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Of the Earth: The charm of a classic Toll House cookie

  • Despite the lure of an exotic menu, like that at Washington’s Ursa Manor, classic and simple Toll House chocolate chip cookies always maintain their charm. Courtesy image/Creative Commons

  • Ruth Wakefield, who established the original Toll House Inn with her husband, Kenneth, in 1930, wrote the cookbook “Toll House Tried and True Recipes.” Contributed photo

  • Ruth Wakefield, shown here on a vintage tin Toll House container, established the original Toll House Inn with her husband, Kenneth, in 1930. Contributed photo

  • Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, established the original Toll House Inn, shown here on a postcard, in Whitman in 1930. Contributed photo

  • Ursa Minor on Lopez Island in Washington state serves elaborate meals, including this dish of urchin, celery root, radish, radish, apple and fish sauce. Contributed photo

  • Ursa Minor on Lopez Island in Washington state serves elaborate meals, including this dish of brassica shoots, tallow, rhubarb juice and cured yolk. Contributed photo

  • BLIXT



For the Recorder
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

I need to broaden my horizons, I guess. Listen to this menu: “Grilled oyster mushrooms, paired with quivering raw egg yoke for dipping, (with) a salty tang and surreal green color from their dusting of dried sea lettuce ... Shiso and dried cranberries, (garnishing) golden-fried cauliflower on a rich bed of walnut puree (followed by) sockeye salmon sprinkled with marigold petals ... resting in a shallow, foamy pool of horseradish-infused buttermilk.”

This is dinner at Ursa Minor on Lopez Island in Washington state, as prepared by owners Nick Coffey and Nova Askue and reviewed by Christopher Hall of the New York Times. I feel old and provincial as I vainly try to picture a “foamy pool of horseradish-infused buttermilk” on my own dinner table. What would guests make of it? Would they think I was daring and exotic?

Like most exotic menus offered by the most devout foodies among us, this one sounds wonderful in ways that I can’t begin to understand. Tell me about your most exotic menu experiences. (By the way, Ursa Minor’s number is 360-622-2730, just in case you can get there before I do.)

A little closer to home, and probably more my speed, are Toll House cookies. Estelle Cade of Greenfield (and formerly of Ashfield) wrote me recently with some first-rate vintage Toll House recipes.

I learned, for the first time, that the original Toll House Inn was established in Whitman by Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield in 1930, and that Ruth invented chocolate chip cookies (as we know them), trading her recipe to the Nestle company for a lifetime supply of bittersweet chocolate. She also wrote the classic cookbook “Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” from which the following recipes are taken.

Those of you who already know this background are likely the same folks who have long been devotees of horseradish-infused buttermilk. I hope you are enjoying it!

Cade, who contributes occasional “Times Past” columns to the Greenfield Recorder, fondly recalls visiting her aunt in Newtonville where she would make “pea-sized” nuggets of Nestle chocolate for the cookies.

Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

¾ cup brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp. hot water

2 cups flour sifted with 1 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped nuts

1 tsp. vanilla

2 bars (7 oz.) Nestle’s yellow label chocolate, semi-sweet, cut into pieces the size of a pea

Cream together the butter, brown and granulated sugar, eggs and baking soda. Mix in the flour and salt, then add the nuts. Add vanilla to flavor.

Drop the dough in ½ teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Makes 100 cookies.

Toll House Health Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups sifted white flour

2 cups graham (whole wheat) flour

1 tsp. salt

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1½ cups milk

1 cup molasses

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into greased bread pans.

Bake slowly for 90 minutes at 325 degrees. Dates or raisins may be added.

The Cutting Board

Counting the Days: You may want to hop on this offer for the 2019 UMass Extension’s Garden Calendar with free shipping through Nov. 1.

I always look forward to this calendar from the Extension Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry program. It is gorgeous, with daily gardening tips, sunrise and sunset times, and moon phases. It makes a great gift at $14.

This year, the theme is “tomography as a tool for identifying hidden decay in trees.” Order online at umassgardencalendar.org.

Two upcoming programs caught my eye:

■On Wednesday, Nov. 7, Real Pickles and Hosta Hill are teaming up for an in-depth presentation on home-scale vegetable fermentation. Rumor has it that participants will learn everything they need to know about fermenting vegetables at home, with information that can be applied to sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber pickles and kvass.

The workshop will provide beginners with the confidence to begin experimenting with lactic-acid fermentation in their own kitchens, and experienced fermenters with some new techniques to refine their process. The program, which begins upstairs at Green Fields Market at 6 p.m., is free, but space is limited.

■The Greenfield Community College Senior Symposium Series will present “The Story of Olive Oil from Grove to Table” with Pat O’Hara on Nov. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. O’Hara, an Amherst College chemist, will discuss what makes olive oil distinctive, its history, its uses and how to read labels.

There is a $10 admission fee for the talk, which takes place at the GCC Downtown Center at 270 Main St. Advance registration is recommended at: bit.ly/2PthNRV.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.