Since the beginning of my baking career, I’ve searched tirelessly for the elusive “ultimate” chocolate chip cookie recipe. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of variations, and though I’ve come close, it feels like there’s always something missing which precludes the bestowal of that superlative designation. While I yearn to uncover my ideal go-to recipe, there is certainly enjoyment in the hunt. Each new tester offers the promise of perfection, and there’s a delectable moment of anticipation when a fresh batch emerges from the oven, glowing, gooey, and golden.
Developed in 1934 by Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Tollhouse Inn in Whitman, MA, the chocolate chip cookie was born accidentally after Wakefield made a fateful substitution while baking her favorite Butter Drop Do cookies. Finding herself without baker’s chocolate, she stirred in a chopped up Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bar, but instead of melting into the batter as anticipated, the bits merely softened. After gaining popularity, the “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie” led to an increase in Nestle’s sales, and the company bought Wakefield’s recipe in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. The chocolate chip cookie craze spread during WWII, when GI’s from Massachusetts received care packages filled with the goodies, shared with their fellow troops, and sent requests for more back home. Today, nearly seven billion chocolate chip cookies are eaten annually and half of the cookies baked in American homes are chocolate chip. As the official state cookie of Massachusetts, my stomping ground, the chocolate chip cookie will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Fortunately, this week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday’s selection presented another opportunity to test a potential favorite cookie. After mixing up the batter, shaping into logs, and allowing an overnight rest in the refrigerator, I pulled out the dough for Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds this morning, and prepared to assess Melissa Murphy’s tried-and-true recipe. I made one slight alteration, adding a splash of almond extract along with the vanilla, to accent the nutty flavor of the star mix-in. A departure from more common walnuts or pecans, the whole natural almonds offered a surprising crunch and chunky texture to the cookies, and elevated their level of sophistication. The slice-and-bake format of the recipe was a welcome change from the scoop-and-drop method, and I had a tray of equal dough rounds ready for the oven in no time. After 13 minutes, the cookies had spread evenly to a desirable thickness, with thin crispy edges transitioning to plump chewy centers. Ultimately, I was very pleased with their overall eye-appeal, and the delightful scent that permeated my kitchen. Most importantly, the cookies received two thumbs up and the lingering “mmm…” moan of deliciousness from both my tasters. The distinctive nuts charmed my dad, while my mom noted their delicate sweetness and pleasing texture. While I can’t say that I baked the very best version of the chocolate chip cookie, I will certainly be marking this recipe as a fun variation to come back to time and again.