Make popular chocolate chip cookie recipe your own with easy substitutions

Chocolate chip cookies are 80 years old this year.

Innkeeper Ruth Graves Wakefield was known widely for her cooking at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, before the accomplished baker hit on the idea of mixing bits of chocolate into cookie dough.

In 1930, she published the cookbook “Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” which went through several printings. The 1938 edition was the first to feature her original recipe Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. At the time, home cooks had to make their own chips by breaking chocolate bars into small morsels.

By 1939, chocolate manufacturer Nestle had seized on the recipe and promoted it in newspapers across the country. The company rolled out chocolate chip morsels a year later. The “original” recipe is still touted today on the Nestle website and morsels bags.

I have “original” in quotation marks because according to WCVB-TV in Boston, the inn’s real recipe called for shortening instead of butter and included mixing the baking soda with a bit of water.

I have had much success following the Nestle version with butter. And, while the cookie is tasty, it also is adaptable to other baking chips available today.

I recently made the recipe where I divided the dough before adding the chocolate chips and nuts. I finished out half the dough as the recipe instructed. In the other half, I added white morsels, macadamia nuts and dried, sweetened cranberries. (Many brands of white morsels technically do not contain enough cocoa butter to be called white chocolate.)

With such a tried-and-true recipe, the proper combination of heat and time ensure success in creating a moist cookie that holds together when picked up by hand. I also line my baking sheet with parchment paper and slide the paper to a cooling rack to ensure that the bottom of the baked cookies do not darken and become too crisp because of residual heat from the baking sheet.

My variation of the cookie recipe is at the end of this story.

Peaches and Beets make an unlikely duo

Learn to roast fresh beets, and you open a door to an earthy salad addition that has both flavor and texture.

Leave about 2 inches of the stem intact before washing the beets and then drying them with a paper towel. Place beets on a sheet of foil, drizzle the beets with olive oil and seal the beets in the foil. Roast in a 425-degree oven until fork tender, which takes about 30 minutes for a small, plum-sized beet and more than an hour for one the size of a baseball.

When the roasted beets are cool enough to handle, the skin usually peels off with a knife. Dice the beets and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Toss the chilled beets in your favorite salad that calls for a vinaigrette dressing.

For a greenless salad, combine the diced beets with sliced peaches and almond slivers and dress lightly with a quality, sweet fruity white vinegar such as Cordell’s Gravenstein Apple Balsamic vinegar.

Beets recently were available at the Abilene Farmers Market, which is open 7 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at North First and Mesquite streets in the Frontier Texas! overflow parking lot.

Tree-ripened peaches are available at Denton Valley Farms south of Clyde. A store on the property is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. Fredericksburg peaches also have been available the last couple of weeks at the corner of Rebecca Lane and Catclaw Drive.

White Chips-Macadamia-Cranberry Cookies

(Based on Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe at www.verybestbaking.com)

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups Nestle Toll House Premier White Morsels

1 cup macadamia nuts

3/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Gradually beat in flour mixture until combined.

5. Stir in morsels, nuts and cranberries.

6. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet. (If dough seems too soft, first chill it in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.) Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yields about 36 cookies.