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New England Recipes Masthead I New Egnland Recipes Masthead II

Toll House Cookies StoriesToll House Cookies Recipe & History

Toll House Cookies were developed in Whitman, Massachusetts at the Toll House Restaurant in the 1930’s. They are an original New England recipe. What is interesting are the numerous web sites with distinctly different stories of how the Toll House Cookie was developed. Ironically each of the stories has a flaw.

“Their origin and development is really a story by itself.” (from Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes, 1949)  But what is the real story? One story has Ruth developing a 1796 recipe Butter Drop Do into her Toll House Cookies. Nestle’s story has Ruth substituting their chocolate bar for their competitor’s chocolate square. Employee’s of the Toll House restaurant’s story has Nestle chocolate bars falling off the shelf into a batch of cookie dough and the head chef talking Ruth into letting him bake the ruined cookie dough.

 Ruth in her own words said she and her husband traveled in search of finding new and up to date recipes for her restaurant. To consider the nostalgic / romantic notion Ruth updated a 1796 small cake recipe is incomprehensible. Nestle’s conveniently portrays Ruth as having run out of Baker’s chocolate and substituting Nestle chocolate. The employee’s story has bars of chocolate falling into the dough and breaking up with the electric mixer. The problem is Nestle’ chocolate bars were wrapped in paper. This would have really ruined the cookie dough if the bars actually did accidentally fall into it and were broken up as the paper wrapper would have torn apart and been mixed in with the dough.

Since Ruth was always in search of new recipes a comparison was made of the ingredients in the Toll House Cookies to other cookies recipes from the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Not surprisingly Ruth’s cookies have some strong similarities to two different cookies recipes from the time period. They are the German Chocolate Cookies published in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book from 1910 through 1933 (p. 641) and the Icebox Cookies first published in the Settlement Cook Book (Milwaukee, Wis.) starting in 1921 (p. 496) and later under the name Refrigerator Cookies in the  Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1933 ed., p. 638).

Key Ingredients Comparison

German Chocolate Cookies
2 bars Sweet Chocolate, grated
Brown sugar
Almonds, chopped

Icebox / Refrigerator Cookies
Half - Brown Sugar
Half - White (granulated) Sugar
Nuts, chopped

Toll House Cookies
2 bars Semi-Sweet Chocolate, broken into pieces
Half - Brown Sugar
Half - White Sugar
Nuts, chopped

The Toll House Cookies recipe called for 2 bars of chocolate the same as the German Chocolate Cookies recipe. The Toll House Cookies recipe called for half brown sugar and half granulated (white) sugar the same as the Icebox / Refrigerator Cookies recipe. The Toll House Cookies recipe combined chocolate, brown sugar and chopped nuts the same as the German Chocolate Cookies recipe. There are too many exact matches to be coincidental or accidental.

The German Chocolate Cookies recipe was the only recipe in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book that called for sweet chocolate. All other recipes called for unsweetened chocolate. This is a key factor as Ruth’s Toll House Cookie called for semi-sweet chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate can be eaten as is whereas unsweetened chocolate is bitter and is not eaten as is. Therefore the semi-sweet chocolate was more like the German sweet chocolate than the unsweetened chocolate.

The Toll House Cookies recipe appears to be a combination of the German Chocolate Cookies and Icebox / Refrigerator Cookies. The actual Toll House Cookies recipe altered the quantities of the ingredients slightly and ultimately developed a unique cookie that Ruth was able to successfully market under the Toll House name.  It was the first sugar cookie with chocolate chips.

Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies (1949 ed., page 257-8)
Cream: 1 cup butter
Add: cup brown sugar
        cup white sugar
        2 eggs, beaten
Dissolve: 1 teaspoon baking soda in
                1 teaspoon hot water
Add alternately with
         2 cups flour sifted with
         1 teaspoon salt
Add: 1 cup chopped nuts
         2 packages Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (original recipe called for 2 bars)
Add: 1 teaspoon vanilla

Drop by half teaspoonfuls onto greased cooky sheet. Bake in moderate oven, 375 degrees, for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 100 cookies

“At Toll House, we chill overnight. When mixture is ready for baking, we roll a teaspoon of dough between palms of hands and place balls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Then we press balls with finger tips to form flat rounds. This way cookies do not spread as much in the baking and they keep uniformly round. They should be brown through, and crispy, not white and hard as I have sometimes seen them.”

I prefer the current Nestle’ Toll House Cookies recipe which is on every Nestle’s Chocolate Morsels package with one modification I bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. This produces a chewy cookie.