Updated: May 15, 2020
A chocolate chip cookie is a drop cookie that originated in the United States and features chocolate chips as its distinguishing ingredient. The traditional recipe combines a dough composed of butter and both brown and white sugar with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Variations include recipes with other types of chocolate as well as additional ingredients such as nuts or oatmeal.
The chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield. She owned the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts, a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking in the 1930s. Her cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, was first published in 1936 by M. Barrows & Company, New York. The 1938 edition of the cookbook was the first to include the recipe "Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie" which rapidly became a favorite cookie in American homes.
Differing versions of discovery
Ruth Wakefield stated that she deliberately invented the cookie. She said, "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 Toll House cookie."
A different version of events says that Wakefield is said to have been making chocolate cookies and on running out of regular baking chocolate, substituted broken pieces of semi-sweet chocolate from Nestlé thinking that they would melt and mix into the batter. They did not and the chocolate chip cookie was born.
A still different history of the cookie derives from George Boucher, who was at a one-time head chef at the Toll House Inn, and his daughter, Carol Cavanagh, who also worked there. Contradicting Nestlé's claim that Wakefield put chunks of chocolate into cookie dough hoping they would melt, the daughter stated that the owner, already an accomplished chef and author of a cookbook, knew enough about the properties of chocolate to realize it would not melt and mix into the batter while baking.
Boucher said that the vibrations from a large Hobart electric mixer dislodged bars of Nestlé's chocolate stored on the shelf above the mixer which caused the chocolate to fall into the sugar cookie dough mixing below. He claims to have overcome Wakefield's impulse to discard the dough as too badly ruined to waste effort baking them, leading to the discovery of the popular combination.