[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] Sounds like the dialogue for a television commercial but it is a true story, happening all over the country -- a story hardly anyone has the courage to talk about to any but the closest friend.

You see, the recipe dearest to the heart of every red- (and, I suspect, blue-) blooded American girl has changed. It all began 60-odd years ago, when, long before chocolate was sold in tiny conical chips, home bakers broke up chocolate bars into small pieces and put them into their sugar cookies, where they did not melt but merely softened to make an ethereal combination. ("David Schmavid," a dowager baker was heard to say recently. "We've been making those cookies since before he was born.")

The Chocolate Crunch Cookie (as it was called then) was popularized by Ruth Wakefield in 1930, the cook-proprietor of the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts. The Nestle' Company got wind of her success and bought the right to use the Original Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle' Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels package, where it has flown since they were first available, 1939. This recipe often serves as the first cooking lesson to budding bakers of this generation; those of the last era know it by heart, having graduated from that school of Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking long ago.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Nestle' Company was required to run the recipe intact for 40 years, at which time it could -- and did -- change.

Now, the Nestle' Company, being a worldwide conglomerate of gargantuan proportions and importance, resembles nothing more than one of the larger government agencies. Those people in White Plains decided that with modern ingredients and baking practices, it would behoove them to make the recipe easier. So they made two significant changes in the Original Toll House Cookie recipe: a) the flour no longer needs to be sifted, and b) the 1/4 teaspoon of water has been omitted.

The addition of the minuscule amount of water was a tradition with this recipe. We all added it to the batter as told, without questioning why it was there. (For those who really want to know, it has to do with single-acting baking powder, which needed water to activate it; double-acting baking powder is used almost exclusively today.) The unsifted flour, on the other hand, is the change that has made the difference in the quality of the chocolate chip cookies.

After a substantial amount of testing and tasting by a Blue Ribbon panel, the results are in: The old cookies are better, crisper, yet at the same time richer, and -- for some undetermined reason -- perceived to be less sweet than the newfangled version (considered a plus by adult tasters).

The accompanying chart illustrates the genealogy of the chocolate chip cookie, American-style. Of the eight cookbooks that were consulted, seven contain a recipe virtually identical to Ruth Wakefield's original version, all without attribution. Maida Heatter's recipe is included because it is different from the rest (more butter and more flour for the same amount of batter, and no egg), and because of her justified stature in the cookie world. Still, our aforementioned Blue Ribbon Panel found her Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies, though delicious, slightly softer and less satisfying than the Toll House standard.


In an electric mixer, beat butter until softened. Add sugars, vanilla, water (or milk or other liquid that is in the recipe). Beat until creamy, add eggs (if included). In the meantime, sift together salt, baking soda and flour (and cocoa powder, in the case of Maida Heatter's recipe). Add slowly to the wet ingredients in the mixer. By hand stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. If you have time, refrigerate the batter overnight. Bake on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until light brown. Cookies will crisp as they cool.

(Form cookies into teaspoon-sized balls, either with two spoons or by rolling between your palms. Cookies will spread as they bake.)

Average yield: 50 cookies.