Chocolate Drop Cookies

The recipe

1-3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
½ cup shortening
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
½ cup chopped nut meats

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Melt chocolate on Low. Blend together shortening and vanilla extract. Gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Add chocolate. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Add nut meats. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake in 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 50.

Serve with:
Tea or milk for the children or as Ruth Wakefield wisely suggested, as an accompaniment to ice cream.

Vegan and gluten free substitutions

This recipe can be made vegan and/or gluten free with a few clever substitutions!

1&¾  cups sifted all-purpose flour (substitute plain GF flour if needed)

¼ tsp. baking soda (for people baking in Australia, McKenzie's Baking Soda is GF)

1 tsp. baking powder (for people baking in Australia, McKenzie's Baking Powder is GF)

½ tsp. salt (no substitution necessary)

2 ounces (50g for those australians playing at home) unsweetened chocolate (use 70-80% cocoa chocolate, or you can substitute 50g of any vegan chocolate)

½ cup shortening (substitute ½ cup Nuttelex for vegan alternative)

½ tsp. vanilla extract (no substitution necessary)

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (no substitution necessary)

1 egg (substitute Aquafaba* or a Flaxseed egg replacer* for vegan alternative) 

½ cup milk (I used almond milk, but any nut milk will work for a vegan alternative)

½ cup chopped nut meats (I used a mixture of peanut, macadamia, cashew and almond. Feel free to use whatever nuts you like best, or for a nut free version substitute oats or seeds)

*Three tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to about one whole egg, while two tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to about one egg white. Keep in mind that a can of chickpeas yields about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of this liquid, so about eight to 12 tablespoons. For more info: OR

*To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken. You could leave it up to 30 minutes if you want.

The significance

The chocolate-chip cookie is a quintessential American dessert. Known as a biscuit elsewhere, the chocolate chip cookie has a well-defined birthday, unlike many other recipes which are handed down through generations until their provenance becomes muddied. Ruth Wakefield, who ran the Toll House restaurant in Massachusetts published the now famous recipe in the 1938 edition of her cookbook, and the rest is history. This recipe, for the chocolate drop cookie, dates back earlier and has similar ingredients, but how you use the chocolate is different, and produces a very different looking cookie.

The recipe for Chocolate Drop Cookies from the Elaine Hunchuck DeFrank family records is from the Patchwork Voices Community Collection at the Coal and Coke Heritage Center at Penn State Fayette campus, located in southwestern Pennsylvania. This center tells the story of the people, the industry, and the land that made up the prosperous Pittsburgh Coal Seam, which was once recognized as the most valuable coal bed in the state.  The Center developed and expanded following the publication of Patch/Work Voices: The Culture and Lore of a Mining People. The Center’s collection includes maps, photographs, company records, correspondence, research, oral histories, and some family recipes like this one.

Like many in the area, Elaine was a first generation American. During the late 1800s, people had migrated here from both Western and Eastern Europe, as well as from other parts of the United States to work the mines and support the industry.  The majority of the towns were made up of those with Italian and Eastern European heritage. Elaine was Slovak and married into an Italian family but she would tell stories about how recipes were often traded amongst neighbors, so it’s impossible to trace the cultural origins of this recipe. Cookies and desserts would have been made for celebrations, especially weddings and the major holidays like Easter and Christmas.