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History of the Cookie

Some of the best inventions happen quite by accident.  Cookies are one of the most famous accidental inventions of all.  The very first cookies actually evolved from oven tests.  Early Dutch bakers used very small amounts of cake batter to test the oven temperature to ensure proper baking of the final cake.  These cookies were called “koekje” which literally means “little cake” in Dutch.

Every language has its own name for cookies.  In the UK they eat biscuits.  In Spain they call them galletas.  When in Germany, eat some kels, and if you want cookies in Italy, ask for amereti.  Every country also has a favorite cookie.  For example, in the UK, it’s shortbread, in France they love macaroons and sables and the Italians love biscotti.  In America, our favorite cookie is the Chocolate Chip Cookie.  It too was invented by accident.

The first chocolate chip cookie as we know it today was invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield of Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth owned and ran the Tollhouse Restaurant, (sound familiar??) In her restaurant, Ruth served classic butter drop cookies.  One day though, she decided to make chocolate dough.  In order to make the chocolate-flavored dough, Ruth planned to stir in broken chunks of a semisweet baker’s chocolate bar.  After baking, the chunks kept their shape which resulted in ‘chocolate chips’ within each cookie. These cookies were initially crunchy, not chewy.  Ruth served them to her customers and the rest is history.  Local inn guests, travelers and frequent customers requested Ruth’s new bakery item, and they were a success! When word spread, the recipe was published in a Boston newspaper.

Betty Crocker heard about this famous find in 1939, at which point she featured it on her radio series. The Nestle Chocolate Company also took note of this new idea, and came to an agreement with Ruth to develop the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar featuring the recipe for Ruth’s Tollhouse Cookie printed inside the wrapper. This bar could be easily broken into 'chips' and used for baking.  The following year, Ruth sold the legal rights of the Tollhouse name to Nestle, and the company owned these rights until 1983.  Nestle Toll House chocolate cookies were born!

Variations from the traditional chocolate chip and walnut cookie now include additions of M&M candies, chocolate dough, the addition of other nuts and flavorings, and even cookie sandwiches! Despite these creative recipes, the original chocolate chip cookie continues to delight the young and old alike.