Chocolate chip cookies—a perennial favorite—from This Little Cookie. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.
The History Of The Chocolate Chip Cookie
The Toll House Cookie Was A Happy Accident
Chocolate chip cookie-lovers: Where would we be if it weren’t for Ruth Graves Wakefield (1903-1977), a 1930s-era Massachusetts innkeeper? Without Ruth there would be no chocolate chip cookies and by extension, no peanut butter chip cookies or other flavors of chips, no chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, no Chipwich. But why dwell on those what-if horrors? Let’s look at the happy history.
Ruth Graves graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924. She worked as a dietitian and lectured on food.
In 1930, Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased a historic Cape Cod-style inn, the Toll House, on the outskirts of Whitman, Massachusetts, halfway between Boston and New Bedford. Originally constructed in 1709, the house had served as a stop for travelers in Colonial times: they paid their road toll, changed horses and dined. Over 200 years later, the Wakefields opened a lodge on the premises, the Toll House Inn. They served traditional Colonial fare. Ruth did the baking, and her desserts were very popular.
One day in 1937, while preparing a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, a colonial brown sugar cookie recipe, Ruth found that she did not have the baker’s chocolate required, and instead chopped a bar of Nestlé Semi-Sweet Chocolate into tiny pieces. She added them to the dough, expecting them to melt during baking; instead, the chocolate held its shape and softened to a creamy texture. The new cookies became very popular at the Inn; Ruth’s recipe was published in newspapers throughout New England, and sales of Nestlé’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar skyrocketed.
Ruth eventually approached Nestlé and reached an agreement that allowed Nestlé to print what would become known as the Toll House Cookie recipe on the wrapper of the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar (part of the agreement included supplying Ruth with all of the chocolate she could use for the rest of her life). As the recipe continued to grow in popularity, Nestlé began to score the chocolate bar and packaged it with a special chopper for easy cutting into small morsels. In 1939, they introduced Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. Nestlé claims that the Toll House is the most popular cookie of all time. Who are we to disagree?
And the recipe was originally called Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies, as the morsels, or chips, came later.
Officially, chocolate chip cookies are the state cookie of Massachusetts, where they were invented, and Pennsylvania, home to Hershey’s, Nestlé’s chief competitor in the chocolate morsel business. Alas, you can’t visit the Toll House Inn today. In 1966, Kenneth and Ruth sold it and retired to Duxbury, Massachusetts. The new owners turned the building into a nightclub. In 1970, it was sold again, to the Saccone family, who restored the original Toll House Inn and Restaurant. Unfortunately, on New Year's Eve 1984, the old building caught fire and was destroyed.
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