I always thought that chocolate chip cookies were as American as apple pie. But Naomi Stokes’ cookie recipe came from England. And, what do you know, apple pie originated there too, in the 15th century.

I don’t just say that: you can read the pie’s history in “The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink,” edited by Andrew F. Smith (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Naomi Stokes passed down her Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to her grandson, Chef Nigel Gainor
Naomi Stokes passed down her Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to her grandson, Chef Nigel Gainor

America’s beloved chocolate chip cookie first appeared in the 1930s, when Ruth Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, produced her now famous Toll House cookies.

Stokes’ recipe is similar to Wakefield’s, but with key differences that alter the flavor: it employs only dark brown sugar and no nuts; whereas the Toll House recipe calls for half granulated and half brown (presumably golden brown) sugar, and contains nuts as well as chocolate chips.

Born in Saltburn-by-the-Sea on the northern coast of Yorkshire, England,Naomi Stokes loved to bake cookies as a little girl. If alive today, she would be 112. Fortunately, she gave her recipe to her grandson, Nigel Gainor, who is executive chef at Miracle Springs Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, where I spent a few relaxing days.

The cookies turned up on a dessert plate, and I was impressed. They are small, rich with butter, thin and slightly crisp rather than thick and chewy.

After stirring in the chocolate chips, Chef Gainor sometimes adds chopped walnuts or pecans, and perhaps finely diced dried apricots too. “Whatever you like, give it a try and it just may turn out to be a family favorite,” he says.

He shapes the cookies with a ½-ounce scoop or rolls the sticky dough into slim logs, chills them, then cuts the logs into -inch slices. “This gives you a nice look. You can see the chocolate chips and the other ingredients because they are not covered with dough,” he says.

“If you want the cookies soft and gooey you must not overcook them,” he notes. “If your oven is hot, you may need to turn it down to 325 or bake for seven minutes. If you want drier or harder cookies, bake them for 10 to 11 minutes. Either way they taste great, but my favorite is soft and gooey.”

I’ve cut the recipe in half, and it still makes more than three dozen. The cookies are dangerously good; had I made the entire amount, I would now be on a diet.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1-½ teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and work into the butter until thoroughly blended. Add the vanilla, and then beat in the egg.

Place the flour in a small bowl. Add the baking soda and salt and stir to blend. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir. Add the chocolate chips and combine well.

Place half the mixture on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap and form into a 1-inch-thick roll. Wrap well. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough. Place the two wrapped rolls in a plastic bag and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 1 or 2 large baking sheets.

Working with one roll of dough at a time, cut into ½-inch slices. The mixture will be very sticky and a bit hard to handle. Form each slice into a ball by rolling in the palms of your hands.

Place the balls of dough on the baking sheet or sheets, allowing plenty of room for them to spread. If using one sheet, remove the baked cookies to cooling racks and let the sheet cool. You will not need to grease it again.

Bake 8 to 9 minutes, and then remove to racks. When the cookies are thoroughly cool, store them in airtight containers.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Miracle Springs Resort & Spa, 10625 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240. Tel: (760) 329-6000 or (800) 808-7727

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