I can't think of anything more classically American than Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'll bet there is always a batch baking in some home in the USA.
While there is only one official recipe (that is printed on the back of the classic Nestlé yellow bag of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels,) there are an infinite number of variations that depend on the ingredients at hand, the preference of the baker, and the variables of climate and altitude. But no matter whether you prefer them with or without nuts, crunchy or soft and chewy, with added rolled oats, raisins, peanut butter, white chocolate chips, toffee pieces, or cinnamon, you are bound to be cheered when you walk into a room with a plate full of just-out-of-the-oven warm cookies.
When I was little I believed the origin of these cookies began when a generous toll booth attendant, who was also a talented baker, gave them to people as they drove through. Her delicious cookies became so popular that the lines at the toll booths got longer as people tried to get in her lane.
But according to Nestlé it actually started in 1939 when Ruth Wakefield, who ran the Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, added broken pieces of Nestlé Semi-Sweet chocolate into her cookie recipe expecting the chocolate to melt. But they held their shape and created a delicious treat. Her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper and the chocolate chip cookie soon became the #1 cookie in the USA.
This recipe makes about 36 cookies.
They don't need to baked all at one time; I like to spoon cookie dough onto a tray and freeze them, saving them in a covered container to bake whenever a warm cookie would be a nice surprise.
Use this Original Toll House recipe as the base for your cookies and experiment with adding your favorite ingredients.
See below for high altitude and baking without an oven suggestions.
Preheat the oven to 375°
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in flour mixture gradually.
Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Drop onto ungreased baking sheet by rounded tablespoon
Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes.
Remove to wire rack or marble surface to cool.
Notes for Baking at High Altitude
Follow the steps in the recipe above, but make the following substitutions in the measurements and add water:
Notes for Baking on a Stovetop
If you don't have an oven you can bake these cookies on a stovetop with a bit of practice. Stovetop baking is an art because there are no standard heat settings. I find it better to make the cookies larger when using this method.
All you'll need is a large skillet with a well fitting lid (cast iron, non-stick, any type will work.)
Preheat the skillet and the lid (unless it's glass,) on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
Melt extra butter in the skillet and place the cookie dough in by large even spoonfuls, cover, and cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes. When you start smelling the fragrant deliciousness, it's a good sign that they're nearly ready.
After you remove the pan from the heat and let it stand still covered for a few more minutes to bake.
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