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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Biar

Who Invented Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Updated: Jun 12, 2021

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies, and variations, are a massive weakness of mine. Chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate chip skillet cookies, chocolate chip bars, cookie dough ice cream, chocolate chip muffins, you name it. I will devour it! I’m not alone. The chocolate chip cookie is also America’s favorite cookie. 53 percent of us will choose a chocolate chip cookie over other varieties.

I believe the best, never-fail chocolate chip cookie recipe is the Toll House Cookie recipe. It never disappoints. The recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag is not exactly the original; also, note the image below. Nonetheless, it is still the best, even if a little tweaked for today’s ingredients.

Vintage Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
Vintage Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe and ad

The original Toll House recipe was created by Ruth Wakefield and her kitchen assistant, Sue Brides. Ruth and her husband, Kenneth Wakefield, opened the Toll House Inn in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, in the 1930s. From the foreword in her 1948 cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, Ruth writes:

In August of 1930 my husband and I bought a lovely old Cape Code house, built in 1709 on the outskirts of Whitman, Massachusetts. Many years ago it was used as a toll house where passengers ate while the horses were changed on the way from Boston to New Bedford…. For four years my husband who was also in the food business, and I dreamed of the kind of eating place we would have. Finally, we invested all our savings in the place Toll House.

Ruth conceived the recipe for chocolate chip cookies on her way home from a trip to Egypt. She wanted to tweak her famous butterscotch nut cookie, which was served with vanilla ice cream. She added broken pieces of a chocolate bar. And voila, the chocolate chip cookie was born!

Some versions of the cookie’s history report that the chocolate chip cookie was an accident. Accounts say Ruth expected the chocolate pieces to melt into the cookie, creating a chocolate cookie. However, those who have studied Ruth know that she was a professional cook and a perfectionist with her home economics degree and dietetic hospital work. She would have known exactly how a piece of chocolate would behave in a baked treat. Therefore, I agree that the cookie was not an accident but a carefully planned, delicious, history-making treat.

Vintage Chocolate Chip ad
Vintage Chocolate Chip ad

The recipe was printed in her cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, and called the Chocolate Crunch Cookie. Ruth eventually sold her recipe to Nestle in 1939 for only $1. Apparently, though, she received free chocolate for life. Now, that is a deal that I can get behind! In 1983, a judge ruled that Nestle was no longer entitled to the exclusive trademark of the Toll House Recipe.

Ruth may have started it all, but the chocolate chip cookie did not need much PR to become America’s favorite. An article from the April 7, 1945 edition of the Pittsburg Gazette talks about the popularity of the treats with our soldiers fighting in WWII. The article also provides another chocolate chip cookie recipe. One with cinnamon! Yummers!

April 7, 1945 edition Pittsburg Gazette Chocolate Chip Cookie article
April 7, 1945 edition of the Pittsburg Gazette

Today, one can search the internet and cookbooks for 1000s of chocolate chip cookie recipes. The original method has been tweaked, changed, and modified, but I find it’s hard to make a better adaptation. There are variations that are delicious, but for me, I’m going to keep baking the one that started it all, the Toll House chocolate crunch cookie.

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