American Baking Down the Decades, 1930-1939: the original chocolate chip cookie

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225-logoThe King Arthur Flour Company marks its 225th anniversary this year. And we’re celebrating by exploring some of America’s favorite recipes, decade by decade, starting in 1900. Join us on this fascinating stroll through American food history.

Did you know the original Toll House cookie was called a Chocolate Crunch Cookie?

Back about 80 years ago, when this signature American cookie first saw the light of day – at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA – there was no such thing as chocolate chips.

Legend has it that Ruth Wakefield, the inn’s proprietress and head chef, ran out of chocolate for her chocolate cookie recipe one day, and added a chopped Nestlé’s semisweet chocolate bar to her sugar cookie recipe, hoping it would melt and turn the cookies chocolate.

Well, that didn’t happen; the chopped chocolate remained intact. And thus was born an American classic: the chocolate chip cookie.

Another take on the cookie’s origin comes from George Boucher, a chef at the Inn who claimed that the vibrations of a mixer stirring up a batch of sugar cookie dough caused a bar of Nestlé’s chocolate to fall into the mixing bowl, where it broke into chunks. Rather than discard the dough (as Boucher said Wakefield wanted to do), he baked it into cookies. Birth of the chocolate chip cookie, version 2.

By 1939, the recipe had been printed in a number of New England newspapers, and the cookies’ popularity was growing by leaps and bounds. After experimenting with scoring its chocolate bars so customers could easily break them into bits, Nestlé came up with a new product: “chocolate morsels,” a.k.a. chocolate chips.

Ruth eventually sold her recipe to Nestlé’s in return for a lifetime supply of semisweet chocolate; and the familiar yellow bag of Nestlé’s chocolate morsels has included a variation of that recipe ever since.

So, with all of the hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipe variations and stories out there (remember the apocryphal $250 Neiman Marcus cookie tale?), there’s something both exciting and comfortable about finding the original recipe – and baking it.

Come along with me as we bake Ruth Wakefield’s Chocolate Crunch Cookies – just as she did at the Toll House Inn.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

Ruth calls for “2 bars (7-ounce) Nestlé’s yellow label chocolate, semi-sweet, which has been cut in pieces the size of a pea.”

Easier said than done! I used two of a competitor’s bars (6.8 ounces each – close enough), and thought I’d just use my handy bench knife to chop them up.

Way too difficult.

Next, I whacked each bar vigorously with a rolling pin, hoping it would break into tiny (pea-sized) pieces.

No dice.

The rolling pin did, however, crack the bars into irregular shards – which I then chopped into smaller pieces with the bench knife. Some were smaller than peas, but most were larger.

Next time, I think I’ll just stick with my favorite semisweet chocolate: Peter’s Burgundy Chunks, which comes in handy little squares. Perfect!

Or, if you want to get closer to “pea-sized” – our Callebaut semisweet chocolate chunks (left; Burgundy chunks are on the right) are even closer to Ruth’s suggested size.

Next, cream 1 cup butter, then add 3/4 cup each brown sugar and granulated sugar, along with “2 eggs beaten whole”.

Once those are thoroughly mixed, dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 teaspoon hot water, and “mix alternately with 2 1/4 cups flour mixed with 1 teaspoon salt.”

I confess to diverging from the recipe directions here. Mix a teaspoon of water/baking soda into the dough alternately with a couple of cups of flour?

Phooey on that; I just added the baking soda in water right along with the flour, and mixed it all up into a soft dough.

By the way, rumor has it (and we believe) that Ruth used King Arthur Flour at the Toll House Inn. After all, it makes sense; King Arthur was New England’s local flour back then. So, make sure to use your King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour when you bake these cookies!

Next, add 1 cup chopped nuts and the chopped chocolate, along with 1 teaspoon vanilla.

OK, the dough’s finished. Ready to “drop half teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet.”

Rather than greasing the sheets, I lined them with parchment – the cookie baker’s BFF.

BFF #2? My teaspoon cookie scoop, a very helpful tool for this sticky dough.

“Bake 10 to 12 minutes in 375°F oven. Makes 100 cookies.”

The cookies did indeed bake nicely at that time/temperature, though I only got 92 – but who’s counting, right?

Speckled from the finely chopped bits of chocolate, lumpy from the bigger chocolate chunks and the nuts, these cookies don’t win the Miss Chocolate Chip Cookie USA beauty pageant.

But tasty? Suffice it to say, I can see why this recipe spread around the country like wildfire back in the day.

Buttery and vanilla-y, with the occasional big chunk of melting chocolate, these chocolate chip cookies are exactly what they’re supposed to be:

Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies – the Original Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Whatever the real story – we’re SO glad that a Nestlé semisweet chocolate bar found its way into Ruth Wakefield’s sugar cookie recipe!

Here’s a warm-from-the-oven cookie made with chopped-up chocolate bar. BIG melting chunks.

And here’s the same cookie using the smaller (Callebaut), more uniform chunks.

Finally, here’s the same batch of cookies baked three slightly different ways, for three different textures/flavors. Note: all three were baked on a light-colored cookie sheet lined with parchment. If you bake on a darker sheet without parchment, reduce the time by about 2 minutes.

Want a soft/chewy cookie? Bake for 12 minutes at 375°F.

For a crisp/crunchy cookie, increase the time to 14 minutes.

For a dark, crisp cookie with caramelized flavor, bake for 12 minutes in a hotter, 400°F oven.

Note: That’s right, there’s no recipe link here; please follow the recipe in the photo above.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. JuliaJ

    So glad we have ready-made chocolate chips in this modern time–chopping all that chocolate (especially for restaurant-size batches) is WAY too much work!! I wonder if freezing the chocolate and THEN whacking it might shatter the chocolate more easily….

    Julia, I tried freezing; it actually was a bit harder, as I had to whack harder, and the result wasn’t any better. I think cooks back then were just used to dong a lot more work; plus, that’s why they had “kitchen maids…” :) PJH

    The trick I learned when tasked with chopping large slabs of chocolate: use a large serrated knife! It cuts into the chocolate without slipping like regular straight-edges knives. The drawback? You create more shards and flakes of chocolate than nice, square pieces. For candy-making, you can’t beat it. For cookies, best to go with either ready-made chunks or whack a thin bar of chocolate as PJ did! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. KenM

      Rumor has it that Ben & Jerry’s used to chill Heath Bars in liquid nitrogen before breaking them into small shards; I wonder whether regular freezing just isn’t cold enough.

    2. Michelle

      Believe it or not, warming the slab of chocolate SLIGHTLY in the microwave keeps it from splintering. 5-10 seconds- chop the outer edges and repeat.

  2. KarenMorrow

    My Nana used to make these all the time. Now my Mom makes them. It’s that tsp of water and the baking soda! I have so many wonderful childhood memories of waiting for my Nana to come up the long driveway in MA when she and my Gramps would drive for NYC to come visit us with her tins of chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin and tin foil wrapped bricks of lemon squares and brownies. I still have the tin she used to put her chocolate chip cookies in. I think it might be time to teach my boys the “secret family recipe.”

    I remember too that episode of Friends when Monica begs for Phoebe’s secret family recipe and it’s the Toll House Recipe!

    I know that episode, too! Yes, this is also one of the first cookie recipes I knew when I was little. Thank you for sharing! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  3. biobaker

    A comment and a question:
    Comment: I’ve had excellent luck chopping chocolate bars with my heavy Chinese cleaver. If I’m going for chunks of a specific size, I can carefully chop across the bar (as you attempted with the bench knife, but I think the cleaver gives some extra weight and sharpness) and I’ll get chunks of approximately equal size without too, too much of the shredding problem.
    Question: This is the first cookie recipe I’ve seen that calls for dissolving the baking soda in water. Is it an anachronism from the days when baking soda was, perhaps, unreliable and needed to be “proofed” or lumpy and needed to be broken up? If I understand aright, dissolving the baking soda in water will reduce it’s raising power up-front (but maybe give it a small increase in the oven if it’s double-acting?) Does this step make the cookies flatter? Or is the baking soda just there to improve browning and not doing much for leavening at all?
    Yes, it seems to be a hold over from the ‘olden days”. These days you would not need to take this step, PJ was just staying true to the original recipe. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. JuliaJ

    I have a 6-tine chocolate chipper that I use for breaking up big slabs of chocolate. (I think it was originally intended for use as an ice chipper.) I think I bought it from KAF but I’m not sure you still sell it. It’s a sturdy beast but way overkill for chipping small bars.

    The folks in Ruth Wakefield’s days didn’t have TV or video games or computers so I guess chipping chocolate was a form of entertainment for them.

    It’s strongly possible, Julia! As for the chipper, we do still carry one: Item 6066. Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. Michelle

      Believe it or not, warming the slab of chocolate SLIGHTLY in the microwave keeps it from splintering. 5-10 seconds- chop the outer edges and repeat.

  5. bednad

    You talk about cooking with light and darker colored pans with parchment. I use a stone. What would be the difference in temperature and texture? I love my stones. And now that it is seasoned well, they do not stick! Thanks for your help!
    Not knowing which stone you have, you may want to check the manual or instructions that came with them to see what they recommend for temps and times. Susan in the test kitchen is also a big proponent of baking one or two cookies at different temps and for different times to get your “perfect” cookie. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. "Kerry@Bake"

    Thanks so much for posting this! I grew up in the town of the original Toll House. I was saying not too long ago that its a shame that the town doesn’t get more recognition for the birthday of an American favorite. Even a Toll House branded shop. Now all that remains of the restaurant that burnt down in the ’80’s is a condo complex bearing it’s name.

    Come on Nestle, jump on this bandwagon!
    Hmm, I just can’t picture the Toll House Apartments, not nearly as romantic and wonderful as the original Toll House. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
    1. Alice

      There is a Nestle Toll House store in Lake Tahoe, NV………..I’ve stopped in there several years ago and as I recall………the price of a cookie was $$, I bought one only because I wanted to say I had done it!!! Was in that area recently and the store front is still there.

  7. eleyana

    Big old chef’s knife or bread knife and not cold chocolate! I loved this recipe for the longest time and have it written down somewhere – the one with the water was the only true original for me. I heard that Ruth used to refrigerate her dough overnight before baking. Maybe where that 36 hour recipe got its start?
    Could be…I’m guessing it might have been for scheduling purposes too. Prep on Monday, bake on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday? ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. Joy

    I put the chocolate bar in a ziplock bag and whacked it with a rolling pin to get my chunks. They are not uniform, but small enough for what I wanted!

    Reply
  9. Carol

    I noticed the cup of butter you creamed was cut into pieces (tablespoons?) Do you always do this instead of just putting the whole stick of butter in the bowl? Also, how long do you leave butter at room temperature when a recipe calls for ” [so much] butter, softened”? I would lthink it would soften faster if cut into pieces rather than left as a whole stick. I find that if it’s too soft initially, the cookies spread way too much when they’re baked. Love your blogs–the pictures and explanations are SO helpful! Thank you for all you do!
    HI Carol,
    To soften the butter, it is helpful to cut it up first. More surface area, don’tcha know. I’d say soft butter should take between 15-25 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen at the time. It should just leave the impression of your finger when you press down. If your finger can’t press down at all, it is too cold. If it sinks in past your fingertip, it is too warm. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
    1. Paula

      I also live at 8000 ft and I use the high altitude recipe on the back of the Nestlé’s package. Also, I have found the colder the dough the less spread of the cookie. All my ingredients start off cold. Or refrigerate the dough overnight. I am known in the neighborhood for the best chocolate chip cookies!!! Good luck.

  10. Sue Ames

    Thanks for putting the original recipe, I remembered we always put the soda in water first and now you never see it. What was the reason? To make sure it was active?
    Hi Sue,
    Most likely bakers would have been testing the soda, and also dissolving it at the same time. I’m pretty sure I remember reading that soda and powder were much coarser in texture early on. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. ursa

    So, carefully following the original recipe, the first thing you did was to NOT use the original chocolate (which I am certain is not the same as it was 80 years ago anyway),
    Then proceed to change the mixing directions, and finish by choosing a
    different baking surface and cookie size. And likely, a different type of oven entirely.
    THAT’S MY KIND OF BAKING.
    You did not however, deviate from the most important elements.
    King Arthur Flour, and any good chocolate.
    And for those of us that regularly bake this way, THANK YOU FOR THE BAKERS” HOT LINE!!!
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? But do feel free to tweak it all over to make it YOURS. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. Jen

    I make these all the time however the recipe I have (that was written down years ago) calls for 2 1/2 cups flour instead of 2 1/4 cups. I find they do not spread as much and make a chewier cookie.
    That is how my BFF makes her cookies and I tend to like hers better than mine most days. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. smpat

    My family prefers their CCCs to stand up and not spread out all over the place like a lace cookie. I use Crisco instead of butter.

    Sandy Patterson
    Thanks for sharing Sandy. Lots of folks go the Crisco route, or even 50/50. One notable recipe I saw used bacon fat. Not sure how I feel about that, but it sure is interesting. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. shthornang

    What is the purpose for mixing the soda with hot water before adding to the mix?
    General consensus here is that bakers would have done this to test their soda, and to dissolve it at the same time. Today’s sodas and powders are so much finer, there is no need for this any longer. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  15. bethyroo

    One of my friends who grew up in PA many years ago told of her mother sharing with her how the cookies were always served socially. When the hostess (or someone who brought the cookies to share) would set the table for guests, the cookies were placed on the radiator to keep warm. She said they were always served warm, not cold. At least that is the tradition she passed on.

    Interesting – and totally sensible. I think next time I bring cookies to someone in the winter, I’ll suggest we set them on the radiator while we chat. Who doesn’t love warm cookies? Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  16. bablock1990

    Loved the article..have you noticed on the back of the Toll House packages there is no water in the recipes. I don’t know the year that they took that out, however, I do know this: my step father made our chocolate chip cookies for years, claiming to have the original back of the package recipe. Mom always said that the water was the one thing that “made” them the original! I see after reading, as to why you would add the water to the baking soda, but always did wonder why they took it out. I still make mine by the original recipe!! Thank you for a great article!

    You know what, the original oatmeal cookie recipe on the Quaker Oats box had (does it still have?) a teaspoon of water. I always figured it was there so Quaker could tell if someone was using their recipe without attribution; but now that I see Ruth used a teaspoon of water to dissolve the soda, maybe that’s why Quaker’s recipe had it, too. So interesting how recipes evolve over the decades, isn’t it? PJH

    Reply
  17. nipmucfarm

    It just so happens that my mother and Ruth Wakefield were class mates at Framingham Normal School (now Framingham State College) and like her, she also became an innkeeper and restaurateur. My mother always talked about the first origin of the cookie which you listed.

    I would be quite certain King Arthur Flour would have been used as it, too, was the only flour my mother used in her professional career, which started in about 1924!! I know, the good King has been around far longer than that!

    Lucille

    Lucille, that’s fascinating; thanks so much for sharing. And thanks to your mother for her loyalty to “the King”! When my husband and I got married, our parents met for the first time at the Toll House – and my sister-in-law later had her wedding reception there. It used to be quite the nice place. Could you share where your mom’s restaurant was? I’m familiar with the South Shore, as I grew up there… PJH

    Reply
    1. linda m. sampson

      My mother-in-law and Ruth Wakefield were friends. My husband grew up with CCC. The Toll House was a lovely restaurant with exceptional atmosphere and wonderful food. One room addition was built around the trunk of an old tree. When the tree had to be removed, an indoor garden and a rainshower filled the circle from the restored roof where the tree had been.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Linda, I’d forgotten all about the tree and subsequent indoor garden – thank you. As I mentioned, we had our engagement dinner there, and my sister-in-law had her wedding reception at the Toll House. Back in the day, it was quite the elegant place. Neat that you actually have a family connection via your MIL! Thanks for sharing – PJH

  18. Nay

    Adding the water to the bi-carb also helps to produce a thinner, crisper biscuit. In our famous Anzac biscuits here in Oz, you can add one or two Tbs of water, more water for thinner and crispier biscuits. I also find that the raising agents also spreads more evenly through the dough when mixed with water, just like using water with salt of hartshorn.

    Thanks, Nay – I didn’t know that about crisper. I always figured water made certain cookies harder, but now that you make me think, hard could be translated as crisp if the cookies are thin enough. Thanks for connecting from Oz! PJH

    Reply
  19. Irene in T.O.

    I have been buying 100-gram (3.5 ounce) bars recently because they have been on sale. A bar at 65F chops with little effort into the perfect sized pieces for cookies. Use a chefs knife on a wooden cutting board. Chop into 1/4″ strips and then chop crosswise into 1/4″ chunks. Hold the blade down onto the face of the bar with one hand, and press down the back of the knife with the other hand to prevent slipping, so there will not be too many smaller bits. Takes just a minute per bar and you get the real essence of these cookies.

    I don’t know why you didn’t try the knife the first time, i
    This is great information, Irene. I know that I prefer to use a serrated knife to chop chocolate. I start at one corner of the bar and work my way in. Elisabeth

    Irene, you make it sound so easy that even I should be able to handle it. Thanks for your good feedback. PJH

    Reply
  20. Irene in T.O.

    (continued)

    Since the original recipe says to “cut” the chocolate, I wonder why anybody in a test kitchen would think that a scraper or rolling pin would be the way to go. I mean, the moment that the scraper failed, why not re-read the original and just reach for the chefs knife? Isn’t that what naturally comes to mind when a recipe says “cut”?

    And have you PJ never taken a chefs knife to a chunk of chocolate? In all your years at KAF? You seem to have missed out on some real basic cooking experience.

    You’re right, Irene – I’m not much of a cook. Never been to culinary school, don’t have good knife skills – which is why I chose other methods to “cut” the chocolate. That, and pure laziness! Thought maybe a couple of good whacks would be fast and work well – nope. Oh well… PJH

    Reply
  21. meganbrendel

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! My grandmother would host Thanksgiving at her Appleton, WI house for about 50 of us. We came from the East coast, Chicago area, Florida, Colorado and Montana to be with our cousins for a couple of days a year. Grandma would make dozens of chocolate chip cookies for us and I have never been able to replicate the cookies with the current “toll house” recipe. I always wondered what I was doing wrong!!! Now I know…. just a little water to dissolve the baking soda. I used a #50 scoop – probably 1 T. Baked for 7 min. top and bottom rack and voila – Grandma Rose’s Thanksgiving Chocolate Chip cookies. Sweet memories, for sure!! I already emailed the recipe to the cousins……. Thank you again for publishing this recipe!

    Ah, so happy to hear you’ve been reunited with your grandma’s recipe, Megan. I love it when we’re able to help make this happen. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  22. melakeith

    I just love the KAF site and all the blogs. This one is especially great – show and tell and everything. Never met a cookie I didn’t like! Thanks for sharing the ORIGINAL “Original Toll House Cookies” recipe.

    You’re very welcome – always a pleasure to showcase everyone’s favorite cookie! PJH

    Reply
  23. misspercy

    Thank you for the tips on the water and longer baking times for a crispy cookie which is the way I love them. Now whenever I made CCCs they would always turn out chewy. My Grandmother was the superintendent of the merchant marine retirement home Sailors Snug Harbor, Powder Point, Duxbury MA. The cooks at the home (Dorothy and Benny) made the best CCCs and they were crispy. I used to hoard the batch made for me, making them last right up until school started in the fall.

    Loved spending the month of July there and visiting with cousins from Cohasset. My Uncle Peter’s family owned Cohasset Motors and he would bring down a jeep from the lot and we would go out riding the dunes at Saquish before setting off fireworks on the sprawling front lawn of the home.

    Food and family memories are so strong and enduring – we can honor our forebears by duplicating the foods (and the feelings) with the next generation. Happy Baking – Irene @ KAF

    What nice stories, Miss Percy – I grew up next door in Hingham, so of course know Cohasset well, and remember Cohasset Motors. And Powder Point, Duxbury, too – gorgeous! Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane – PJH

    Reply
  24. susanel2

    I have always used a variation that was published in a Good Housekeeping cookbook in the 1940’s. It calls for 2-1/2 cups of cake flour rather than AP flour, replaces half the butter with vegetable shortening, and adds 2 Tbs. water. But the main difference is the baking time and temperature: 19 minutes at 300F. This produces a cookie that is puffy, very light, and crisp rather than chewy. They are delectable when warm, but – even better – they keep perfectly for at least a week (if you can protect them from snackers for that long!).

    Thanks for sharing the Good Housekeeping version! Like you, we love to see the results of different ingredients and baking times – Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  25. sousieg

    KAF – you sure make a lot of people happy and inspire us to be creative in ou kitchen. Much love from your audience. Ruthie.

    Thanks, Ruthie – we owe it all to our wonderful customer/bakers who inspire us! Happy Baking – Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  26. Sandy

    Hmmm….All the difficulty in cutting up the chocolate seems to cast a great deal of doubt on the second “history” of the cookies that says the chocolate fell into the bowl and broke up!

    Maybe the chocolate 80 years ago was softer, eh, Sandy? We’ll never know… Or maybe their mixer was super-powerful! ;) PJH

    Reply
  27. barbruka

    Another tip for baking any cookie is to bake it in a convection oven if you have it. Turns out crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and they don’t get as flat. A perfect cookie!

    Wow, I never knew that – thanks for the insight. If I ever get a convection oven, I’ll surely know what to do with it first! :) PJH

    Reply
  28. Murray Murray

    Microwave the chocolate bar slightly (time depends on the strength of your microwave and the thickness of your chocolate bar- start with 20 seconds) and it will chop much easier.

    Reply
  29. Rotto

    I too grew up in Hingham. My mother and Ruth Graves Wakefield were contemporaries and good friends. She was “Aunt Ruth” to me. There are a couple of vague references in the usual Toll House recipe which need correcting. First, it isn’t just brown sugar that’s used, but dark brown sugar. Aunt Ruth occasionally fortified this by adding a bit of molasses. Second, it isn’t just chopped nuts, as if any species would do. Aunt Ruth always used chopped walnuts. She held that their dry flavor reduced the cloying effect of the chocolate. Finally, she didn’t set out to make cookies, but a sort of brownie. The butter (Crisco is heresy!) made the outcome crisp and the whole baked into one piece, so the cookie was born. by dropping spoonfuls the next time. It was a lucky accident.

    What a great accident it was, though! Thank you for providing some excellent clarifications and insight into this recipe. We appreciate the historical accounts we’ve received since posting about these cookies. Happy Baking! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  30. Jean13

    Interesting comments about CCCs. I find that using butter results in a crisp cookie and Crisco makes a chewy cookie. I often refrigerate the dough overnight. The resulting cookies don’t spread as much. Also, for a taste variation, I use dark chocolate chips and black walnuts.

    Reply
  31. MGW960W

    PJ, it is your being “not much of a cook” and lack of culinary school training that gives many of us permission to have a go at baking. You write so beautifully about the joys (and trials) of baking, and give us all great recipes and tips. I’ll never be able to make an artistic cookie, cake or pie and wouldn’t attempt it, but I love your practical and forgiving approach. My family has learned that if PJ says it will be good, it will. Thank you.

    Mary

    Reply
  32. DobeLady

    Thanks for sharing a great old recipe. I have used the recipe on the bag but substituted almond for the vanilla with good results,included the walnuts & think I actually like it better. Seems to give a richer taste if that could be possible! Now I have to make cookies…geez!

    So sorry we’ve forced you to make these cookies… I know, life is tough! I’ve added almond, too – just a touch, and people don’t know what the flavor is, but they always like it. I’d absolutely add nuts, too, if any of my family liked them. Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  33. kaf-sub-bacornett214

    Thanks for sharing the original recipe ins and outs. I love history and CCC history is the best!! Some have called me the cookie lady and it’s for my CCC! We like a chocolate chip cookie that isn’t crisp but not really chewy either. I follow the recipe as it’s written on the Nestle’s package except I use 2 3/4 cup AP and no they don’t taste floury. Nuts are must. Being a southern girl, I started out using pecans but found walnuts do work out better. I also freeze the dough after scooping them out with a 2 tbsp. scoop. I don’t get 100 cookies!! Cooking time usually runs about 14-15 minutes. I’ve found a stone makes the bottoms too dark for my husband’s taste so I use either an air bake pan with a silicone type liner or a good heavy sheet pan with a liner of some sort. I don’t like to do too many dishes, it gets in the way of cookie eating! Thanks for the blog. I Love reading it and planning my next baking expedition! PS I Love the idea of putting your cookies on the radiator to warm them ever so gently. Makes me hungry thinking about it!

    Thanks for sharing your “ccc wisdom” with all of us here – much appreciated! :) PJH

    Reply
    1. Beverly Hills, FL Gal

      Noting some of the comments about cookie sheets…I’ve found several “muffin top” baking sheets at yard sales. I’ve discovered they make excellent cookie sheets! The cookies end up about the same size/shape. (I know – not so much the “homemade” look – but the extra sheets come in handy when making lots of cookies!)

  34. Shawn Markel

    I always remember that 1 tsp of water being in the recipe on the back of the chip bag and usually added it with the vanilla after creaming the sugars and butter and adding the eggs. I never remember it saying to put the baking soda and the water together. I could never understand why that small amount of water was listed. Now it’s no longer listed so I assumed it was decided that it was no longer needed or that egg sizes were better standardized. We always just added the salt and baking soda along with the flour in the sifter and sifted it in. What difference does dissolving the baking soda make?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Shawn, I think back in the day baking soda wasn’t as easily “dissolvable” as it is now; may have been more coarse/hard? Anyway, a lot of older recipes call for baking soda to be dissolved before using. I have a strong hunch the 1 teaspoon water was for dissolving the soda; and eventually the people at Nestle’s decided it didn’t need dissolving, but they just left the water in the ingredient list, anyway. The oatmeal cookie recipe on the Quaker Oats carton is the same – it’s always included a teaspoon of water for no apparent reason. One of those quirky “history of recipes” fun-facts, I guess, eh? PJH

  35. Bryan Maloney

    Now that the “Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book” is out, we know that all the origin legends are false.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ah, Bryan, but that’s assuming the “Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book” had a direct line back in time to the truth… In the end, only Ruth and her chef know for sure. :) PJH

  36. Linda Wightman

    You might be interested to know that in Switzerland, which is the home of Nestlé, you cannot buy chocolate chips! My daughter lives there, and whenever we visit, our suitcases are loaded with packages of chocolate chips, much in demand by her and her ex-pat friends. She has happily adopted many Swiss customs, but thinking that chopping chocolate into bits is a reasonable part of making cookies is not one of them.

    Reply
  37. Ruth Callahan

    I lived in Whitman, MA for several years with my young children. We drove past the Toll House Inn often and were aware of the history of the original chocolate chip cookie. I later picked up a copy of Ruth Wakefields cookbook. I haven’t looked at it for a few years, but I will look at it again tomorrow. I loved reading what everyone wrote here and now I feel the need to make a batch for old times sake. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  38. Lillian

    I could swear that when I was a kid baking chocolate chip cookies back in the early to mid-1960s, the recipe on the back of Nestlé’s semi-sweet morsels called for more flour than I currently see in recipes, and used Crisco instead of butter. Pretty distinct memory since Crisco didn’t come in sticks back then, and it was a pain in the back side to measure it out. I also remember that instead of flattening out during baking, the cookies maintained their ‘chunky’ shape, and were crisp rather than chewy. I have been looking far and wide for that version of chocolate chip cookies and cannot seem to find it anywhere.

    Reply
  39. shamesdame

    My family has always added a little coffee to CCC. This was my great-aunt’s innovation, long before I began baking. Although she died before I was born, her innovation outlived her.

    Either leftover coffee or a bit of espresso powder dissolved in water. Makes the batter richer, but does not taste like coffee at all. And we know how coffee enhances the flavor of anything chocolate. Could, I suppose, also dissolve the baking soda with the espresso powder for a double duty effort.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Give this “double duty effort” a try and let us know how it works for you. It might be the chocolate chip cookie legacy you leave behind! We agree 100% that there is magic created by chocolate and coffee in recipes. Whether it is espresso powder or coffee, chocolate chip cookies can be brought to the next level with a little mocha-love. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  40. Patti

    My mom made chocolate chip cookies every Sunday for the lunches she packed for us three kids for school. Though they were probably meant to last for five days, we only had CCCs until about Tuesday, after which we had to settle for some sort of store-bought cookie. I still make them about once a month for my husband and co-workers. This is the first time I have seen the recipe that calls for 1 t. soda mixed with 1 t. hot water. I just put my soda and salt in with the flour, give it a stir or two with my whisk, and add it to the creamed mixture.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The moisture and heat from the hot water help to kick-start the action of the baking soda to ensure you get a slightly puffy, light and chewy chocolate chip cookie. Give it a try next time you are working with a recipe that calls for both and see how it changes the texture. It’s a great trick to have up your sleeve as a cookie-baker. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  41. Janice Cagan-Teuber

    I love these cookies, but I love them even more with Milk Chocolate Chips. I also like them crispy, so I tend to leave them in the oven a bit longer.

    Reply
  42. Pam Rose

    I love both the original Toll House cookies (with the water) and several variations. My favorite is a recipe that melts the butter first – not browned butter, just melted butter – and only uses 1 egg, and in true holiday style, uses Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips (or other extra dark chocolate) and fresh or frosen cranberries. Cut each cranberry in half (easier when they are frozen), then mix 1 cup halved cranberries (measure after cutting) into the batter along with the chips. Frozen cranberries also affect the spread – similar to chilling the dough. Nuts if you wish. The tartness of the cranberry, sweetness of the dough, and bite of the dark chocolate all together is pretty amazing! (NOTE: you can also use Craisins if you like very sweet, but they won’t be quite the same).

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pam, this sounds like the perfect cookie for the holidays with it’s ruby red studded cranberries and dark chocolate chips. We’ve found that melting butter can create a flatter cookie, but if you under bake them a bit they maintain their moistness and soft, tender chew. The only problem….how do you wait until the holidays to make these cookies! I want to head to the kitchen right now to give this recipe a try…and I just might. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  43. Christi

    Thanks, I sure enjoyed this article, the history and PJ Hamel’s comments. I was glad to see someone asked about the baking soda in water as I had never heard that either. My favorite recipe is almost the exact one as this.

    Reply
  44. Carolyn

    As young teenagers back in the late 40’s my sister and I started baking on our own and we usually made Toll House Cookies using the recipe from the bag of Nestle chips. I don’t ever remember an instruction to dissolve the baking soda in water but I do remember a recipe amount of ‘a few drops of warm water’ and I always wondered why it was such a small amount and if it was really important. I also think the recipe called for both butter (or margarine?) and shortening in equal amounts. We didn’t always add nuts. My mother had a dietary problem and nuts were not allowed so if we put them in the cookies she would carefully pick them out.
    I just looked and in a recipe box found an empty Nestle bag. I don’t know how old it is but the recipe does call for 1/2 tsp. water.

    Reply
  45. Cheryl Cox

    When I was a Girl Scout in Plymouth, Massachusetts (back in the 60’s), we held a bake sale at a local grocery store. Toll House cookies were among our wares. A woman stopped by our table and bought some. Imagine our surprise and delight when the woman, who turned out to be Ruth Wakefield, told us she had invented the recipe! Your article brought back that very special memory–thank you!

    Reply
  46. Cheryl

    Is it okay to add water and how much to the baking soda even if the recipe doesn’t state this mixing instruction?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      PJ is always a step ahead of the crowd! I found this right in the blog:

      “Once those are thoroughly mixed, dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 teaspoon hot water, and “mix alternately with 2 1/4 cups flour mixed with 1 teaspoon salt.”
      I confess to diverging from the recipe directions here. Mix a teaspoon of water/baking soda into the dough alternately with a couple of cups of flour?
      Phooey on that; I just added the baking soda in water right along with the flour”. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  47. JeanB

    littlehuntingcreek:

    Hi!

    I agree with much of what you say in your article, having figured out many of the same things. (For example, it is ridiculous when people claim the cookies trace back to Amelia Simmons’ “Butter Drop Do” cookies. They don’t even realize that the “DO” is not part of the recipe name, and I have actually ARGUED with food historians about it!) I also see that at some point that error was parroted on Nestlé’s own site, although I now can’t find their “official” company history or the history of the cookie there.

    I do have a question and a comment:

    What is the source of the interview with Ruth Wakefield that you mention? I have looked for such a thing for a long time and have never found anything.

    Also, you mention a contract with Ruth Wakefield that dictated that Nestlé could NOT change the recipe during the course of the contract. I collect ephemera (along with cookbooks and other bits of information) and have an 11-page Nestlé booklet (which I’ve noted has both 1938 and 1939 in it) that contains a recipe, without the Toll House name, which is clearly based on RW’s recipe but has some deviations. That must predate the 1939 contract, but I still find it interesting, although perhaps only peripherally related.

    Unfortunately, the aforementioned booklet is not among those that I have sorted, so it could take me quite a while to find it.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry, Jean, I can’t find where I mentioned an interview with Ruth Wakefield. Nor do I see anything about a contract that specified Nestle couldn’t change the recipe. I get my food history information in various places, though in this case it was so long ago I can’t remember specifics, unfortunately… Good luck finding your booklet – I know how that goes! :) PJH

  48. tklic

    I love the Neiman Marcus recipe and it has become one of our favorites. I have a little different approach to the chocolate bar. I prefer dark chocolate and I use my four sided grater to shred the chocolate bar. The chocolate integrates well into the dough. Then as a bonus I add the chocolate chips. The original recipe was called Neiman Marcus and purported to have been released by one who bought the original recipe via charge card from the company. When she got the bill they had charged an amazingly high price. Her revenge was to post it online free to all comers. One of those urban myths perhaps but a good story and an excellent cookie.

    Reply
  49. mumpy

    my mother used to bake CCC’s all the time….her recipe included the teaspoon of water, but she didn’t use it for the baking soda….she used to dump the chips in the bowl, then sprinkle the very hot water over the chips before stirring them into the batter….it made the edges of some of the chips start to melt, so when she stirred them in, there were streaks? smears? of chocolate through the dough….maybe whoever gave her the recipe told her to do it that way?….don’t know why, but i’ve done it too (though i use 2 teaspoons of water) and i’ve never had to throw away a cookie because nobody would eat it, lol!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Interesting technique, mumpy! I bet it makes for some lovely cookies. Thank you for sharing. Jon@KAF

  50. Chef greg

    Great article. I’ve been making a close version of this recipe since the 70’s.This one comes out perfect every time.

    Greg’s Toll House Style Cookies

    1 cup (225 grams) sweet organic butter cut up (room temp)
    1 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
    2 organic large eggs beaten (cold)
    1 heavy tsp. fresh baking soda
    1 tbs. vanilla
    2 1/3 cups of sifted white whole wheat flour
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1 cup of chopped walnuts
    450 grams or 16 oz. of chopped semi-sweet or dark chocolate (almond size pieces bigger than chocolate chips).
    Cream the butter and sugar slightly at high speed for only 1 minute, scrape down bowl and add to bowl the beaten cold eggs, baking soda with vanilla and mix at lower speed only till combined well. You don’t want to whip in too much air.
    Add flour mixture with salt slowly and mix lightly only till combined (don’t over mix). This can be done by hand too. Dough should be fairy firm but flexible. If not add a bit more flour and mix more till combined. Add a tbl. of water if too dry.
    Fold in chopped nuts and chocolate pieces.
    Make dough into desired shaped disks (don’t flatten too much) and put on a non greased refrigerated baking tray or one lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate tray and cookies for at least 1/2 hour (15 minutes in freezer) before baking in 360F or 182C oven for 10-11 minutes depending on size of cookies. By letting the dough sit first and chill, the flour will get better hydrated and the cookies should hold most of their shape well if dough is firm to begin with and will not flatten out much when baked if dough is cold too. If you like thinner cookies then don’t flatten cookies at all and don’t refigerate dough first either. But still use a refigerated baking tray. They should just melt into their shape at room temperature and be thinner that way. Give plenty of room between cookies for expansion. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool enough for 6-8 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. A good medium sized cookie is 50 grams.

    Tip: Beware! Cookies might look to need more baking time but not true. Cookies will continue to cook, harden and darken too after being removed from oven on hot baking pan. It is better to under bake them for this reason until you get the feel. Play with temperatures and time too as everyone’s ovens cook differently and flours vary.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your version of the Toll House Classic Chef Greg. Everyone has his or her own tried and tested favorite. Happy chocolate chip cookie baking to you! –Kye@KAF

  51. Fiona

    After too many flat and oily chocolate chip cookies, we started using 1/2 butter and 1/2 Crisco. But the real secret was using 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda. 375 for 12-13 mins. Always thick and chewy, Powder only, too fluffy. Soda, too flat. 1/2 each, absolutely perfect every time.

    Reply
  52. Jan Lachowycz

    There are several tweaks I’ve made to the original recipe. I only use Fleischman’s margarine which I leave out along with two eggs for at least several hours before making the cookies. I have even left them out overnight. I add one tablespoon of water and one tablespoon of vanilla to the margarine, sugar, and egg mixture. I think the real trick is to sift the dry ingredients three times before adding to the wet mixture. I like my cookies flat and chewy. I bang the cookie sheets on the stove four or five times after baking at 375 for ten minutes. Then back in the oven for another two minutes. After packaging the cookies in tins or zip lock bags I add at least half a slice of bread and remove it the next day. This insures the cookies will stay soft and chewy even if I stick them in the freezer.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jan, thanks for your useful hints. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time figuring all this out, and I’ll bet your cookies are absolutely wonderful… :) PJH

  53. Lauren R. MacArthur

    My parents knew Ruth Wakefield, as they used to frequent the Toll House for their anniversaries, and just because. And, I met her once. Their adventures there began in the early 1940s. Eventually, they brought my brother and me along……and I continued the tradition into adulthood. My mother was a marvelous cook and baker. Of course, she made mountains of Toll House cookies over the years. She always used KAF, as do I. And, I feel certain Ruth Wakefield did, also. I often had wondered why the Toll House pre-made cookies offered by Nestles do not taste as scrumptious as our homemade version. I believe it is because they must be using a cheaper flour. So, I continue to make my own, using King Arthur. The restaurant was a lovely place to visit. Ruth Wakefield was very particular about everything, including how the tables were set. During its heyday, I was told that the waitresses that worked summers there were all college girls who paid the Inn for the privilege. So wonderful were the tips they received from its happy diners.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you for sharing your experiences Lauren! What a great story. Elisabeth@KAF

  54. Dick Payne

    When I was a very young lad, right after WWII, my parents very favorite place to go out to eat was The Toll House of Ruth Wakefield. Although we could not afford to go there often, I recall several birthday dinners there for my brother and me. What made those extra special was the little birthday cake, complete with candles, which came out for dessert, set on a little platform which rotated while a music box inside played the birthday tune. Although I’m almost 80, I can still recall the dining room and the pastoral scene outside. Very special.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing that lovely memory, Dick! I love the image of the musical rotating cake. Barb@KAF

  55. Aly

    I love the basic toll house recipe and use it as a jumping off point for my a ‘little of everything’ cookies. These are my basically going into the pantry and using what is on hand….My neighbor’s daughter is in college and I have sent her back after break with variations on toll house cookies. For example> Dried cherries and chopped Lindt dark chocolate, macadamia nuts and chopped dried apricots with a dash of almond extract, chopped pecans and grated orange zest with milk chocolate chunks, all kinds of nuts and no chocolate, chopped coconut almonds and shredded coconut, you get the idea. They are all terrific. Just use your imagination to create your own favorite new cookie.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Well done, Aly. I envy the people in your circle who are the beneficiaries of your inventions! Susan

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