It’s National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day! And normally I don’t observe any of these new food holidays celebrated all over the Internet, but…chocolate chip cookies are actually my most favorite cookie of all time. The first time I baked something in the US, it was chocolate chip cookies. I had heard about this American classic while growing up in Argentina, but I had never made it at home or tasted it. I was much better acquainted with other bars and treats like lebkuchen, Danish butter cookies, and brownies, so as predictable and unoriginal as it may sound, this cookie is truly an American experience for me, 100%. Whenever I feel like I want a sweet and simple reward to pack into a lunch and have as a snack or take to a picnic or a potluck or tuck into a care package, I make these cookies.
It wouldn’t be fair to have National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day without honoring the creator Ruth Graves Wakefield. In 1930, she and her husband converted a 1709 building that had been the old toll house into an inn with a restaurant serving home-cooked meals, so they called it the Toll House Inn. That was the birthplace of the chocolate chip cookie. She added chopped chocolate chunks to her butter drop cookie dough, which normally called instead for nuts. Some people say Ruth made a mistake thinking that the chocolate chunks would melt, and they didn’t. Ruth says she did it on purpose. At any rate, the cookies were a hit with the guests, and the Toll House Inn became known for them. The chocolate chip cookie is now the most popular cookie in America and a New England tradition. Ruth first published her recipe in 1936. Ruth gave Nestle the recipe for her cookies and was paid with a lifetime supply of chocolate from the company. Minnesota-based Gold Medal Flour, then known as Washburn Crosby Company, also included the recipe for chocolate chip cookies on their packages in the early 1940s. The recipe is timeless and there are many who swear by the recipe printed on the Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chip package because it is so timeless and good. But of course, there are a lot of bakers who want to come up with their own favorite recipe, customized to their own individual preferences. Are you Team Chewy or Team Crunchy? Do you like them soft and tender or firm with crisp edges? Do you prefer more chocolate than dough? Do you prefer chocolate puddles or chocolate chunks? Are you partial to sea salt? Do you prefer them to be shaped like cookie mounds, or thin and flat like in some bakeries? Nuts or no nuts? And the list of possibilities is endless! And then, of course, there are hundreds of iterations for different ingredients mixed in, in which the classic chocolate chip cookie dough is basically a blank canvas for new flavors to shine. Among the purists who choose not to go for a novel twist, there are some who swear by the kind of chocolate you use, but I would really hate to require a special chocolate, because chocolate chip cookies should really be accessible with what you have in your pantry.
I will not claim this is the most perfect recipe ever, or the only recipe you’ll ever need, because I truly believe in the power of creativity, and can appreciate all the different varieties that exist out there. I have been making chocolate chip cookies for many years now. I’ve tried them with rye flour for a hearty, rustic touch; I’ve added dried fruit; I’ve added different kinds of nuts and different kinds of chocolates; I’ve swapped the type of chocolate; I’ve changed the kind of nuts. Eventually I settled on the recipe here below, which yields a very soft cookie, thanks in part to the cornstarch in the dough and thanks in part to chilling the dough before baking. I like a pretty high chocolate chip to dough ratio, so these cookies are heavy on the chocolate and very gooey when they come out of the oven. And finally, I add hazelnut flour and chopped hazelnuts for the hearty, nutty texture that I’ve come to love. One final option is to top them with some sea salt flakes whose clean, ocean taste can enhance the cookie. However, if you opt not to use the sea salt flakes because you don’t have any at home, or if you choose to omit the nuts or substitute the hazelnuts for pecans or almonds, you would still get a very delicious cookie.
This August 4, as mask mandates are coming back and the Coronavirus continues to impact our lives, it could be a good idea to slow down, be home, and pay homage to Ruth Wakefield’s greatest culinary invention ever. Baking in stressful times is nothing new, and it’s so soothing, rich, and rewarding. There’s something almost magical about relying on these basic ingredients and following a recipe that has stood the test of time and continues to yield, time after time, as if by magic, one delicious batch of cookies after another. It’s also a lot of fun, and I can’t think of anybody who would miss out on a plate of freshly baked American cookies. After all, Ruth came up with this recipe during hard times herself: it was the Great Depression, the grimmest economic time in America until the Coronavirus hit. The aroma of a tray of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven is such a comfort it’s no wonder that they are especially popular in trying times. I hope you’ll try my recipe, and I hope you’ll enjoy this holiday celebrating a true classic of American comfort food.
Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 11-12 minutes
Servings: 18 cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp hazelnut flour
- 1 ½ tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp Celtic salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup cane sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
- In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, hazelnut flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the softened butter, brown sugar, and cane sugar using a handheld mixer for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be creamy and pale yellow.
- Add in the egg and vanilla powder and continue to mix.
- Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Do not over-beat. It’s ok if you have some flour streaks.
- With a wooden spoon, integrate the chocolate chips and chopped hazelnuts.
- Cover the bowl tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours, or overnight. This will be important for the texture when you bake them.
- On the day you want to bake them, remove the cookie dough from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a spoon and your hands or an ice cream scoop, roll the cookie dough into 2-inch balls and place on the parchment paper, 2 inches apart because they will spread.
- Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until barely golden around the edges and tops. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Because the baking sheet is still hot, they will continue to cook there, and they will also slightly deflate as they cool.
- Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely and enjoy. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Note: You can make this cookie dough ahead and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 2 months.
© 2021 Carol’s Baking Adventures