A Brief History of the Chocolate Chip

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Celebrating National Chocolate Chip Day—not a federal holiday, at least not yet—should be easy enough for all the classic dessert lovers and cookie aficionados out there. Just grab a bag of some chocolate morsels, whip them into some delectable cookie dough, and have at it. But have you ever wondered where exactly the chocolate chip came from? Who invented it? Who decided it was best for baking? Should we be calling it a “chip” or a “morsel”? We’ve got all those answers—and more!—in our brief history of the chocolate chip.

THE TOLL HOUSE MYTH


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Chances are, you’ve made (or at least eaten) a Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie at some point in your life. The baking bits purveyor has long stamped their “Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe on the back of their various morsel packages (and yes, all Nestle packages refer to them as “morsels,” not “chips,” but we’ll get to that later), so it’s no surprise that most people associate the famous cookie with Nestle.

They’ve even got a whole story to go along with the kinda-sorta myth of the Toll House cookie. The traditional tale holds that Toll House Inn owner Ruth Wakefield invented the cookie when she ran out of baker’s chocolate, a necessary ingredient for her popular Butter Drop Do cookies (which she often paired with ice cream—these cookies were never meant to be the main event), and tried to substitute some chopped up semi-sweet chocolate instead. The chocolate was originally in the form of a Nestle bar that was a gift from Andrew Nestle himself—talk about an unlikely origin story! The semi-sweet chunks didn’t melt like baker’s chocolate, however, and though they kept their general shape (you know, chunky), they softened up for maximum tastiness. (There’s a whole other story that imagines that Wakefield ran out of nuts for a recipe, replacing them with the chocolate chunks.)

The recipe was such a hit (it first popped up in Wakefield’s Tried and True cookbook in 1938, and it even appeared on Betty Crocker’s radio show, thanks to its massive popularity) that Wakefield eventually struck a deal with Nestle: They would feature her recipe on the back of every bar of semi-sweet chocolate the company sold, and she’d get a lifetime supply of their chocolate. 

THE FAMOUS RECIPE


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Sounds great, right? Well, even if the story wasn’t exactly true (more on that later), it did spawn a classic recipe that’s still the gold standard of chocolate chip cookie recipes, even though it’s been slightly tweaked over the years. You can find the original recipe here. Try it!

THE REAL ORIGIN


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The problem with the classic Toll House myth is that it doesn't mention that Wakefield was an experienced and trained cook—one not likely to simply run out of things, let accidents happen in her kitchen, or randomly try something out just to see if it would end up with a tasty result. As author Carolyn Wyman posits in her Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book, Wakefield most likely knew exactly what she was doing, and while that doesn’t dilute how delicious the final product ended up being, it does make its mythic origin story seem just a smidge less magical. 

Even less magical? The truth about the deal Wakefield struck with Nestle. While Wakefield did indeed get free chocolate for the rest of her life and the company paid her to work as a consultant, she was reportedly due a single dollar for her recipe and the good “Toll House” name—a dollar she never got.

CHIPS VERSUS MORSELS


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Although we call the cookies that bear them "chocolate chip," the proper name for said chips is actually “morsels”—at least if you’re Nestle.

The moniker “chip” appears to have first popped up in the late nineteenth century, as part of an English tea biscuit recipe for “Chocolate Chips.” These chips, however, referred to the biscuits’ shape—they were cut out of the pan into small strips that the recipe deemed as being “chips.” Interestingly, the recipe did call for actual chocolate—but of the melted variety, not the morsel.

In 1892, the “chip” title was first applied to candy, as a Kaufmanns candy ad from the time boasted of their supply of “chocolate chips.” A year later, another candy store advertised their own chocolate chip candies. Not so fast, though, because it doesn’t seem like those chips had much to do with morsels as we know them; an 1897 court case involving the use of the trademarked name “Trowbridge Chocolate Chips” described the chips in question as “thin oblong pieces of molasses candy coated with chocolate.” This thin candy business continued into the 1930s, when Wakefield’s recipe hit the world.

Wakefield’s first published chocolate chip cookie recipe was actually called “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.” When Nestle began publicizing the recipe, they simply became “Toll House Cookies.” Since no one had bothered to invent pre-made chunks, morsels, or chips at that time, Wakefield’s recipe graced the back of semi-sweet bars, which all included an individual cutter to chunk up the bars for cookie-making. The famous cookies finally got the “chip” moniker some time in 1940, thanks to various newspaper articles and recipes about various cookies and their popularity. By 1941, “chocolate chip cookies” was considered the standard name for the sweet treat.

Also in 1940, Nestle finally unveiled morsels for sale, and ads from the time tout the availability of both bars and morsels. Since then, Nestle has shared its famous chocolate chip recipe, all while selling its most important ingredient as “morsels” (other brands, like Hershey’s and Ghirardelli, call them “chips”).

THE FAMOUS IMITATORS

Although Nestlé’s morsels and Wakefield’s recipe pioneered the great chocolate chip cookie trail, they weren’t the only ones—there were plenty of imitators. In the '50s, both Nestle and Pillsbury rolled out premade cookie dough for purchase. In 1963, Chips Ahoy hit shelves, thanks to Nabisco. By the time the '70s rolled around, entire stores were dedicated to cookie sales—including chocolate chips—like Famous Amos, Mrs. Fields, and David’s Cookies. What do they all have in common? That necessary chip. Er, morsel.

Happy Chocolate Chip Day!

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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