Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Apologies to Ruth Wakefield.

I grew up loving the classic Toll House Cookie.

You know....from the back of the Nestle's Chocolate Chip bag? Because she anticipated the almost frenzied response she would get from us, my mother always tried to bake them in complete secrecy. But we always knew. Always.

We could smell them baking....but she was always quick enough to conceal them. I am firmly convinced that it was just because she didn't like to share. Seriously, I remember coming home from the movies one night and instantly smelling their familiar aroma. When I stepped into the family room where my parents were watching late night T.V., they both sat there straight faced and told me that the aroma was a freshly baked Prune Danish. But I knew better. After they were cooled, she always stored them high on top of the refrigerator in an old black tin that had red and blue flowers all over it. We always found them. She always lined the tin with wax paper (she thought plastic wrap was too expensive) and besides, she always said that the tin kept the cookies a little crispy whereas the plastic wrap would produce a softer texture. Soft, hard, crunchy, chewy, who cared what the texture was as long as there were chocolate chips involved.

Now, when it comes to Toll House Cookies, my sister Kathy is a chip off the old block. No pun intended. She has been baking classic Toll House Cookies since she was old enough to hold a measuring spoon (well, almost) and I'm here to tell you that they are as good as (but most likely better than) my mother's. I just know I'm going to burn for that one. Kathy can bake them with her eyes closed, standing on one foot and with her hands behind her back.
Over the years, she has played around with butter vs. margarine, flour measurements, oven temperature, baking time, portioning batter etc. She takes note of the little differences with each change, but seriously the cookies aren't around her house long enough to really research any findings. For this posting, I wanted to challenge her to a massive Chocolate Chip Cookie "Throwdown"............until I realized that no one is actually physically thrown down.......drat it. Because if that were the case I would definitely win.


"Ruth Wakefield invented the Toll House brand of chocolate chip cookies. Ruth Graves Wakefield graduated from the Framingham State School, Department of Household Arts in 1924. (I think that's the same as Home Economics) She worked as a dietitian and lectured on food, until, together with her husband she bought a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn.

(People were a little blurry back in the 20's)

Ruth Wakefield prepared the recipes for the meals served to the guests at the Inn and gained local notoriety for her desserts. One of her favorite recipes was for Butter Drop Dough cookies. The recipe called for the use of baker's chocolate and one day Ruth found herself without the needed ingredient. Instead of panicking, she substituted a semi-sweet chocolate bar cut up into bits. However, unlike the baker's chocolate the chopped up chocolate bar did not melt completely, the small pieces only softened. As it so happened the chocolate bar had been a gift from Andrew Nestle of the Nestle Chocolate Company. As the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe became popular, sales of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate bar increased. Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging and Ruth Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate."

Or so the story goes. Betcha didn't know all of that, did you??? Hopefully this topic will come up while you're playing Trivial Pursuit and you will blow everyone away with your extraordinary facts about Ruth Wakefield and the Toll House Cookie.

I love them, really I do. But one day I found this recipe and ever since that time I've wanted to test its claim that it is the best chocolate chip cookie. Ever. Jacques Torres developed this recipe and published it in the New York Times. Among other things, he is a pastry genius. The key to this recipe is to refrigerate the cookie dough for a minimum of 24 hours before baking the cookies. The article suggests that allowing the dough to "rest" make the cookies more moist, therefore more flavorful. This is Jacques.


Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (2 1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Sea Salt

Sift cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt (not the sea salt) in a large bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar about 5 minutes on medium speed.

Don't forget to add the eggs. The eggs always get the "bums rush" in cookie recipes. Speaking of "bums", I'll have to remember this particular photo as I'm taste-testing these cookies. Would it be counter-productive to eat these cookies while using the Elliptical? Just asking.

Okay, now add the eggs, one at a time (no shells please) mixing well after each one, then stir in the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined...only about 10 seconds, then turn off the machine.

Add the chocolate pieces and incorporate them into the batter with a large spatula making sure not to break up the larger pieces.

Press plastic wrap into the dough and refrigerate for about 24 hours. When ready to bake, turn oven to 350 degrees. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and use a small scoop (about the size of a golf ball or just a little smaller).

Sweet Moses, someone is always taking my tools. I'm always missing spatula's, slotted spoons, bowls, now I'm missing my small-sized scoop. Here it is.........

No, that's the large one. I can't understand where this stuff goes. I put it somewhere, and then it goes missing again. Wait.......never mind, I found it.

Stuck in the back of the drawer underneath the potato peeler. So that's where that went. I stopped eating potatoes years ago when I just got tired of looking for the peeler. I think I just need to bring in the backhoe, bulldoze my kitchen and start from scratch. The house was built in the 60's when apparently there was no need for storage or organization. Personally, I think the designer for the kitchen in this house was a little too high on life, if you get my drift. Sigh. I think it's just going to be easier to buy another house.

Where was I? Ah yes. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown. About 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool and repeat with remaining dough.

I placed a dozen per baking sheet and found that by using the scoop, I got a consistent result every time.

This recipe will make approximately 5 dozen (60) cookies.

I just love it when a cookie smiles back at me.

Jacques Torres's Chocolate Chip Cookies are really delicious and well worth the few extra steps. However, the 24 hour "hold" kind of threw me. I kept throwing glances at the refrigerator all day as if waiting for it to explode. That was one of the toughest 24 hours of my life. The anticipation was excruciating. But are they the "best chocolate chip cookie. Ever?"

I really had to think about it. And taste test. With milk. Cold milk. It was a roller coaster ride of emotion until I finally reached my decision.

Mr. Torres, you bake a mean cookie, sir. My hat is off to you. Your talents are unsurpassed, your ingredients are sublime.

Your technique is flawless AND you are very handsome I might add..........but I think I'm hopelessly stuck on Ruthie's cookies. ("That's what he said") And just to make sure I wasn't having some type of chocolate-chip psychotic episode, I made up a quick batch of Toll House Cookies......just to compare them. I mean, it was the only fair thing to do, right?

What it comes down to for me is just this: The differences between these two cookies are unremarkable yet immeasurable. They are so similar yet they are still worlds apart.

So my apologies to Ruth Wakefield. I had a chocolate "chip" on my shoulder and I was definitely out to challenge her. I thought I was on to something. I was going to raise the bar, reach for the stars, shoot for the moon, take a ride around the sun and while I was at it.......change the earth's rotation. I was wrong.

I don't know about you, but I think it's the overall texture and chocolate chip-per-bite ratio that's important to me. Will they survive a dunk in an ice cold glass of milk?

How long do they keep fresh? I realize that I can just adjust any recipe to my particular specifications........but what would be the point? Why waste time trying to improve on perfection? Try them. Both cookie recipes are divine, but only one of them will have my heart forever.

Nice job Ruthie.


Lisa said...





???So when are you coming down again???

Patteee said...

He lost me at, "The key to this recipe is to refrigerate the cookie dough for a minimum of 24 hours before baking the cookies. The article suggests that allowing the dough to "rest" make the cookies more moist, therefore more flavorful."

Sorry, cookie dough does not last in my frig for 24 hours. I am not even going to try!

Thanks for a great post- I totally love you blog-

I BLEED PINK said...

Wow, those cookies look so GOOD! Can I ask, did the cake flour make a huge difference in the texture?

Joellen said...

I too was raised on the tollhouse cookie recipe. I try to mix it up, change the ratio of flour but I always come back.
I have a friend that adds vanilla pudding instead of the vanilla, its really good. Makes a fluffy cookie if you are in to that kind of thing.

SimplySweeter said...

I Bleed Pink: To answer your question about the cake flour, yes I think it made a difference in texture. The cake flour made it a more tender cookie, but I think the bread flour made it a chewier texture.

Aunt Grace said...

WHAT!!Cookie dough in the know how long that would last?? Your Mother used to do the same thing with Bob and Ray, me too, but...thats how I learned to HIDE things from her, like her newly bought dress that I coulden't get off fast enough so she woulden't see me wearing it. She had the best style, that's why I was the best dressed kid at St. Pats High...remember the peanut butter cookies with the hershey kisses Bill went crazy smelling thoes.

Teton Valley Mom said...

I also grew up on the traditional Toll House recipe and love it. I only do one thing differently- I use Mexican vanilla- it makes everything divine! Like Patteee said, cookie dough wouldn't last in my fridge for 24 hours, either. My boys love cookie dough balls more than they love baked cookies!

Anonymous said...

Just pass the cookie dough please. When I was younger - my Dear Mother (your Aunt Grace) didn't know about salmonella or ecoli...She'd graciously give us the spoon. Now that I have grown into a responsible adult. We sample 1/2 the batter before throwing in the eggs. Thank goodness for your tip on putting them aside - it's saved my children from bathroom breaks!!!! ;-)

About the organizational thing - Time for some divine intervention -ask Jen (she's got it mastered) or if she's busy simply ask St. Anthony. (He can find anything!)

Love, Marg

By the way, as I was reading your post - Brian (7) was sitting on my lap. Oh how I wish you all could have heard his slurping moans, and groans as I read!! ;-) (So funny!)

amandadawn said...

Now, I've also heard to put pearl sugar instead of sea salt on the cookies, and I'm not really sure what the difference is, it tastes somewhat the same to me. You?

Stephanie said...

Butter Crisco sticks make an even better Toll House chocolate chip cookie.

Finnskimo said...

Oh honey, you MUST try these, they are thr winner hands down!!!!

"Wait" for 24 hours???? Oh no, no, no!