Have you ever stopped to think about how we ended up with actual recipes? Like, actual recipes with measurements?
If some of you are not well versed in food history, you may not know this but, back in the day, there really weren’t cookbooks as we now know them. So-called “recipes” were casually jotted down and passed through generations of women with no real measurements – instructions like “just enough flour” or “a nob of butter a bit smaller than a ball” were standard directions that were completely understandable by the women who easily recreated many of these recipes. And the reason most of the recipes worked out was because women at the time had a good knowledge of how to maneuver their way around a kitchen and adjust recipes properly.
In Comes a Badass Lady!
Then, Fannie Farmer arrived on the scene. For those of you who don’t recognize her name, Fannie Farmer wrote Boston Cooking School Cookbook, first published in 1896 (it’s still a best-seller in a modernized version entitled The Fannie Farmer Cookbook – 12 editions in the first 70 years sold nearly four million copies). She learned how to cook after she suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed her in high school. So, in the years that kept her at home, she perfected her cooking and baking skills. She wanted to write a book that had recipes for everyday and classic dishes as well as information on formal entertaining, proper management of the home (and service staff if you had the money to have them), use of kitchen equipment, and etiquette. Her recipes were all personally tested and, thanks to accurate measurements, easy to follow successfully.
Why Do You Need to Know This?
The reason I thought this would be a good post to educate you all on this (because I’ve been dying to tell y’all this story for so long!!) is because the measurements (and science behind the measurements) is so easily explained when we are talking about the humble chocolate chip cookie! Whether you get a cakey cookie or a crispy cookie or a chewy cookie is all about the ratio of butter to sugar (and the type of sugar) to flour as well as the oven temp. I’ve saved this article from Martha Stewart who I think explains it beautifully!
How Many Different Ways can you make a chocolate chip cookie?
If you’ve scoured the internet for recipes, you’ll notice certain cookies trending… like the famous Double Tree Cookie which are served to guests at the hotel…
Then there is the debate over the “also famous” Levain Bakery cookie (which is in the soft and cakey camp…
Then there is the Neiman Marcus cookie that is always accompanied by the story of a woman who asked for their famous recipe and got charged an incredible amount (still not sure if this is an urban legend or not!). I have been using this recipe for years and you can find all the deets here:
And, finally, there is the “also famous” Compost Cookie made popular by Milk Bar bakery in NYC (I bought their cookbook when I visited and found the ingredients to be very unusual so I made my own…you can find my recipe here)…
But what about a Simple Recipe?
So, with all of these options, which do you pick? Well, when you have time to sit down and do a proper comparison with pie charts and graphs, you can try all of them and decide. But when you are strapped for time (which is pretty much everyday for me) and just want a down and dirty chocolate chip cookie, you’ve come to the right place! Today we are talking about the humble/simple/not fancy/ordinary chocolate chip cookie! Some know it as the Toll House Cookie. And, if you’re new to the Toll House Cookie story, let me explain.
The Toll House Cookie Explained…
The story goes, as told by the Journal Times, that in 1930, Ruth Wakefield and her husband purchased a house between Boston and New Bedford, Mass. They learned that the house was originally built around 1709 and served as a kind of stage coach house where people could change their horses, stay overnight and eat some good old home cooking. Folks were charged a fee for these services, and in 1709 that fee was called a toll. More than 200 years later, Ruth Wakefield turned the house into a bed and breakfast and named it “The Toll House” in honor of its history.
Ruth was known for her good cooking, especially her desserts. One day, while making a batch of butter cookies, she decided to flavor the recipe with chocolate. She added a chopped up candy bar to her recipe, fully expecting the chocolate to melt throughout the dough to make chocolate butter cookies. Much to her surprise, the chocolate pieces stayed intact while baking. Ruth’s creation became a hit at the inn, and soon her recipe was published in papers all over New England. The rest, as they say, is history. And by the way, the cookies did wonders for the sales of Nestle’s chocolate bars.
You can see how tall it is (below)…you can press it down or leave it – either way, they sink down as they bake.
The timing is also up to you. You can see the two cookies below are a wee bit different. The one on the right was baked for 13 minutes and the one on the left was baked for 10 minutes…
You can see the difference a bit better from the outside. The one of the left if obviously lighter in colour but also a tad bit chewier and “wrinkly” (which some say is the sign of a good cookie!).
So, there you have it…all kinds of cookies, many different options, a wee bit of history and a whole pile of new information. Now that you are well equipped, try this version of my “ordinary…but not so ordinary” chocolate chip cookie. Then, when you have time for pie charts and graphs, you can try any of the others.
Just make sure you report back to me after with stats.
Just Crumbs Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds (or other nuts of choice)
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silat mats.
- Place the flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium/high speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add eggs and and vanilla and beat again until incorporated and smooth.
- Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture.; then turn on mixer to low speed to incorporate the dry mixture and then turn the mixer to high speed for a few seconds to pull the dough together (it will be lumpy/chunky).
- Add the chocolate chips and almonds, then beat on high speed until the chips are thoroughly mixed in (about 10-15 seconds).
- Drop the dough by large spoonfuls (I like to use a small bakers scoop scooping two scoops on top of each other) onto the prepared baking sheet; press the pads of two fingers to slightly flatten them if you like (you can see the difference in the photos above). Bake until lightly browned on top, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and cool on the pan on a rack for 1 minute; transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Store cookies in a sealed container to keep the insides soft. If freezing baked cookies, wrap well and freeze for up to 6 months.