My husband recently asked me to bake him some homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s a simple request… but it got me to thinking-how did the chocolate chip cookie come to be?
I notice a lot of things as I read the cookbooks I’ve collected in the past year… most notably, the lack of certain recipes we consider to be staples today, especially chocolate-based desserts like cakes and cookies. That is surprising to me because chocolate was established in European diets, mainly in drinkable form, and was thought to have medicinal value. (YES!) History.org also says colonial soldiers in the mid and later 1700’s were given a ration of several pounds of chocolate per year.
History.org goes on to say, “Chocolate remained exclusively a drink until the mid-19th century when advertisements for solid eating chocolate first appeared. These chocolates were not well received by the public because of their coarse and gritty texture, important for an eating chocolate but not noticeable when made into a drink. In 1879 in Switzerland, Rodolphe Lindt developed a machine that resembled a conch shell to process his chocolate. This chocolate melted on the tongue and possessed a very appealing chocolate aroma. This was the beginning of the modern-day solid eating chocolate and began the transformation of chocolate from a drink to a confection. By the 1920’s, eating chocolate had surpassed drinking chocolate in popularity.”
The first time I noticed anything like a chocolate chip cookie was a recipe written by hand by my grandmother-in-law in a cookbook I inherited from her. The book itself was published in 1931.
According to several sources, including Foodkitchen.com, Ruth Wakefield invented chocolate chip cookies in 1930 at the Toll House Inn which she and her husband owned in Massachusetts. One evening in 1937, she got the idea to make a chocolate butter cookie, so she broke up one of the bars of semi-sweet chocolate that Andrew Nestle gave her. She thought that it would mix together with the dough, melt in the oven & make all-chocolate cookies. The chocolate didn’t melt completely but the cookies were a hit with the guests anyway. Thus, the legend was born.
Indeed, the recipe I found in my grandmother-in-law’s cookbook is actually title “Chocolate Walnut Nuggets” and it calls for bars of chocolate, cut into pea-sized chunks. I used modern chips. I also did not include the walnuts in my batch, as no one in my house really likes them in cookies, but I’ve left them in the ingredient list in case you would like try this the truly vintage way.
• 1 cup butter, softened
• ¾ cup brown sugar
• ¾ cup granulated sugar
• Two eggs, beaten
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon hot water
• 2 ¼ cup flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 bag chocolate chips or two 7 ounce bars of chocolate, cut into pea-size chunks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Cream the butter, sugar and eggs in a mixer. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water in a small dish and then mix into the creamed ingredients. Add flour and salt and mix until well-blended. Add vanilla. Fold in the chips and the nuts if you choose to use them.
Line cookies sheets with parchment paper. Drop by the spoonfuls onto the parchment and bake for 10-15 minutes.