Mistakes and The Best Inventions

When my daughter, Melissa Madeline, was 7 years old she was coloring and made a mistake.  I was amazed when she turned the mistake into a parrot. She said to me the wisest words I will never forget:  "Artists like me like mistakes.  When I make a mistake I just use it to be something."

This applies of course not only to art but to all of life and also to cooking.  In fact, some of my best food and some of America's favorite foods have been created by mistake.  Perhaps you've heard this story before, but if not it is worth telling.  In 1930, Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, bought a Cape Cod style house on the outskirts of Whitman, Massachusetts.  The house had originally been built in 1709 as a haven for road-weary travelers who would come to change horses, pay tolls and eat a home-cooked meal.

200 years later, when Ruth bought the house, she decided to continue on in that tradition and recreate an Inn.  Ruth was famous for her baking and people came from all over New England just to eat her food.  One day she was making one of her favorite recipes for chocolate cookies.  Instead of grating a chocolate bar or using cocoa powder she took a chocolate bar and chopped it into bits thinking it would just melt into the cookie.  The chocolate did not combine with the dough and instead remained pieces and Chocolate Chips cookies were invented that day by a simple mistake.  Her Inn of course was called the Toll House Inn and the famous Toll House Cookie recipe was invented.  At that time chocolate chips did not exist and Andrew Nestle was only making chocolate bars.  Because of the demand for chocolate from Ruth's recipe the company began scoring the bars to make them easier to chop.  Eventually in 1939, ten years later, the semi-sweet chocolate chips were born.  Andrew Nestle gave Ruth Wakefield and lifetime supply of chocolate in exchange for the publishing Ruth's recipe on the back of their bag.

Recently a friend of mine shared with me another famous Chocolate Chips cookie recipe.  The urban legend that went around was that it was the $250 cookie recipe from Neiman Marcus.  The whole story is false and the recipe that was being passed around was actually for Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I'm including both for you as well as my recipe for Chocolate Chips Crunch Cookies.  And here is to the mistakes in life turning into a sweet inventions!  Maili

Maili's Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies 
photography by Elizabeth Messina

I've been making these cookies for years and put them in Football Food,the cookbook I co-authored with Kellie Lawless, last year. I'll post more recipes from the cookbook in the fall. Amy just made these this past weekend and Charlotte asked for the recipe and I realized I never posted it to the blog. So here it is for all the enjoy!


2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
½ cup raisins, optional
Preheat oven to 375º. In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, or with a bowl and hand-held mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.
Add the dry ingredients a half cup at a time, beating shortly after each addition until dry mixture is incorporated.
Add the vanilla and combine. Add the chocolate chips, crispy rice cereal and the optional raisins. Stir briefly until just combined.
Place heaping tablespoons of dough at least 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake cookies in the middle the oven for 9 to 12 minutes, or until they are just golden.
Remove from oven and cool on pans for 2 minutes. Transfer with a thin metal spatula to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

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An urban myth is a modern folk tale, its origins unknown, its believability enhanced simply by the frequency with which it is repeated. Our signature chocolate chip cookieis the subject of one such myth. If you haven't heard the story, we won't perpetuate it here. If you have, the recipe below should serve to refute it. Copy it, print it out, pass it along to friends and family. It's a terrific recipe. And it's absolutely free. 


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Directions 

    1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)
    2.Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
    3.In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.
    4.Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.
    Yield:  2 dozen cookies

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    Then here is the recipe for Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chips Cookie Recipe.

    Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

       2    cups butter
       2    cups brown sugar
       2    cups white sugar
       4    eggs  
       2    teaspoons vanilla
       4    cups flour
       5    cups blended oatmeal (measure first, then blend into powder)
       1    teaspoon salt
       2    teaspoon baking powder
       2    teaspoon baking soda
    14    ounces chocolate chips
       8    ounces Hershey Bar grated
       3    cups chopped nuts

    Cream butter and both sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda.  Mix in chips, nuts, and grated bar.  Roll into small balls and place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet (spray oil works well).  Bake 6 minutes at 375. --Source Unknown


    This really makes me hungry! It looks so yummy and delicious! I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Food Handler Certification.
    Anonymous said…
    Hey Maili,
    Are you sure about the Neiman Marcus recipe? I just made it, and once we'd mixed the wet and dry ingredients it was much too dry to even mix smoothly. So, I googled Neiman Marcus cookie recipe and found another version that had twice the butter and eggs, plus oatmeal instead of espresso. I'd already added the espresso (which made me a little nervous about letting my son and his friend lick the mixers!), but I added another stick of butter and another egg. Sort of random, but I'm hoping for the best! (They're in the oven now.) Just thought I'd check in. I'm going to try the other two recipes, too. My son and I are on a cookie-baking kick, so this works out well! x
    Maili Halme said…
    The Neiman Marcus recipe came directly from Neiman-Marcus's web site. Until you asked I hadn't checked with the other recipe I'd had in my files. If you google the recipe there are others with more butter and eggs. Honestly, I always make my own chocolate chip crunch cookies, so that is the recipe that I KNOW that works. I'm grateful for your feedback because it made me note the big variation in the "$250 cookie recipes out there." Thanks again! Maili

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