This is the original recipe for Toll House chocolate crunch cookies, invented in the 1930s by Ruth Wakefield for her restaurant the Toll House Inn.
Although legend has it that the first chocolate crunch cookies were created by mistake, Ruth herself said that it was a deliberate experiment. In a moment of inspiration, she chopped up a Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bar into bits and mixed them into her favorite butter cookie dough. The new chocolate crunch cookies became so popular that Nestlé took note, and signed a contract with Ruth Wakefield to allow them to print the recipe on their chocolate bar labels.
At first, Nestlé started scoring their chocolate bars so that it would be easy to cut them into small squares for the cookies. By 1939, however, they developed semi-sweet morsels – chocolate chips – that could be added directly to the cookie dough with no need for chopping. Later versions of the recipe called for chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate and increased the size of the cookies slightly, but otherwise, the recipe currently printed on Nestlé’s packaging is almost identical to the original. I’ve made the modern version many times (although with my own tweaks – I usually ditch the nuts and add extra chocolate chips instead), but I wanted to try the recipe as Ruth Wakefield originally wrote it.
Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies:
- 1 cup butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp hot water
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- 14 oz semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pea-sized pieces
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs.
- Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water (I don’t think this step is actually necessary with modern baking soda, but I did it anyway) and add it alternately to the mixture along with the sifted flour and salt. Add the vanilla (the recipe lists it at the end, but it makes more sense to add it here).
- Mix in the chopped nuts and chocolate.
- Drop the cookie dough by half-teaspoons on a cookie sheet (or, if you’re like me and that seems like a ridiculously tiny cookie to you, make them as large as you like).
- Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are brown and the middles are just set.
In a later edition of her cookbook, Ruth Wakefield added the following note to the recipe: “At Toll House we chill this dough overnight. When ready for baking, we roll a teaspoon of dough between palms of hands and place balls two 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.” I tested this by baking half of my cookies the day the dough was made, and baking the other half the next day after chilling them overnight. With such small cookies, chilling the dough really didn’t seem to make a difference in the shape; the chilled cookies were slightly more round than the others, but it was barely noticeable. Feel free to make them whichever way you prefer.
Ruth Wakefield definitely created a classic. The original cookies are a little smaller, nuttier, and crisper than what I typically make; I can see where the “crunch” in the name came from. Although using chocolate chips is a little easier, I really like the texture of the chopped chocolate. It disperses a little better into the dough while still leaving plenty of gooey chocolatey chunks. While in future I might stick to my own method of making these much, much larger and without the nuts, I’m glad I tried out the original recipe. I’m very thankful to Ruth Wakefield for her invention – it’s hard to imagine a world before chocolate chip cookies existed.
Miller, Jeanine Head. (2020, May 29). Inventing America’s favorite cookie. The Henry Ford. https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/inventing-america-s-favorite-cookie
Roberts, S. (2018, March 21). Overlooked no more: Ruth Wakefield, who invented the chocolate chip cookie. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/obituaries/overlooked-ruth-wakefield.html
Wakefield, R.G. (1940). Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House tried and true recipes. New York: M. Barrows & Company, Inc. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009058783