Women's History Month | Ruth Wakefield and the Toll House Cookie EmpireBy Naquawna L. Tue, March 30, 2021
Educated at Framingham State Normal School, now known as Framingham State University, Graves gained an associate's degree in Household Arts. What is Household Arts, might you ask? In the early 1900s, Household Arts was an educational discipline that can be compared to today’s Culinary Arts curriculum. Mainly, it consisted of food science, cooking, food preservation, and dietetics. After completing her degree in 1924, Graves became a Home Economics teacher at a local high school, until she married her husband, Kenneth Wakefield, in 1928.
Preceding her marriage, Ruth and her husband opened a tourist lodge, The Tollhouse Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts, during 1930. Though the economy had a substantial decline, Ruth and her husband quit their jobs to follow their dreams of creating a food establishment that served exceptional food at reasonable prices. Utilizing the skills she acquired from Framingham, Ruth created, prepared, and served all of the meals for the Inn, gaining local popularity for her lobster dinners and desserts. Some resources suggest the cookies were created in 1938, when Ruth realized she was out of baker’s chocolate and substituted broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate, assuming it would melt into the batter as it baked. The chocolate didn’t melt, creating the world’s first chocolate chip cookie.
By Ruth’s account, she deliberately invented the cookie. She stated, "We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with a Toll House cookie.", hence, the cookie’s original name: Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. Ruth’s invention quickly gained local fame which led to her nationally acclaimed book, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, which has been published almost forty times since 1938. Obviously, without Ruth’s love of food, we would not have one of the most beloved drop cookies of all time or any of its variations.
During Women's History Month, we celebrate Ruth, honor her contributions to the culinary world, and the legacy she left to women chefs throughout the world.
If you would like to try Ruth’s original Toll House Cookie Crunch recipe, it’s listed below.
Toll House Cookie Crunch Recipe
Total Time: 45 minutes
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen
- 1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheets
- ¾ cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved into 1 teaspoon hot water
- 2 ¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
- 12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 375°.
- Cream the butter and sugars. Add the beaten eggs. Add the baking soda dissolved in hot water.
- Sift together the flour and salt and add to the butter mixture. Then stir in the nuts, chocolate chips, and vanilla.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
- Drop by the tablespoonful onto lightly greased cookie sheets and bake until browned at the edges for 10 to 12 minutes.
- The best nuts to use are pecans, walnuts, or almonds.
- If you have an egg or nut allergy, eggs can be substituted with an egg substitute and nuts can be omitted.
- If you would like to keep the dough for longer than 3 days, double wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then place the dough in an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Warning: Please do not consume this dough raw, as it can cause you to become ill. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella, a type of harmful bacteria. This bacteria can be found on egg shells but also inside eggs. Consuming contaminated eggs can cause food poisoning.
The Free Library has tons of resources about cookies you can read about with the children in your life or use to make your own yummy cookies. Likewise, if you would like to learn more about women chefs take a look at Chef's Story by Dorothy Hamilton.
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The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book by Carolyn Wyman
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What is your favorite cookie to eat? Let us know in the comments!
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