Oh, Chocolate Chip Cookie. Ever since you were discovered by accident by Ruth Wakefield in the 1930's, you've taken the nation by storm, claiming our affections and our appetites. But while much has been made of your discovery, pinpointing your progress from regional specialty to worldwide superstar is a little bit harder. And so, dear cookie, in an effort to get to know you better, I've created a timeline in an effort to see where you've been and where you're going. In short, Chocolate Chip Cookie, this is your life:
1930: Ruth Wakefield moves into the Toll House, which was originally constructed in 1709 as a haven for road-weary travelers, where passengers. Here, passengers paid toll, changed horses and ate much-welcomed home-cooked meals”. The 1930s incarnation (sans toll) was quite similar. (Source: verybestbaking.com)
1934: Could this be a wrinkle in the story of the cookie's invention? According to foodtimeline.org, the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook contains a recipe for "Chocolatetown chip cookies" (p. 75) that includes a 12 ounce package of Hershey's Baking Chips. Here's a link to the book.
1937: According to verybestbaking.com, this is the year Ruth made the One day, while preparing a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, a favorite recipe dating back to Colonial days, Ruth cut a bar of our NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate into tiny bits and added them to her dough, expecting them to melt.
Instead, the chocolate held its shape and softened to a delicately creamy texture. The resulting creation became very popular at the Inn. Soon, Ruth's recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area. Regional sales of the NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar skyrocketed.
1937-39: Somewhere in this period, Ruth approaches Nestle and they reach an agreement wherein she receives free chocolate or life, and they get to print her recipe on the back of their semi-sweet chocolate bar (at the time, scored chocolate bars were used for the chips in the cookies).
1939: The chocolate chip cookie is featured on the Betty Crocker radio program “Famous Foods from Famous Places”. This propels the cookie from regional treat to national phenomenon. (Source: Betty Crocker's Cooky Book)
It is also this year that in an effort to make the cookies easier to bake, Nestle debuts their Semi-sweet chocolate morsels.
1940’s: The cookie’s popularity is cemented as it is commonly sent in care packages to soldiers during the war years: an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that “when the boys in service are asked about the kind of cookie they’d like to get from home, this kind still rates high…it is not just designed for packing and boxes and shipping; it will be just as welcome to the home folks who frequent your table…and by those who like to find something in that cookie jar when they lift its lid”.
1948: According to etymonline.com, the phrase "Smart Cookie" is first documented this year.
1955: General Mills files the first known patent for dry cookie mix.
1957: According to etymonline.com, the phrase "that's how the cookie crumbles" is first documented this year.
1959: Lemon chips (lemon-flavored morsels in the style of chocolate chips) are introduced, and all of a sudden hybrids of chocolate chip cookies involving flavored morsels begin to abound; peanut butter, white chocolate, toffee and more follow. All of a sudden, the chocolate chip cookie's family expands.
1963: Chips Ahoy! Makes their supermarket debut.
1966: The original Toll House is sold to a family who tries to turn it into a nightclub; a bakery down the block continues baking the cookies based on the original recipe.
1969: The Cookie Monster (at this point unnamed) makes his debut on the first episode of Sesame Street.
Also this year, Hershey’s introduces their own morsels, the “Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips”
1971: The first Starbucks opens. I don't know about you, but I tend to believe that their bakery offerings were the inspiration for a lot of coffee shop bakery cases, so this would ultimately impact the chocolate chip cookie!
1975: Per Wikipedia, a failed agent decides to open what is believed to be the first chocolate chip cookie-specific store: Famous Amos. Today, there is a sign commemorating the first Famous Amos store in Los Angeles, located at West Sunset Boulevard and North Formosa Avenue in Hollywood.
1977: Ralston debuts Cookie Crisp Cereal.
Also this year, the first Mrs. Fields store opens in California and is said to have debuted the first cookie cake.
Also this year, Great American Cookies opens in Atlanta, GA.
Also this year (what an eventful year for cookies!) there is a lawsuit involving chocolate chip cookies which gets settled in NYC.
1979: A large amount of chocolate chip cookie-specific shops start opening in NYC.
1980: Per Wikipedia, the Chipwich, an ice cream sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies and extra chips rolled on the sides, is invented by Richard LaMotta, a former CBS-TV video engineer.
Also this year, 1980: Procter and Gamble registers the first US patent for shelf-stable cookie dough.
Also this year, Maida Heatter's recipe for the “Big Sur” chocolate chip cookie (Heatter says "These California cookies are 6 inches in diameter --they are the largest homemade chocolate chip cookie I know") hits the mainstream this year and becomes a popular product in bakeries.
Big Sur Cookies
- 1 1/2 Cups sifted AP Flour
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 2/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
- 1/3 Cup granulated Sugar
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 Cup quick cooking (not instant) Rolled Oats
- 6 oz. (1 1/2 cups) Walnuts, cut or broken into medium sized pieces
- 6 oz. (1 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut aluminum foil to fit cookie sheets.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, - set aside.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and then both of the sugars and beat to mix. Beat in the eggs one at a time. On low spedd, add the sifted dry ingredients and then the rolled oats, scraping the bowl as nessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until mixed.
4. Remove from the mixer and stir in the nuts and morsels.
5. Now work next to the sink or have a large bowl of water handy so you can wet your hands while shaping the cookies, Spread out a piece of wax paper or foil. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to measure the amount of dough for each cookie. form 12 - 15 mounds of the dough , and place them any which way on the foil or wax paper. Wet your hands with cold water, shake off the water but don't dry your hands , pick up a mound of dough, roll it into a ball, flatten it to about 1/2 inch thickness, and place it on the foil. Do not place more than 4 cookies on a 12 x 15 1/2 inch piece of foil or cookie sheet. These spread to gigantic proportions.
6. Bake two sheets at a time for 16 to 18 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back as necessary to ensure even browning. Bake unitl the cookies are well colored; they must not be too pale. Watch these carefully; they might become too dark before you know it.
1983: Though the company started in 1977, this is an important year because Otis Spunkmeyer revamps their previous retail business model and creates a business model wherein they created a fresh-baked cookie program for other foodservice operators. The program included pre-portioned frozen cookie dough, a pre-set convection oven and marketing materials. This innovative program, allowed both big and small food service operators to sell fresh baked cookies (within 18 minutes) in their facilities. Today, Otis Spunkmeyer ready-to-bake cookie dough is the #1 brand in the foodservice industry. (Source: Wikipedia)
Also this year, Blue Chip Cookies is established, and it claims to be the first business to sell the white chocolate chip macadamia cookie.
1984: The Toll House burns down, under the photograph printed by the New York Times (January 2, 1985 I 12:5) describing the fire that destroyed Ruth Wakefield's kitchen the reads "Wreckage of Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Mass. It was where the chocolate chip cookie was invented."
1987: Cookie wars break out between David’s cookies and Pillsbury over whose ready-to-bake cookie dough products will take center stage in grocery stores.
1990: City Bakery opens in NYC and grabs the attention of chocolate chip cookie enthusiasts all over.
1991: Ben and Jerry’s is credited with bringing chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to the world in a big way this year. It wasn’t too surprising considering the runaway success of cookies n cream, debuted in 1983, though.
1992: Hilary Clinton gets in trouble for saying she’s not one who wants to “stay home and bake cookies”. In an effort to make nice later, she shares her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with Family circle magazine.
1995: Doubletree Hotels begin giving out cookies at check-in. This becomes a popular service for several boutique hotels.
Levain Bakery opens in New York City and brings their mountainous cookies to the masses.
1996: Not sure if they were the ones who invented it, but this is the year that Dunkin Donuts debuted the chocolate chip bagel. This was a beautiful, beautiful combination of carbohydrates and chocolate chips and at least deserves a shout-out.
Chocolate chip cookie dough is a big part of this winning recipe from the Pillsbury Bake-Off (picture from Pillsbury.com):
- 1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- Dash salt, if desired
- 2/3 cup SMUCKER'S® Caramel Ice Cream Topping
- 5 tablespoons Pillsbury BEST® all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup Fisher® Chef's Naturals® Chopped Walnuts
- 1 cup Hershey's® semi-sweet baking chips (6 oz)
Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Stir or knead in oats and salt. Reserve 1/2 cup dough for topping. In ungreased 9-inch square pan, press remaining dough mixture evenly in bottom to form crust.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until dough puffs and appears dry.
In small bowl, mix caramel topping, flour and vanilla until well blended. Sprinkle walnuts and baking chips evenly over crust. Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture. Crumble reserved 1/2 cup dough mixture over caramel.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen bars. Cool completely, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store tightly covered.
1997: The chocolate chip cookie is declared the official state cookie of Massachussetts.
Also this year, according to the New York Times, Neiman Marcus puts and end to an urban myth about their shop charging a customer $250 for their chocolate chip cookie. Turns out, they never even sold chocolate chip cookies—but they started to after the myth made the rounds. And they sold well.
Also this year, this documentation was made of the baking and eating of the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie at the time (maybe still?).
Also this year, an application filed to patent the chocolate chip cookie pie. I still like the cookie cake pie better.
2008: David Leite’s fascinating New York Times article about seeking perfection in the classic cookie renews interest in the cookie around the world and introduces the idea of letting the dough rest to the masses, as well as the idea of using discs rather than chocolate morsels.
Those Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies from the New York Times
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
- (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
- 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
- Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.
Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.
Also this year, CakeSpy teaches you how not to make a chocolate chip cookie.
Is there a sweet moment from the Chocolate Chip Cookie's history that has been missed? Leave a comment and it will be added!
Need a Mother's Day gift idea? Send Mom a personalized cookie gift basket with Clever Cookie, where gifts are good enough to eat.