or Bing) and see how many recipes pop up. See I wasn’t lying.

So why did I change my mind? Well it is because of something I read in Jean Anderson’s amazing The American Century Cookbook. Even though on the back of a Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips it says that it is the “Original Toll House Cookie” recipe, it is indeed not. According to the cookbook, the contract to use the recipe ended in 1979. Instead of renewing, Nestle just altered the recipe as well as buying the name and registering the trademark. Therefore only they can call their cookies “Toll House” and no one else.

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So that put me on a search for the original recipe. I couldn’t not locate Ruth Wakefield’s cookbook so that was a dead end. I then remember that it was posted in newspapers. I did a search and finally found the original recipe. They are more on the crispy side of chocolate chip cookies in case you are team soft and chewy. They well deserved their original name of “Chocolate Crispies”. So if you want to try out the recipe that started it all, I have posted it for you! If you are looking for a more modern version check out the chocolate chip recipe at one of the blogs I follow –  Aims Her Way.

If you bake a batch, tag me on Instagram @quaintcooking.

Ruth Wakefield's Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The original recipe from the creator of the chocolate chip cookie, Ruth Wakefield.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (or one stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (or whatever flavor you prefer)
  • optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the both sugars with the butter. Then mix in the egg, vanilla and the baking soda/water mixture.
  3. Sift together the flour and the salt and mix into the butter mixture.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts if using.
  5. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto an ungreased sheet pan. Make sure to leave space between to allow for spreading.
  6. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Let cool (if you can) and then enjoy with a nice cold glass of milk whether real or almond.

Notes: 

  • I like my cookies bigger because I like to make less trips to the oven. The original recipe called for dropping 1/2 teaspoons of the batter on the sheet pans if smaller cookies are more you thing. Just decrease the baking time to about 10 minutes.
  • If you want to be extra special authentic then use two chocolate bars chopped up into pea size pieces for the chocolate chips.
  • I do not know why she dissolves the baking soda into the water. I just rolled with it because it was the original recipe. If any one knows just write it in the comments.

Sources:

Anderson, Jean. The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1997.

Bundy, Beverly. The Century in Food: America’s Fads and Favorites. Oregon: Collectors Press, 2002.

“Chocolate Chippers America’s Favorite Cookie Continues Its Quest to Reach Ultimate Flavor.” The Daily Record. Feb. 9, 1988.

Dean, Dorothy. “Dorothy Dean Suggests Hot Cookies… For Winter Treats”. The Spokesman Review. Jan. 17, 1960.

Frank, Ann. “Cookie Convenience Appeals to Panelist”. Wilmington Morning Star. Dec. 25, 1977.

Lovegren, Sylvia. Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. USA: Macmillan Company, 1995.

Maddox, Gaynor. “Teens Love These Huge Chocolate Chip Cookies”. Warsaw Times-Union. Jan. 1, 1955.

Smith, Andrew F. Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006.

Westmoreland, Susan. Good Housekeeping Great American Classics Cookbook. New York: Hearst Books, 2004.

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