National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day puts favorite treat in spotlightFARGO – It’s debatable if we need a holiday to celebrate the treat that makes up a quarter of all cookies baked in America today.
By: Ryan Johnson, INFORUM
FARGO – It’s debatable if we need a holiday to celebrate the treat that makes up a quarter of all cookies baked in America today.
“You can always find an excuse to have a chocolate chip cookie,” said Heather Schubbe, general manager of Mrs. Fields in Fargo’s West Acres mall.
Still, some Fargo bakers will do their part to spread the love today with special sales for National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.
“What better cookie can you have?” said Pete Fendt, owner of Quality Bakery in Fargo. “It’s kind of the icon of cookies.”
The origin of the holiday is unclear, and though it’s not officially recognized – we still have to work – it has appeared on chocolate lovers’ calendars for years.
The story of the cookie’s beginnings is dubious. One version says Ruth Wakefield, who ran the Toll House Inn near Whitman, Mass., accidentally came up with the treat in the 1930s when she ran out of baker’s chocolate and substituted chopped semi-sweet chocolate. She assumed it would melt, but the chocolate pieces were still there after baking – and the cookie was a hit.
In other accounts, Wakefield said she deliberately created it because she wanted to offer patrons a new kind of treat, while the inn’s former chef said he mistakenly stumbled onto it when chocolate stored on a shelf above the mixer fell into sugar cookie dough.
Even if the truth is unknown, Schubbe said the delectable dessert holds a special place in the hearts of Mrs. Fields customers.
“I think it’s the traditional cookie that everyone automatically just thinks about,” she said. “That’s the one thing moms and grandmas always make. When you’re little, you remember that chocolate chip cookie coming out of the oven warm and gooey, just like grandma or mom used to make.”
To celebrate the holiday, Mrs. Fields will offer five chocolate chip cookies for $5 and $5 off chocolate chip cookie cakes – a “huge” cookie that can be drawn on with icing, Schubbe said. The store is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays.
The chain does most of its celebrating in October – National Cookie Month, of course – and has celebrated Free Cookie Day on Oct. 1. But she said National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day gives Mrs. Fields another reason to honor the go-to treat for people of all ages.
“It’s kind of nice to have those national days to fall back on and give away a little product so some people that have never tried it can actually come out and try it,” she said.
Nationally, Schubbe said Mrs. Fields’ most popular cookie is the white macadamia nut, though she said chocolate chip cookies are probably the biggest seller at its West Acres location.
The chain offers several varieties, including semi-sweet chocolate with or without walnuts, a milk chocolate chip with or without M&M’s and the biggest seller right now, a chocolate chip cookie drizzled with chocolate, caramel and sea salt.
“Everyone likes that sweet and salty,” she said.
Quality Bakery, open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, follows a variation of the Toll House recipe for its regular chocolate chip cookies made with semi-sweet chocolate.
Customers also can get a coconut chocolate chip or chocolate-chocolate chip cookie, and all three will be on sale for 20 cents each today.
It’s the first time Quality Bakery has celebrated this holiday, though Fendt said he’s had a lot of success on Pi Day – March 14 – and sold close to 100 pies a couple years ago.
His business has chocolate chip cookies most days, he said, and between chocolate chips and M&M’s, he goes through 50 pounds of chocolate each week.
But Fendt said there’s nothing like a warm chocolate chip cookie.
“When I have a bakery full of baked goods and my wife still bakes chocolate chip cookies at home, you know that’s special,” he said.
Baking is a “business of fads,” Fendt said, and while he used to make three batches of fruitcake each year, he now is down to making only one as the treat wanes in popularity.
He’s noticed changing customer demands for chocolate chip cookies, too. He used to only offer the cookies with walnuts, though he doesn’t make it with nuts anymore because people prefer it without.
Still, Fendt said there’s a certain kind of “nostalgia” that many Americans seem to have about this cookie – and even when people diligently follow a family recipe, he said they usually find the treats don’t taste the way they remember.
“The biggest problem is you don’t have your grandmother’s love, and there’s no way that you can buy something like that,” he said. “That’s the only way I can ever explain it. It’s just the way grandma made it that will never change, and you connect so much to what she did, the smells in her house and the cookies that she gave you.”
Even if grandma’s cookies aren’t available, plenty of other local bakers are keeping the tradition alive 80 years after Wakefield stumbled upon that gooey, chocolaty perfection.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587