Choctoberfest: The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Accident


Unlike so very many of the origin stories here at Delicious History, the creation of the Chocolate Chip Cookie isn’t disputed.

I’ll give you a moment to get over the shock.

Despite its lack of ambiguity, the invention of this tasty treat is quite an interesting little tale. So go ahead and grab a cookie and a glass of milk, and read on.

The creation of the Chocolate Chip Cookie is attributed to Ruth Wakefield, who invented it at her Toll House in Massachusetts. This was a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking during the 1930s. The restaurant’s popularity was not only due to the style of meals, but also Wakefield’s policy of providing diners with extra helpings to take home, as well as serving homemade cookies for dessert.

Ruth Wakefield: Hero

One of Ruth’s favorite recipes was Chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies, which I think sounds like some kind of dance. The recipe called for the use of baker’s chocolate, and one day Ruth found herself without the needed ingredient. She substituted it for a semi-sweet chocolate bar cut roughly into small pieces. However, unlike the baker’s chocolate, the chopped up pieces didn’t melt. They only softened.  This may have been an accident, but it certainly was a profitable one. The cookies were an absolute hit and customers began to ask for the recipe.

Conveniently enough, the chocolate bar used for the cookies had been a gift from Andrew Nestle. I’m sure you recognize the name. As the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe gained in popularity, sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also increased. As a consequence, Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging, and Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. A fair deal? Perhaps not, but I like the sound of a lifetime supply of chocolate and being immortalized as the inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Wakefield released a cookbook in 1936 titled Toll House Tried and True Recipes, which featured the original chocolate chip cookie recipe under the name ‘Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies’.  The recipe can be found RIGHT HERE:

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Method

  • Sift flour together with salt and set aside.
  • Cream together butter and sugars. Add the eggs mixing until combined. Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add alternately with flour mixture.
  • Add vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours. (WHAT!? I don’t want to wait that long for my cookies!)
  • Preheat oven to 190°C.
  • Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls refrigerated dough and roll between hands into a ball. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and press ball down to flatten.
  • Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool cookies on the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
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Choctoberfest: The Origin of the Brownie


Happy Choctober, everybody! You’re right, it *is* way better than Ocsober.

For the entirety of this month I’ll be posting chocolate-centric articles for your reading pleasure.

Disclaimer – Delicious History will in no way be held responsible for any severe chocolate cravings resulting from the reading these posts.

Without further ado, let’s kickoff Choctoberfest with a much beloved favourite – The Chocolate Brownie. I highly recommend that you pause for a moment to get yourself a glass of milk to accompany this.

A original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book

The name ‘brownie’ first appeared in the 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, where it describes molasses cakes baked individually in small tins. For those who are unfamiliar with molasses, it’s a kind of syrup that comes from the beating of cane sugar, grapes or sugar beets. Personally, I’ll stick to the chocolate variety of brownies. Thanks for asking though.

The origin of the  brownie is thought to be American and to derive its name not only from the colour, but also the elfin characters featured in the popular stories and verses by author Palmer Cox. The Eastman Kodak Brownie camera was also named after these elves.

Unfortunately, like so many food explorations here at Delicious History, the exact origin of the chocolate brownie is shrouded in myth. There are in fact several legends involving how they came to be:

– A chef mistakenly added melted chocolate to a batch of biscuits
– A cook was baking a cake but didn’t have enough flour
– A housewife in Bangor, Maine was making a chocolate cake but forgot to add baking powder. When her cake didn’t rise properly she cut and served the flat pieces.

The latter tale is the most widely circulated and is even cited in Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics and John Mariani’s The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.

The earliest published recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in the Boston Daily Globe on 2 April 1905. It read:

BANGOR BROWNIES. Cream 1/2 cup butter, add 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 squares of chocolate (melted), 1/2 cup broken walnuts meats, 1/2 cup flour. Spread thin in buttered pans. Bake in moderate oven, and cut before cold.

Culinary historians have traced the first appearance of the brownie in a recipe book to the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is an early, less rich version of the brownie we know, love and nom today.

The second recipe for brownies, appearing in 1907, was in Lowney’s Cook Book. The recipe added both an extra egg and additional chocolate to the Cooking-School recipe, thus creating a richer brownie. She named the recipe Bangor Brownies. This of course assists the origin theory of the housewife who forgot to add the baking soda.

The original 1907 recipe publication of Bangor Brownies

The use of the terms ‘Bangor Brownies’ or sometimes ‘Boston Brownies’ continued into the 1950s. It also took until the Roaring Twenties for brownies to become a national staple.

It goes without saying how popular chocolate brownies remain today. Any self-respecting dessert queen has a killer recipe in her repertoire, and you can find them in most cafes and bakeries. Suffice to say, they have come a long way since first being made with molasses…

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