June 5, 2024 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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Our National Heritiage

Nestle choc chiip package image Michael Goodwin72There are several  things about the USA that are misunderstood over here in the land of gelato, Renaissance art and beautifully designed military uniforms.  I understand that my nation’s hands aren’t clean in this respect – swampy lasagna,  laughable misunderstanding of the Palladian principles of architecture, and even worse, the woeful misinterpretations of espresso. That said, I do feel I could be helpful to the Italians in the making of our National Cookie. As a side note, I also feel that they need a little help with their interpretation of guacamole – a dish we of course appropriated from Mexico.

Sorry, Oreos

And no, it is not Oreos, although I will admit to having an adolescent addiction to those. Who amongchoc chip cookie recipe pinterest72 you KD readers had a childhood blighted by not having the opportunity to follow the recipe on the back of the Nestle Chocolate Chip  package? I know my childhood was made better by that and by making Rice Crispy Treats. Some of my best memories of being at peace with my older brother were when we made the latter together while our parents were at church.  

I now no longer make the traditional chocolate chip cookie off the back of the package. Like so  many other home bakers, I have followed my own path to create variations on the Ruth Wakefield celebrated cookie. Her recipe is over 80 years old and it’s a pretty adaptable cookie. I still wish I could recreate the variation produced by the YWCA on the corner of 17th and K Streets,  but that recipe is lost to the ages. I have tried the one featured in the Washington Post (it was in the ball park but somewhere in left field) and two others, but none of them are “it”. I have not experimented with the sheet banging method of Sarah Kieffer. But that’s on my to-do list the minute I get my own kitchen. I worry that my Italian neighbors a short balcony away will think that the American woman next door is target practicing. 

Cracking The Myth

Ruth Wakefield's chocolate crunch cookie recipe in her book from RedditA little research shows that Ruth Wakefield, the patron saint of our National Cookie,  was far from being an amateur cook who created this cookie by mistake.  She, with her husband Kenneth, owned  a highly regarded restaurant in  Whitman, Massachusetts, which they ran successfully from 1930 to 1967 -The Toll House. Their restaurant’s menu and in particular its desserts were made even more famous by her cookbook – Tried And True Recipes — whichGreat American Chocolate Chip Cookie book Amazon website was reprinted 39 times. Ruth herself had a degree in household arts, according to a biographer,  and was a perfectionist cook   Carolyn Weyman, the author  of “The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book” wrote that she created this recipe “by dint of training, talent, and hard work.”  When Nestle discovered why their chocolate bar was suddenly being purchased in huge numbers, they negotiated for a very cheap price  – apparently a lifetime supply of chocolate – with Ruth Wakefield for the use of her recipe and created the easy-to-use  “morsels” we know today. 

Details Matter

Ingredients are important here. Use a good quality  unsalted butter – the cheaper brands have more water – and I do prefer sea salt to kosher salt. Use large eggs, not extra large. This cookie is best if you do not use chocolate chips but rather finely chopped chocolate bars. I have used Lindt, Amedei, and Valrhona Guanaja and I found that 70% cocoa content tastes best to me.. I have used ‘cooking chocolate” bars and found the taste a bit chalky. But play around with different ones  – you will taste the differences. Finally, light muscovado sugar is key here. I used to get  mine from India Tree, but here it is Tate & Lyle.  White granulated sugar that has the molasses added back into it won’t give the cookie batter the caramel kick that sets it off against the more intense chocolate. I don’t add nuts to these cookies, they just got in the way of their addictive quality.  It is also important that the butter and sugars are beaten with either the paddle attachment in a mixer or at least a standard hand mixer (you can’t do it by hand)  until the mixture is creamy and lost most of its sandy texture. Refrigeration for several hours, or overnight will result in a better cookie. 

Disputing Karl Marx

Having tried several chocolate chip cookies from various Italian bakeries, I know they could use my help. This impression was made even stronger when I watched a video on my favorite Italian cooking platform – Giallo Zafferanno where they share this misbegotten recipe. My variation  is based on an article in a New York Times Sunday Magazine over 20 years ago, and I can only hope it is in the 109 boxes waiting to arrive here.  People here who say they  don’t like sweets have changed their minds – at least for this cookie. Both grandsons grudgingly hand out small doses to only their closest friends. The Muslim owner of an alimentari that we frequent loves them too, but needed to be reassured that there was no pork in them.  I know that I will continue to fiddle with the Toll House Cookie, like so many bakers before me, not to find the ultimate one,  but because Ruth Wakefield created such a wonderfully broad-minded cookie. It is as relaxed as American culture. It has no codification like tagliatelle.  My son-in-law recently commented  as he reached for yet another one, “Karl Marx was wrong, Religion is not the opium of the people, this cookie is.”

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Variation
My current, but not likely my last variation on this cookie that should have made the US famous
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups (240gr) white all purpose flour
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  3. 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  4. 8 ounces (227gr) softened unsalted butter
  5. 1 1/4 cups (260gr) light muscovado sugar
  6. 1/4 cup(50gr) white granulated sugar
  7. 2 large eggs - about 58gr in the shell
  8. 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or high quality vanilla essence or extract
  9. 2 cups (350gr) medium p- to fine-chopped excellent quality 70% cocoa chocolate bars
  10. 1/8 to 1/4 cup (12-24gr) almond flour - optional and can be replaced by an additional 1/4 cup of flour
Instructions
  1. There is no need to turn on the oven until you decide to bake the cookies.
  2. At that time preheat the oven to 325F or 160C, line your baking sheets with Silpats or baking parchment.
  3. Put the butter in the mixer bowl and add both the sugars and with the paddle or whisk on medium speed beat the mixture until it is light, creamy and lost most of its sandy texture.
  4. Measure the flour, salt, baking soda and whisk together in another bowl.
  5. Add the eggs, one, at a time to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Add the vanilla and then the flour and either fold with paddle attachment or by hand with a spatula.
  7. Fold in the chopped chocolate.and place this dough in container that can be covered and refrigerate for at least six hours, or best overnight.
  8. When ready to bake, preheat your oven and scoop small balls of dough and place them on your baking sheets.
  9. Tamp the balls with the back of a spoon or your palm before baking.
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes and then check - ovens vary in baking times - they should lose their shine and be light to medium light brown.
  11. Allow to cool on the sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.
  12. Store in a covered container at room temperature.
Notes
  1. You can add chopped nuts to this recipe and it will not change the baking time.
  2. The almond flour makes these cookies lacier, but you can replace it with additional flour and it will give you a slightly plumper cookie.
Adapted from New York Times
Adapted from New York Times
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

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Mary Morrison
18 days ago

Nancy, it’s lovely that we have at least one or two good things to share with your new neighbors across the pond. Your son-in-law’s comment is spot-on, as well as your’s about all the individual variations on this life-enhancing bit of sweetness. My own version includes using hazelnut flour and diced walnuts. 😋

XO Mary

Jennifer
18 days ago

Years ago in a Boston book shop I found a cookbook that focused on American foods with each chapter dedicated to chocolate chip cookies, chili, chowders, etc then presented a variety of recipes from across the country. But the very first chocolate chip cookie recipe is the original cookie recipe before Nestle simplified it (and then simplified it again). I made both versions and then had people taste test. It was a 50/50 split. You have to have variations in the recipes because everyone likes them different.

Catherine Rudolph
18 days ago

Nancy,
Thank you for defending our national honor.
I use my Mom’s old recipes for gingersnaps, the original Quaker Oats cookie recipe, and the classic Toll House. They are plenty sweet but better balanced. I do add chopped candied ginger to the gingersnaps if I have some, but otherwise make it straight. My Mom used salted butter rather than making a fetish of unsalted, but used an excellent regional brand from Tillamook Oregon. My Mom was a trained Home Economist and a practical cook.

I am enjoying your Ex Pat adventures.

Diane
18 days ago

Having gone gluten free two years ago, alas this recipe will not pass muster. Wish I could use Almond Flour for the entire recipe, but having worked with AF, I am sure it would be a miserable failure.
Love reading and your backstory, and I am sure one taste would call up angels.
Nancy, since I just found you again (after shopping in Old Town decades ago), have you moved permanently to Italy?
What factors firmed you decision?
The US is rapidly becoming a place I no longer recognize. D.

Mary Morrison
14 days ago

Nancy, you asked about my use of hazelnut flour in my chocolate chip cookie recipe. My ratio is 3.5 oz hazelnut flour and 12 oz Heckers finest. I’ve also fiddled with the sugar and fat ratios. I really like your suggestion to use muscovado brown sugar, so I’ll use that next time.

Thinking about you today making “summer in a jar” strawberry 🍓 jam and using caster sugar, another great tip I learned from you!!
XO M