Chocolate Chip Cookies are my favorite cookie to make from scratch. And part of what I love about this cookie is its history. I feel like I’m doing Ruth Wakefield a disservice if I don’t include the story of how she crafted the first chocolate chip cookies. Or, should I say, Chocolate Crunch Cookies?
the invention of the chocolate chip cookie
Legend has it, Ruth and her husband purchased an old toll house in the 1930s with the plan of turning it into an Inn. Talk about a “fixer upper!” The Wakefields were doing DIY renovation projects long before DIY became an acronym. Ruth and Kenneth dubbed their Whitman, Mass., bed & breakfast the Toll House Inn.
The story of the chocolate chip cookie is a little mixed as to whether Ruth was intentionally experimenting in the kitchen or she ran out of baking chocolate and attempted a substitute. At any rate, Ruth was making a butter drop cookie recipe and decided to chop up a Nestle chocolate bar and add it to the mix. Once the cookies baked and cooled, the chocolate chunks gave the cookie a bit of a crunch. The texture of the cookie inspired Ruth to name the recipe Nestle Chocolate Crunch Cookies. As we know well, the cookies turned out to be a magnificent success.
The Boston Newspaper printed the recipe and more people discovered the delicious invention. Finally, Nestle requested permission from Ruth to print her recipe on their chocolate bar wrappers. In 1939, Nestle started selling bags of chocolate bits, called “morsels,” with the Toll House Cookie recipe printed on the outside.
making chocolate chip cookies dairy-free
In Ruth Wakefield fashion, I decided to do a little experimentation myself. I have been a little skeptical of developing a recipe for dairy-free chocolate chip cookies. In my mind, chocolate chip cookies are best made with European butter and larger-than-normal Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. No offense to Nestle, but there’s something about the taste of Ghirardelli I prefer.
Much to my disappointment, most chocolate chips contain milk ingredients. Even the Ghirardelli Bittersweet 60-percent Cacao Baking Chips contain milk fat.
The following chocolates are the best I have found for dairy-free chocolate chips or chunks:
- Nestle Simply Delicious Morsels (made with only three ingredients: chocolate, cocoa butter, and pure cane sugar)
- Lily’s Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips
- Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Mega Chunks
- Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels
Enjoy Life also makes mini chocolate chips if you like your cookies studded with tiny pieces of chocolate. For this recipe, I went with Enjoy Life’s Mega Chunks because they come closest to the large Ghirardelli chips I used to use.
After finally narrowing down my choice of chocolate, I scribbled down a recipe using Earth Balance buttery spread as the butter substitute and my knowledge of baking to guide the rest. I whipped up a test batch and placed the first sheet of cookies in the oven to bake.
As the oven was doing its magic, I couldn’t help but stare at the cookies through the glass. Was this experiment going to be like baking in Colorado? Were my chocolate chip cookies going to spread as wide as Pike’s Peak is tall? Sorry, that was a little dramatic. I’ve had my fair share of high altitude baking challenges. We can talk about that another day.
After about seven minutes of watching the dough balls transform into beautifully shaped cookies, I removed them from the oven and onto a cooling rack. The moment of truth…
The cookies were all I wanted and more! They fit my ideal chocolate chip cookie texture: soft and chewy on the inside with a touch of crispy on the outside, and bursts of semi-sweet chocolate. I’ve tested the recipe multiple times since, and they continue to be a favorite among my friends and family.
Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F (I have a convection oven, so I actually drop it down to 350 degrees F). If you want to freeze the cookie dough and bake them off later, save energy and skip preheating your oven. I often freeze the cookie dough balls to keep myself from eating all the cookies at once and/or stock up my freezer for when I’m limited on time.
Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Parchment paper is handy for removing the cookies from the tray once they have finished baking and makes cleanup much more efficient. Additionally, it adds a protective layer between the sheet and the cookie, which I think keeps the bottom side of the cookie from getting scorched.
To make the dough, start by whisking together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Next, cream the Earth Balance buttery spread with dark brown and raw granulated sugars. The raw sugar adds nice flavor that you otherwise miss in refined white sugar, but you’re welcome to exchange it if white sugar (sucrose) is all you have on hand.
Once you’ve creamed the butter and sugars, add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. It helps to get your eggs out of the fridge a couple hours before you mix the dough or place them in a bowl of hot tap water for several minutes. The room temperature eggs emulsify the butter and sugar much better than if they’re straight out of the fridge.
Slowly add your dry ingredients into the mix while the mixer is on a low setting or fold in by hand. I say slowly, because it’s not fun to clean up flour when it’s all over you and your kitchen. Also, you want to be careful not to overmix the dough. The cookies can easily become hockey pucks if you mix too hard or too long once the eggs and dry ingredients are added.
Lastly, fold in your chocolate chunks, chips or morsels–whatever you feel like calling them–by hand. This can be done with a mixer, but I like to do it by hand to make sure the chips or evenly spread throughout.
The dough balls can be formed with your hands, two spoons, or a cookie scoop. Place dough balls on prepared cookie sheets. At this point, you can either freeze the cookies for later. Freeze the dough balls initially on the cookie sheet until they are firm, and then transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag for storage.
If your baking the cookies, place them in the oven and bake for about five minutes before rotating the pan and baking about 2-3 more minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before transferring to the cooling rack; otherwise, your cookies might fall apart and you would be tempted to eat the broken ones. Or, you can do that too.
As Julie Child always said, Bon Appétit!
- 10.5 oz All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 oz of Earth Balance buttery spread
- 4.5 oz sugar (I like to use raw, finely-granulated sugar such as Florida Crystals)
- 6 oz dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
- 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chunks (Enjoy Life or Lily's are good brands for dairy-free and vegan)
- Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees F and prepare two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Cream buttery spread and sugars with an electric mixer or by hand until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes with mixer).
- Add eggs and vanilla; stir until fully incorporated, 30-45 seconds.
- With the mixer on low or by hand, fold dry ingredients into mixture until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
- Fold chocolate chunks into the dough until evenly spread throughout.
- Using two spoons or a cookie scoop, portion dough balls, and place evenly onto prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake 7-9 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after five minutes of baking.
- When cookies are starting to turn golden brown around the edges, remove from the oven and cool on cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to completely cool.
- Serve right away or store in an airtight container.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 133
The nutrition information has been calculated to the best of my ability, but I can't promise perfect accuracy. Continue at your own discretion.