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Chocolate Chip Cookies That Taste Like Grandma Made Them

December 6, 2010

Grandma’s cookie recipe did not seem like a secret: she used the back of the Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip bag. In the 1930s, Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie in her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Her recipe was so popular that it was printed in local newspapers and passed on amongst friends. A later agreement with Nestlé allowed the reprinting on the back of their packages, in return for free life supply of chocolate. If she is the inventor of chocolate chip cookies, she could be considered the godmother of chocolate chip cookie bakers and all who have benefited from their grandmother’s and mother’s secrets to the perfect cookie. The grandma cookie ethos continues to be the primer for the sleek chef’s pastry case and gourmet cookie gift baskets.

But what exactly is so good about that particular chocolate chip cookie which makes it so special has been a bone of contention for years. Every person has their own personal memories and this influences the cookies they seek out to transport them back into grandma’s kitchen. The warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven experience is super-salient in people’s memories. Some people argue fiercely over the type of chocolate chips to use, or whether to add nuts. There is texture and consistency to consider; you may be partial to soft and gooey, or flat, with golden, crispy edges.

The thing Grandma was known for was what escaped being written in her recipe: maybe an added “pinch” of this or a “dab” of that. For example, ingredients should be combined at the same temperature, and some home bakers would insist on leaving the butter out overnight to soften. Ruth Wakefield wrote in her Toll House cookbook that she would chill the dough overnight in the refrigerator. This key step was left off the package recipe, but most all professional bakers incorporate this step in their process.

The original cookie has passed into mere memory and lore, and thus modern bakers look for and argue over the right cookie and recipe. So there is speculation, experimentation, and play with the slightest variation on ingredients. Shirley Corriher, the author of Bakewise, reports that Wakefield would have used an all-purpose, spring wheat flour that would have been higher in protein than the AP flours found today. The cookie would not have been as flat as a cookie baked today, per the package recipe. What is especially rewarding about the bakers’ quest for the original cookie, or variation thereof, means that, for the public, there are always new chocolate chip cookies to taste. Search for the gourmet cookie gift baskets that mark your criteria for the perfect cookie memory.

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