Monthly Archive for March, 2011

Origin of a Dish: Chocolate Chip Cookies

A chocolate chip cookie, baked from the original recipe.

During my recent experiments with chocolate, I got curious about the origins of the ultimate American chocolate dessert:  The Chocolate Chip Cookie.  Keep reading for the original recipe, which, in my opinion, is the perfect cookie.

Ruth Wakefield  is credited for the invention of the chocolate chip cookie at her Toll House Restaurant Whitman, Mass., “…a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking in the 1930s. The restaurant’s popularity was not just due to its home-cooked style meals; her policy was to give diners a whole extra helping of their entrées to take home with them and a serving of her homemade cookies for dessert.” (wikipedia)

The legend of the cookie’s creation goes like this: “Wakefield is said to have been making chocolate cookies and on running out of regular baker’s chocolate, substituted broken pieces of semi-sweet chocolate from Nestlé thinking that it would melt and mix into the batter. (wikipedia)”  I don’t believe this explanation.  Baker’s chocolate doesn’t magically melt into cookie dough, so if Wakefield knew how to work with baker’s chocolate, she would know that a semi-sweet Nestle bar would behave the same way. The legend makes her seem like a foolish little lady that made a silly mistake that magically turned into something wonderful.  I think she was actually an extremely talented cook with a brilliant idea.

Whatever the truth is, she sold her idea to Nestlé in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate (or so the story goes; I think she was probablly a smarter business woman than that).  Wakefield’s cookie recipe was subsequently printed on the back of all Nestle’s chocolate bars.  At first, Nestle included “a small chopping tool with the chocolate bars, but in 1939 they started selling the chocolate in chip (or morsel) form.” (wikipedia).

Chocolate chip cookies are The Official Cookie of the Commonwealth in Massachusetts:

Wakefield released a cookbook in 1936, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, which features the original chocolate chip cookie recipe as “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.”  The recipe, as well as the rest of the cookbook, can be found online here.  Below, here’s the same recipe from the April 26, 1940 Chicago Tribune (from the food timeline)

Here’s a new cookie that everybody loves because it is so delicious, so different and so easy to make. With each crisp bite you taste a delicious bit of Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate and a crunch of rich walnut meat. A perfect combination. Here’s a proven recipe that never fails. Try it tomorrow.
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten whole
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon hot water
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
2 Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Economy Bars (7 oz. ea.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Important: Cut the Nestle’s Semi-Sweet in pieces the size of a pea. Cream butter and add sugars and beaten egg. Dissolve soda in the hot water and mix alternately with the flour sifted with the salt. Lastly add the cholled nuts and the pieces of semisweet chocolate. Flavor with the vanilla and drip half teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in a 375 degree F. oven. Makes 100 cookies. Every one will be surprised and delighted to find that the chocolate does not melt. Insist on Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate in the yellow Wrap, there is no substitute. This unusual recipe and many others can be found in Mrs. Ruth Wakefield’s Cook Book–“Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” on sale at all book stores.”

A modernized version of this recipe can be found on the Nestle website, here.

The biggest problem in recreating the original recipe is the chocolate; I felt that chopping up a candy bar was an important part of the original process.  But nowadays, Nestle only makes semi-sweet morsels, not bars.  Nestle still makes milk chocolate bars, which I later found at Economy Candy, but for my first attempt at the recipe I had to use a stack of Hershey’s milk chocolate bars.

It was much easier to cut up the chocolate bar that I anticipated.  The recipe specified the pieces should be “the size of a pea,” and I tried to remain faithful to that.  I used a large knife and the job was done in short order and with little effort.  The chopped chocolate smelled seductive and got me thinking: why are we restricting ourselves to the bags of chocolate chips in the baking aisle, when there is a bevvy of delicious, interesting chocolate bars available?  Hachez, a German company, makes dark chocolate bars infused with orange, blackberry, mango/chili, and strawberry/pepper.  Mast Brothers Chocolate, in Brooklyn, features a variety of carefully crafted dark chocolate bars of single origin cocoa beans, as well as bars sprinkled with sea salt and ground coffee.  Put that in your cookie dough and bake it.

The dough mixed quickly and easily; it was baked and in my mouth in less than an hour.  The first bite of warm, melty cookie made me think of s’mores and brought back a flood of childhood memories.  The cookies were agreed to be perfect by all that sampled them: the best ratio of chocolate to nuts to everything in between.  Everyone was shocked to learn it was the first chocolate chip cookie recipe and wondered why it was ever changed.

For more on chocolate cookies, check out this recipe for one of the first known uses of chocolate in baking.

Moose Moufle

An article in a local rag, Edible Manhattan, told the story of New York’s markets of old.  The article focused on Washington Market, which was on Manhattan’s lower west side.  Apparently the abundance was incomparable and was cataloged by a man named Thomas de Voe, a butcher who worked his way up to be head of the market (read the whole article here).  His book, published in the 1860s, the Market Assistant, contains a brief description of “…every article of human food sold in the public markets of New York, Boston, Philadelphis, and Brooklyn.”  Among those articles of food, Moose Snout.

De Voe says of the moose:  “There is no doubt but the flesh of the tame male either moose or elk, when castrated, could be converted into a dish which the epicure could not resist. The tongue is considered a delicacy, as is also his moufle, the large gristly extremity of its large nose, when properly prepared and cooked. The skins are much used by the hunters for snow shoes and moccasins; for these purposes they are best when taken in the month of October.  Mr Wm Paul had when I saw him on the 7th of February, 1856, in Fulton street New York near the Washington Market, nine moose and two elk which he had brought from Iowa. They were in good condition although killed some five weeks before.” (1867)

An article, from Shield’s Magazine, 1905, says something on the way to prepare a moose noose: “One does not necessarily have to go to the woods for venison; Moose and caribou steaks are far better for hanging several days, but some of the choicest morsels of the moose and the caribou are unobtainable far from the woods where the animals live.  The nose, the liver, and the kidneys though highly esteemed by hunters, are never brought to market.  Moose nose in particular is an exceptional delicacy. The nose of the caribou, though also good, is much inferior to the other, being full of small bones.  Moose nose resembles beaver tail in this respect, that it possesses a delightful flavor distinctly its own and scarcely comparable with anything else. What makes it all the rarer is that it is not only necessary to kill a moose in order to obtain the delicacy, but also to destroy that most beautiful and most highly prized trophy of the chase: a moose head. You cannot eat the nose and have the head too. To prepare the nose for the table, it is cut off the animal as soon as the latter is killed and is then scalded and scraped to take off the hair. Then it is slightly smoked and boiled. ”

I have seen modern reference to jellied nose as well as moose nose soup.  I’m on the look-out for a moufle.

Events: Triangle Tea and Reception

I’m doing a FREE event at the Henry Street Settlement next week, Sunday the 20th at 3pm.  Historian Joyce Mendelsohn, author of The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited, will give a talk about life on the Lower East Side in 1911 and the role settlement houses played in protecting the rights of new immigrants.  This event will honor the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a disaster that devastated New York, but also brought about reform that created the modern workplace.

For my part, I’ll be creating refreshments appropriate to 1911 from the Settlement Cookbook; stop by to enjoy 1911 brownies with coffee frosting; lemon and nutmeg bundt kuchen; cheese and anchovy sandwiches; and Settlement deviled eggs.

Further details can be found here. Space for the tea and reception is limited and reservations are required. To reserve, please go here.

UPDATE: Apparently, the event is already filled!!

Snapshot: Maple Sugaring

My parents are being super adorables.  Inspired by last year’s Starting from Scratch challenge, they got interested in producing maple syrup from their four acre yard in Ohio.  Last fall, they marked the sugar maple trees  and this spring they tapped them!


My Mom has been sending me email updates on their progress and last weekend I went home to Cleveland and toured their taps.  I also got to taste a spoonful of the finished product: it is indescribably unbelievable.  It tastes shockingly different from store bought “real” maple syrup, although we don’t know why.  The flavor is like sweet butter.  Sooo buttery.  Un. Believable.

It won’t be a bumper year for syrup, since they are still learning the ins and outs of production.  But perhaps next year we’ll be selling super-premium FPF brand maple syrup…

Until then, check out photos of their progress below.  Also, the intrepid pioneers at Starting from Scratch are gearing up for another challenge: A culinary endurance match, living only off foods they hunt, farm, fish, and forage.  Follow along here as they spend the next year getting prepared!

Family Friend Mark taps the trees.


Mark hammers in the tap.


Holy Shit Moment: Sap actually comes out of the tree!


The Sugar Bush: Twelve trees tapped in total.

The First Boil: 40 gallons of sap = one gallon of syrup. The syrup was boiled two ways, on an outdoor stove (which yielded a smoky syrup liked by some and not by others) and inside, on the stove top. Todd checks the sap to see how it’s doing.

Results of the first boil: 1/2 cup of golden, high-grade, buttery maple syrup.

The Gallery: Coffee Puffets; Delmonico’s Pudding

A few pages from the beginning of the journal, where Annie S. Bush wrote her recipes.

The Gallery: Philadelphia Beer; Elder Blossom Wine.

Beer and Wine recipes from Warren Koons’ book.  I’m not certain all of it is in Koons’ handwriting.

Home brewers, if anyone wants to give these a go, please do! Take photos and tell me the results.