To celebrate the golden anniversary of the creation of the chocolate chip cookie we bring you these true stories from the annals of crime. This is not to denegrate 50 years of cookie consumption, but to demonstrate the seriousness with which people treat their sweets.
Kenneth Harsh, 49, was removed from a Norfolk movie theater and charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to surrender his chocolate chip cookie. He had violated the theater's regulation prohibiting the consumption of food purchased outside of the theater. This occured over a year ago, but Harsh's wife is still scarred. "It was such a small cookie!" she said on the phone recently. The movie was "Agatha," a detective story of sorts.
Two years ago, Larry Wallick, 22 and Ruth Bushnell, 28 faced fines of $25 each for dropping chocolate chip cookie crumbs on a curb in Fire Island. Eating cookies in public was in violation of a local litter ordinance. After extensive protest, including T-shirts printed with "Cookies? Yes!" the case was dropped.
Poor Fred Jackson of Detroit got caught by two policemen 11 years ago climbing out of a grocery store window with 5 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. He got up to 10 years in jail for an attempt to commit larceny. (he had a nasty record of 3 previous felony charges.)
This is not what Mrs. Wakefield had in mind when she invented what is generally thought to be the first chocolate chip cookie. It was in the kitchen of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass, in 1930. What she wanted was a sort of innocent chocolate shortbread cookie. She thought if she took a basic "Drop Do" cookie batter and added some pieces of a chocolate bar to the cookies, the chocolate would melt and she would have it.
Half a century later we, and millions of chocolate chip cookie eaters who went before us, are very grateful the bits didn't melt and that Mrs. Wakefield's customers did.
The Toll House's cookies became so popular that the Nestle Company made her a bar scored in tiny sections that were snipped with a special chocolate chopper. To make things even easier for the proprietress of the inn, nine years later Nestle's made and packaged its first semi-sweet chocolate chips. (They call them morsels.)
But it's always possible to build a better mousetrap or bake a better cookie, which the Washington YWCA bakery (at 17th and K streets) proved many years ago. The Y's chocolate chip cookie has been the undisputed all-around favorite here despite vigorous hype and packaging attempts to knock off the Y's crown (such as Famous Amos).
The bakery has given up even discussing calls demanding copies of the recipe, and the staff stays firm: "Nope, I've told to say nothing about those cookies," said one worker. Dorothy Tousignant, who runs the food service operation and supervises the sellilng of about 1,200 chocolate chip cookies a day, is uncooperative on the telephone. She swears the recipe has not changed since its inception and hotly denies the charge that mini-chips have been substituted for the larger, more expensive chips. Tousignant would rather have you come down and look for yourself. She also angrily justifies the 45 cents each cookie costs, "There is a minimum margin of profit . . . Either the product sells for the right price or you get off the market." Or: If you can't pay for the cookie, get out of the kitchen.
Some customers have been defecting to the Cookie Connection in the Farragut North Metro station. They are selling regular and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies at a rate of over 100 pounds per day ($3.98 per pound). The cookies come fresh and warm -- the chips slightly melted but still intact -- from the ovens and are made with all natural ingredients. (What they are, we're not sure.)
Since this is such a clandestine and competitive business -- not one commercial cookie salesperson wanted to part with a recipe -- the Food Section asked for home recipes hoping to rival the excellence of the Y and the Cookie Connection. We received more than 40 recipes, some of them duplications. We baked 18 and held a blind tasting. The tasters were clearly divided with the biggest point of contention crispy versus chewy. The chewies won by a very slim margin. (But we discovered if the oven temperature was raised by 25 degrees, the bookies baked longer and smashed down flatter, a chewy would come out crunchy. That should make it easier to keep peace in families of contentious cookie lovers.)
The chips used were 100 percent semi-sweet chocolate (Hershey and Nestles are available), not the new bogus chocolate-flavored baking chips. All other ingredients used were as instructed
Here are the winners:
This recipe comes from Rhyder McClure, a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, Fla. He and a partner had big hopes of making zillions of dollars off chocolate chip cookies. McClure explains he began a "corporation named Major Bucks -- " a pun for money he and his partner hoped to make as cookie capitalists.
"On weekends my partner and I drove all over Miami looking for the ideal location. On weekdays I slaved over a hot oven for 10 to 16 hours a day, diligently searching for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie.
"Friends and acquaintances became fat and jolly from 'testing' my recipes, while my waistline never wavered; I ate just two cookies per batch! The tasters ranged from children to gourmets, and I stuffed them mercilessly and grilled them incessnatly about taste, texture and aftertaste; I was looking for a cookie that would keep coming on for several minutes, a cookie so sensational that merely thinking about it would cause the mouth to water! And, I was going to settle for nothing less.
"I baked like a man possessed for nearly two months and filled large notebooks with secretly coded recipes until I arrived at the recipe that puts every other chocolate chip cookie in the entire galaxy to shame. It is a cookie, in fact, that excedded my wildest hope.
"To make this long story somewhat shorter, Major Bucks went belly up. Between the cost of ingredients, rent labor and equipment, we had the world's finest $10 a pound chocolate chip cookie -- and that was when Amos was selleng his cookies for $3 a pound!"
You will notice the measurements are tedious, but McClure explains the reason: "The key to superlative baking is precise measuring, exact oven temperature and strict attentiaon to baking time. Forget the measuring cup and get out the measuring spoons. Take the extra time to get exact measurements. When a tablespoon or teaspoon is called for, it means exactly that -- no more, no less, just a perfect, flattipped measuring spoon full.
"The oven temperature for this cookie is 350 degrees. Not 340 or 360 degrees. I use two thermometers in my oven, but then I know the temperature is exactly 350 degrees. It may be nuts, but it's important. Rhyder mcclure's chocolate chip cookie
Mix well and put aside: 24 tablespoons bleached flour 22 tablespoons unbleached flour 1 teaspoon plus a pinch of baking soda 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1 good pinch nutmeg
Blend well in a large mixing bowl: 2 sticks of unsalted butter 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening 6 tablespoonsd peanut butter 2 tablespoons white sugar 8 tablespoons light brown sugar 12 tablespoons brown sugar 3 teaspoons vanilla 1 teaspoon orange juice 1 teaspoon perked coffee
Add the flour mixture bit by bit to the butter mixture, stirring continually. When the two are fully blended, add: 1 beaten egg 12 ounces of chocolate chips 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of shredded coconut
Mix, stir or knead the ingredients into a solid ball of dough. If everything has been done correctly the dough ball can easily be removed from the bowl and flipped in the air. There is no need to do this, other than funnin', but it is an accurate test of the baker's measuring skills.
Allow the dough to oxidize in open air for half an hour and then place 1/2-inch diameter balls of dough on a cookie pan and bake exactly 8 1/2 minutes. Place the baked cookies in a sealable container as soon as they come off the pan, and try not to eat them for at least 12 hours -- they improve with a little age.
This recipe takes less time, and has a few more surprises (like rasins and pecans) than McClure's dough. Penny Reeder of Gaithersbury invented these cookies for her son, Alexander, 2 1/2. It is a contest between the two of them to see who eats the most. PENNY REEDER'S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE (Makes about 6 dozen) 1 cup solid vegetable shortening 1 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons unbleached flour 1 teaspoon soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups chocolate chips 1 cup raisins 1 cup pecans
Cream shortening with sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Combine dry ingredients. Gradually stir into shortening mixture. Stir in chips, raisins and nuts. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased baking sheets.Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.