The chocolate chip cookie's enduring edible magic


Toll House. Famous Amos. Mrs. Fields. Get the connection? No doubt, you're among the legions of chocolate chip cookie lovers!

A little history
Nestle named its legendary Toll House cookie recipe, featured on the backs of baking chocolate and then chocolate morsels packages, in honor of the Massachusetts eatery where America's all-time favorite cookie was created. Whether Ruth Graves Wakefield, who ran the restaurant with her husband, created the chocolate chip cookie purposely or by happy accident in the late 1930s is the subject of sometimes heated debate. But whatever the impetus behind its origin, the outcome was truly a milestone in modern culinary history.

Wakefield's concoction has stood the sweet test of time. Though many cooks have personalized and adapted it over the years, few have been able to improve on the original recipe's simple yet flawless perfection: flour, white and brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and, of course, chocolate chips.

When the contract between Wakefield and Nestle expired in 1979, the company tweaked the recipe, omitting water, calling for all butter and upgrading the size from a teaspoon of dough to a tablespoon. The modern Toll House cookie was not only larger but also softer and less crispy.

To chill or not to chill
Both versions, however, skipped a critical detail followed by Wakefield and included in her Toll House Cook Book (Little, Brown, 1953); that is to chill the dough overnight prior to baking.

The cooling/resting period allows the dough to sufficiently soak up the eggs, which take much longer to absorb than water or other liquid. This results in a drier, firmer dough, which in turn bakes to a better consistency, according to Shirley O. Corriher, author of CookWise (William Morrow, 1997).

Writer David Leite, in a personal quest to attain chocolate chip cookie nirvana, interviewed Corriher and other baking mavens plus boutique bakery owners for a 2009 New York Times article. He found near consensus among the bakers on several key points; warm cookies are good, a rested dough is better and high-quality chocolate is best.

Getting warmer
Adherence to the "warm cookie creed" helped pave the way for entrepreneurs Mrs. (Debbi) Fields and Wally "Famous" Amos to become household names. Both tapped into an enormous craving for the home-baked goodness that harked back to the era before hard packaged cookies. Amos was inspired by the chocolate chip pecan cookies baked by his Aunt Della, whose care he was entrusted to following his parents' marital break-up.

"We certainly had no monetary wealth, but Aunt Della's home was always rich in the principles and qualities vital to a child's upbringing. And it was filled with the aroma of her delicious chocolate chip cookies," Amos recalled.

Debbi Fields discovered nuggets of self-esteem through her chocolate chip cookie baking. Always a hard worker, she was challenged to achieve good grades during her school years. She married young and could have contented herself with finding fulfilment as a wife and mother, but Fields felt the need to achieve something in her own right. Despite personal and professional naysayers, she secured funding for her dream of opening her own cookie business, originally called "Mrs. Fields' Chocolate Chippery." Stressing fresh, real ingredients, just-from-the-oven gooey goodness, free samples,and personal customer service, Fields found a path to success starting with her comfort zone

The "original" Toll House chocolate crunch cookie
(courtesy Michelle Sharp,

Cream: 1 cup butter

Add: 3/4 cup brown sugar (packed) 3/4 cup granulated sugar 2 (large) eggs beaten, whole

Dissolve: 1 tsp soda in 1 tsp hot water

Mix alternately with: 2-1/4 cups flour sifted with 1 tsp salt

Lastly, add: 1 cup chopped nuts

2 bars Nestlé's yellow label chocolate, semi-sweet, which has been cut in pieces the size of a pea. (Later changed to "2 packages of chocolate morsels," which is the equivalent of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips.)

Flavor with: 1 tsp. vanilla

Drop half teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes in 375F oven.

Makes 100 cookies.

Sharp includes Wakefield's commentary from later editions of her book, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, which she notes is still in print:

"At Toll House, we chill this dough overnight. When ready for baking, we roll a teaspoon of dough between palms of hands and place balls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Then we press balls with fingertips to form flat rounds. This way cookies do not spread as much in the baking and they keep uniformly round. They should be brown through, and crispy, not white and hard as I have sometimes seen them."

Mrs. Fields' chocolate chip cookie


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup cold salted butter, cut into cubes

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well with a wire whisk.
  3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, blend the sugars at medium speed.
  4. Add the cold butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at low to medium speed just until blended. Do not overmix.
  5. Add the flour mix and chocolate chips, and blend at a low speed just until mixed. Do not overmix.
  6. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake 20-22 minutes until golden. Transfer cookies immediately to a cool surface with a spatula. You can line sheets with parchment and transfer to a cold surface to do it faster.

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