On the Chocolate Trail: The Iconic Chocolate Chip Cookie

Published by Thursday, March 3, 2011 Permalink 0
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by Christina Daub

A Brief History of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

Did you know Massachusetts has a state cookie? It’s the chocolate chip cookie, an invention attributed to Ruth Graves Wakefield of the widely known Toll House Inn. Legend has it that having run out of her standard Baker’s chocolate, she broke up a bar of Nestlé semisweet and added it to her favorite recipe, Butter Drop Do cookies.

Chocolate chip cookie

Kathleen King in family bakery, Tate’s Bake Shop, in Southampton, New York.

The reaction by travelers was instantaneous. Soon her recipe was published in the local newspaper, positively affecting sales of Nestlé semisweet bars. Then the fictitious Betty Crocker featured Wakefield’s Toll House chocolate chip cookie on the radio program, “Famous Foods from Famous Eating Places,”  prompting Nestlé to invent the semisweet morsel in 1939. In exchange for using the recipe on the back of their semisweet bar and morsel bag, she was given a lifetime supply of chocolate chips.

The chocolate chip cookie’s nationwide fame can be attributed to home bakers in Massachusetts who sent scores of the addictive Toll House cookies to GIs abroad during World War II. The soldiers shared and pretty soon orders were coming in from across the country.
















If there were lifetime achievement awards for baking and chocolate making, instead of the Oscars, we might have the Wakefields and this year’s award would go to Kathleen King, producer of fifty million crisp multimorseled don’t-stop-till-you-drop chocolate chip cookies a year.












Chocolate chip cookies, Tate’s Bake Shop, Southampton, New York.

Starting at the age of eleven, King made cookies to sell at her parents’ farm in Southampton, New York.  What was initially a means to buy her own clothes, also put her through college and gave her the funds to start her own bakery at age twenty-three, nearly thirty years ago.

Today she maintains the small town bustling bakery known as Tate’s Bake Shop (named for her father) and oversees massive production that sends the famous cookies all over the country and to Japan and St. Barth’s as well. Adapted from the original Toll House creation, King’s signature recipe can be found here and in her cookbook Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook. A new cook book is forthcoming in 2012 with twenty-five of her favorites among new ones she is currently selecting.  Part of the fun, she says in her business, is to be able to experiment all the time.















Her newest item is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Bark, Belgian dark chocolate encasing broken bits of chocolate chip cookies topped with toasted almonds. The effect is crispy, not too sweet, and light, a surprising variation on bark.  Other chocolate items include the cakes: Blackout, chocolate fudge and chocolate pound, brownies, cupcakes, chocolate bread pudding and chocolate chip pie.

Tate’s Bake Shop • 43 North Sea Rd. • Southampton NY 11968 • phone 631-283-9830
Tate’s Bake Shop Online Store • phone 631-780-6511 • fax 631-780-6443
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  • Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf
    March 3, 2011

    aaah, tate’s ! i grew up with kathleen’s cookies, as they were known before she changed the name to tate’s. i have never tasted any of her other products in fact – her classic chocolate chip cookie is all i need. (my parents send me bags here in zürich.) suuuuper crunchy, dark, thin and buttery. i eat around the chips and save them for the end !! add to that a tall glass of milk and i’m happy. they’re also divine broken up in melted coffee ice cream. mmm.

    didn’t know about her bark, thanks for the sweet news !

    • Tina
      March 3, 2011

      Yes, I still call them Kathleen’s cookies as well! Should have put that in the article. I figure I eat hundreds/year. She says they have a shelf life of six months, though I never could wait that long to test it out. One bag is gone in a few hours if they even make it home. Did you grow up in Southampton?

  • Loopback Address
    March 4, 2011

    The best choco chip cookies in the world! and the shop is more than a store, it’s ….. magic! Try the almond croissants!

    • Tina
      March 5, 2011

      And the Marie Antoinette cake and the pies…

  • Victoria
    March 4, 2011

    What a great article! thanks for the history lesson. Im on my way to get some cookies.

    All the best,

    • Tina
      March 5, 2011

      Thanks, Victoria! Where do you get them in Connecticut?

  • kathleen
    March 4, 2011

    Thanks for your time and a lovely article. I appreciate you including Tate’s Bake Shop on your iconic chocolate chip cookie trail. Just baked an amazing chocolate chip layer cake….look for it in my new book in 2012.

  • Bonnie allsopp
    March 5, 2011

    Very enlightening! ( or fattening?!)
    I always wondered how they sold cookies out of a toll house, didn’t realize it was an Inn.
    Tate’s cookies are definitely a cut above. We neighbors are lucky to be able to get the special ones like whole wheat with bittersweet chocolate at the shop
    Less sinful but still divine!

  • Laura Donnelly
    March 6, 2011

    Kathleen’s (Tate’s) cookies are the best! Thanks for the great story about the history of chocolate chip cookies and Kathleen King’s contribution to the world of chocoholics.
    Years ago I brought a stash of her cookies to a remote, underdeveloped island. By the end of the week my friends and I were fighting and bargaining over the crumbs!
    Her butterscotch pecan cookies are pretty darned sweet, too!

    What’s next in the Tina’s chocolate chronicles???

  • Tina
    March 8, 2011

    LOL, Bonnie. You can always ride your bike to the bakery and back to work off all those whole wheat buttery crispy encased chips. I like all the variations, but the originals will always be my staple. How do I love thee…let me count those chips. Here’s the secret, chocolate chip cookie bakers…double, no triple the chips…morsels…bits…chocolate content!

  • Tina
    March 8, 2011

    Re: fighting over the crumbs–I believe it. What kind of bargains were made?
    You get the gold medal for sharing in the first place…you must have been the most popular girl on the island. Next time, perhaps an auction?

  • Catherine Jones
    March 8, 2011

    They are the only food in my house that gets very carefully rationed.

  • Jessica
    March 9, 2011

    My daughter and I compared the two recipes recently side by side and the only difference between Kathleen’s and Toll House is that Kathleen leaves out a 1/2 cup of flour, thus increasing the ratio of butter and sugar. That’s what makes hers crunchier…I still prefer the Toll House recipe, though!

    • Tina
      March 16, 2011

      I add even more butter which makes the cookies crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside, and more chips. The editor is the only person I know who does not like chocolate chip cookies to which I can only reply, why not, not enough chocolate?

  • Sylvia Ripley
    March 22, 2011

    Great article- love those Tate cookies

  • Tina
    April 1, 2011

    Thanks. They just won the About.com Long Island Readers Choice Award for best Long Island product. Bravo, Tate’s!