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The Ultimate All-American Creation: the Chocolate Chip Cookie

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Lauren Braun Costello
About the author: Lauren Braun Costello
The competent cook; food stylist; cooking instructor; graduate French Culinary Institute. To die for dish? Maple glazed bacon wrapped roast turkey. Yep, bacon wrapped.

Chocolate chip cookies are as American a treat as you can bake. Most likely you have tasted hundreds of them over the years. But some of our nation's most heralded figures, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, never knew of our country's favorite cookie. Believe it or not, the chocolate chip cookie is just 75 years young, the result of a happy accident at a small country inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.

In 1930, Ruth and Kenneth Wakefield bought the Toll House Inn where Ruth prepared freshly baked treats for guests. One fateful day, Ruth ran out of baker's chocolate for her chocolate cookies. She decided to replace the ingredient with one of the semi-sweet bars that Andrew Nestle, of the renowned chocolate family, had given to her. She figured that the chocolate would melt and blend with the dough. Much to her surprise and to a nation's gratitude, the chocolate pieces held their shape and were not absorbed by the dough. Thus, the Toll House cookie was born.

The chocolate chip cookie grew popular over the years, so Nestle responded by producing chocolate bars the way Ruth had broken them -- scored in small chunks. Eventually Nestle created semi-sweet chocolate morsels so that America's most popular cookie could be baked with ease. Whatever your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, the following tips will help you perfect your own version of this American classic.

Chewy or Crispy?
Everybody seems to feel strongly about whether chocolate chip cookies should be chewy or crispy. There is no right or wrong way -- it's just a matter of preference. The trick to making a cookie chewy or crispy is really quite simple. If you underbake your cookies by a few minutes so that the edges are golden and crisp, but the centers appear still slightly raw, you will have a chewy cookie. To make crispy chocolate chip cookies, bake them for a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for, and remove them from the sheet pan immediately to cool.
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Batter Basics
Cookies made with butter will spread out as they bake because butter melts at a lower temperature than, say, margarine or shortening. Cookies made with margarine, shortening, or even oil will hold their shape more. The form the cookies take in the baking process will play a role in whether they will be flat and potentially crispy, or puffy and chewy.

Different sugars also yield various results. Using exclusively white sugar will make a crispy chocolate chip cookie, especially if paired with butter. Light or dark brown sugars will help to produce a chewier cookie, particularly if a fat other than butter is used with it. It is no surprise, then, that many chocolate chip cookie recipes call for a combination of sugars for balance.

Chocolate selection, of course, is also important to the kind of cookie you will bake. Semi-sweet tends to be the most popular, given the origin of the chocolate chip cookie. But using milk, dark, white or any combination thereof will certainly work. The size and quantity of the chocolate used will also affect the taste and flavor of each bite. If you are making small, bite-size cookies, consider using mini chocolate chips. For a rich, chocolate-dense cookie, use chunks instead.

Temperature and Equipment
Most chocolate chip cookies are baked at 350 degrees F. So, the more critical temperature consideration is that of the dough itself before you bake it. Very soft, warm dough will spread out when baked, whereas chilled, firm dough will keep more of its shape. If you chill your dough before baking, slice it or form it into balls, depending on whether you want the cookies to be flat or puffy, respectively.

Choose a cookie sheet that is of a medium weight and line it with parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet to ensure even baking and easy removal from the pan. A thin sheet pan will likely burn the bottom of the cookies without evenly cooking the tops. Greasing a cookie sheet is a useful technique to prevent the cookies from sticking, but the additional fat causes the dough to spread, which is potentially problematic if you like your chocolate chip cookies puffy.

The best way to achieve your ideal chocolate chip cookie is to experiment with ingredients and techniques. Try using different fats and sugars. Make sure you have a good cookie sheet and invest in reusable nonstick baking liner. So, break out the mixing bowl, grab some chocolate and continue this quintessential American tradition!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

photo of Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Made with bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract

get the recipe

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   Great article, gave me much needed information, thank you.

Comment posted by Katz

   This is one of the best cooking articles I've read in a long time - anywhere! Not only did it have a bit of history - but it gave very concrete information on how to acheive the type of cookie desired. I had seen bits and pieces of this kind of info but this article puts it all in one place with easy to follow advice. Thank you - and my cookies thank you!

Comment posted by Megan

   Lauren has written the perfect article on something near and dear to many of our hearts! And stomachs! The history behind the chocolate chip cookie was interesting, and concise enough to keep the flow of the article going. The tips and suggestions were clearly written, thorough and invaluable. I also liked the fact that Lauren encourages personal experimentation to suit our own tastes. Lauren's journalistic, as well as culinary expertise shines through in this great piece. Thanks so much!

Comment posted by Gary

   Your article on chocolate chip cookies was brilliant. I've been a cookie fan for years, and am a fan of Davids and Mrs Fields. Well-written and informative, loved it.

Comment posted by mary ellen armstrong

   Nice article about the origin of choclate chip cookies.

Comment posted by Pat

   I love your article but is it possibal for you to post an experiment to change the ingredients of a cookie to possibly find a better cookie? thanks. -kaye

Comment posted by kaye

   hi thanks for that great article. i help with my hw assingment. and i love toll's house.i love the info you provide for my hw assingment.i take foods 1 at my school!!!!!it really fun. and you are very pretty.and must be a great cook to know this stuff. bye. ashley stallcop

Comment posted by ash

   Hi,, With reference to your comparison of Chewy or Crispy Chocolate chip Cookies. What effects or changes would I expect in the amount of eggs used in this or other cookie recipe?? e.g. harder or softer cookie? Itâs my opinion, I believe if its chewy it should be called a cake not a cookie. Thanks, Dennis P.

Comment posted by dennis pasch

   The article was timely, I just mixed a batch of refrigerater cookies. my daughter likes chewy and I like crispy. Now I will be able to make what each person likes because of this article

Comment posted by justbyvic


Comment posted by candy

   thanks i have been looking for a great chewy cookie recipe

Comment posted by candy

   I am doing a project on chocolate chip cookies...and some of the facts have really helped!

Comment posted by Jane

   I am doing a demontrative project and I need the history of this cookie. Thanks so much it was a huge help!!

Comment posted by Alissa

   OMG! you like saved my LIFE!!! u gave me excually what i needed to do my project.[its due tommorrow] lol. but thanks . I♥U

Comment posted by chyna

   this helped me with my project soo much thanks!!

Comment posted by dulce_girl

   What if you don't have the option of baking your cookies at the proper temperature? I'll leave my reasons out of it, but I want to know whether, for instance, your normal-sized cookies will EVER bake properly at a superlow temperature such as 175 degrees F. I'm not sure if that is warm enough to produce the chemical changes that change dough into cookie. If not, what is the lowest possible temperature that they can be cooked at? (Assuming that it just has to be safe to eat, not perfect!)

Comment posted by Lindsay

   i love it

Comment posted by josh

   Thank you so much for the information . I have to do an informative speech with a demonstration and this had some new ideas thanks again! nikki

Comment posted by nikkik20100

   your website really helped!!...... im doing a project.!.

Comment posted by hubbub24

   has any one even tried this recipe? I"m looking for a cookie thats chewy inside and quite crispy outside, big chunky shape, not one that flattens out. I"ve tried many recipes and can't quite get what I want- hate to keep using ingredents.

Comment posted by lynney


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