Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ruth Graves Wakefield, the Birth of Toll House Cookies

Happy Birthday, Ruth Graves Wakefield! Not a household name? Well, she should be. You've probably used her recipe numerous times. Ruth Graves Wakefield 'invented' the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Ruth Graves Wakefield (June 17, 1903-January 10, 1977) graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924. After graduation, she worked as a dietitian and food lecturer. In 1930, she and her husband bought the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachussets. It had been built in 1709 and had a rich history of providing a night's solace to weary travelers. Located about halfway between Boston and New Bedford, it was a place where passengers had historically paid a toll, changed horses and eaten much-welcomed home-cooked meals.

When the Wakefields opened their business, they named the establishment the Toll House Inn and took it upon themselves to uphold the lodge's tradition. Ruth cooked and served all the food and soon gained local fame for her desserts. The restaurant had many visitors including Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy (before he gained the U.S. presidency in 1960).

One day in 1934, while preparing a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, a favorite recipe dating back to Colonial days, Ruth cut a bar of NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate into tiny bits and added them to the dough of her Butter Drop Do cookies, expecting them to melt. The chocolate held its shape and softened to a delicate creamy texture. She called it her Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. The resulting creation became very popular at the Inn. Soon after, Wakefield's recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area. Regional sales of NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar skyrocketed.

Eventually Wakefield approached NESTLÉ, and they reached an agreement that permitted NESTLÉ to print what would become the TOLL HOUSE Cookie recipe on the wrapper of their Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar. Part of the agreement included supplying Ruth with all the chocolate she could use to make her delicious cookies for the rest of her life. A pretty sweet deal!

As the popularity of the Toll House cookie grew, Nestle looked for ways to make it easier for people to bake. Soon, they began scoring the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and packaging it with a special chopper for easily cutting it into small morsels. Shortly after, in 1939, they began offering tiny pieces of chocolate in convenient, ready-to-use packages which is how the first NESTLÉ Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels were introduced.

Since first used by Ruth Wakefield in what would become the most popular cookie of all time, NESTLÉ Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels have satisfied the chocolate cravings of millions. Who hasn't made a batch of these cookies using the recipe on the back of the package?

I'm a cookbook collector, and I didn't have a copy of Ruth Wakefield's Toll House Tried and True Recipes (1940), so I just ordered it. It's also available in various reprints. Wakefield donated her personal collection of cookbooks to Special Collections at Henry Whittemore Library at Framingham State College.

Our debt to Ruth Wakefield's toll house chocolate chip cookies is immense, for it would pave the way for cookie and food empires of contemporary women such as Debbie Fields and Martha Stewart.

Original Toll House Cookie Recipe:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Want to see a Baking 101 Video, click Here.

On Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, May 15, I had a post devoted to the Chocolate Chip Cookie. For recipes for Extreme Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Chip overload, go here. Want 27 Tips for Creating the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie? has some great tips. In my blog, I even added a recipe for bacon/chocolate chip cookies.

Ruth Graves Wakefield was born on June 17, so in her honor, I think I'll bake some "original' Toll House cookies today.

Thanks so much to Months of Edible Celebrations for the reminder about this very special birthday.


Suburban prep said...

I just made some of the Toll House cookies this morning. I made them as a pan bar cookies but I used the original recipe. Then I opened my Google reader and saw this post. Well I must have been in sinc about what day it is.

Janet Rudolph said...

Coincidence? Very cool. Enjoy the cookies. I've made the bar, too. Yum.

~~louise~~ said...

What a wonderful tribute to the "mother" of the chocolate chip cookie...I just can't imagine living without that recipe. I mean it! Thanks for celebrating Janet.

BTW: You're Invited!!!

Cookie Monstress said...

very interesting! im doing a report on dat cookie!