Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Karen Hall & Toll House Cookies: A Great Combination

Author Karen Hall wrote me after Mary Welk's wonderful potato pancake recipe to tell me about a great cookbook she has. I invited her to guest blog, as this one is a treasure for sure. I've never met anyone who doesn't like Toll House Cookies! Plus, she loves antique malls. Readers here know my main character owns on in the stories in Missing and The Heat of the Moment. What did I base that on? hmm...-AA


Several years ago I was stuck in Mitchell , South Dakota , during a November ice storm. Power was out to much of the city, and the restaurant next to my hotel was the only one open in town – they had a generator. After a hot meal and a frigid night huddled under all the blankets I could find in the room—and wearing most of the clothes in my suitcase—the power came back on. Before leaving town that next morning, I decided to check out the city, and my eye caught the sign downtown: South Dakota Antique Mall.

Now I know that eBay has done to antique malls what did to Borders, but I still love to poke around in those collections of regional oddments. My young nieces love old costume jewelry (the gaudier the better), my sister collects antique pitchers, and I always look for old sheet music and pieces of the silverplate I inherited from my great grandmother. But my favorite browse in any antique mall is through stall after stall of books: atlases, biographies, novels, kids’ picture books, essays on politics from years long gone. And, of course, cookbooks. I picked one up that day in Mitchell and thumbed through it to find a recipe that started with the instruction: “Pluck the chicken.” Hmmm. A little too primitive for me. Another, the Bethany Cook Book, found its way into my “had to have” pile. Who could walk away from a fabulous collection of Scandinavian recipes including BOTH lutefisk and lefse, PLUS a section of political recipes: Mrs. Eisenhower’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, Patricia Nixon’s Corn Souffle, Mrs. Truman’s Bing Cherry Mold and George McGovern’s Beef Stroganoff? I laughed out loud at the find.

But the gem of the day was hidden behind several Agatha Christie mysteries (had to have those, too): Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes. Oh, man, could it be? The original Toll House cookbook! Published in 1945 by M. Barrows & Company, it contains an explanation of where the title, “Toll House” came from. In August of 1930, the Wakefields bought a big old Cape Cod-style house just outside of Whitman , Massachusetts , on Route 18. Build to 1709, it was, at one time, “used as a toll house, where passengers ate, changed horses, and paid toll.” Charmed by the house’s past, the Wakefields decided to start an inn there, and they called it—you guessed it—The Toll House.

I thumbed through the book, and after reading several recipes, decided that Mrs. Wakefield had been true to the philosophy she states at the beginning of the book: “I still believe in small quantity cookery as giving the best results in flavor, consistency and general quality, especially in baking, and I know there are no substitutes for butter, cream, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables in preparing a fine meal.” Because of the title, I had to check the index to see if chocolate chip cookies were there. Nope. Disappointed, I paged through the “cookies” section and found instead, “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.” I read through the recipe and realized that of course chocolate chip cookies weren’t there – chocolate chips hadn’t yet been invented! Instead, the Chocolate Crunch Cookie recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate bars, cut into pieces the size of a pea. Charming. It made me smile and tuck the book under my arm.

As you would expect, the recipe hasn’t changed a lot over the years. Although I refuse to consider my arteries and now make my chocolate chip cookies with half butter and half Crisco, which helps them stay soft, I’ve used the original Toll House recipe ever since I bought the book. Here, for your baking pleasure, is the original Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie recipe, printed exactly as it is in the cookbook.


1 cup butter, add
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar and
2 eggs, beaten whole.
1 tsp. soda in
1 tsp. hot water, and mix alternatively with
2 ¼ cups flour, sifted with
1 tsp. salt.
Lastly add
1 cup chopped nuts and
2 bars (7-oz.) Nestles yellow label chocolate, semi-sweet, which has been cut in pieces the size of a pea.
Flavor with
1 tsp. vanilla and drop half teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in 375° oven. Makes 100 cookies.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Did you go to the Corn Palace? I went there and loved it.