salted chocolate chip cookies {and what i learned while running 200 miles}

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It was 3 o'clock in the morning and we had just pulled up to 7-Eleven. 

There was a cop just outside the store holding hands with a women wearing a 7-Eleven uniform, heads bowed.

"I think they're praying". My brother said, so we waited for a second before getting out of the car. 

After a moment they hugged, she wiped away some tears, and the cop got back into his car and drove off. The lady spotted us staring at her from the car (whoops) and motioned for us to come inside. A few of us got out to buy what we needed.

While at the cash register, my husband asked the lady if everything was okay. Her face was creased and callused as if life hadn't been as kind as it should have been. Her hair was cropped super short, probably for ease more than style. She looked like someone with a story to tell and I wish I could have heard it all. 

"I lost my mom a year ago today." She said, "It's just been tough." John sympathized and chatted a bit more with her, thanking her and wishing her well.  

When we were driving away we speculated that the cop was a regular, probably stopping often on his night shifts to pick up a bite to eat, or a beverage and over time, developing a friendship with this woman. A friendship, I assumed, was very much appreciated. The night shift is a lonely place to be. It was touching to witness this small private moment; a small testament that kindness and compassion still live on. 

The night we pulled up to this 7-Eleven shop we were taking a small break to buy some water and ice - replenishing our supply so we could continue our race.  It's a race called Ragnar, a 200-ish mile relay race from Huntington Beach to San Diego, made up of a team of 6-12 people. You "run" for 36 hours until you meet the finish line. It's a crazy-laugh-until-I-cry experience every time. I got to run it with some of my dearest family members and friends. We bonded, pushed our limits and ran while dressed up in crazy attire. We were team "Cookie Monsters", so we ran in fuzzy hairy blue leg warmers, cookie monster hats and all blue. One of us even had a handmade cape and all blue spandex suit. It was amaze. My favorite thing was hearing little kids shout "Cookie Monster!" as we ran by. "Running" 200 miles dressed up weird, sheds some new light on the word appreciation. 

I thought it was appropriate since we were the "Cookie Monsters" to have actual cookies on board. Thus this cookie. 

This is my favorite cookie. 

Cookies are the first thing I think of baking when I hear someone needs some love. Cookies and conversation. While, I cannot take any credit for this amazing recipe, I can say, that I have made it and delivered it to more souls than any other recipe as of late. The pooling chocolate and sprinkle of sea salt sends people over the moon. (Thank you, Ashley.) I'd like to think that my conversational skills are just outstanding too, lol. 

This past encounter with that sweet stranger at 7-Eleven was a gentle reminder that we could all use a few extra hugs and prayers and compassion. I am so guilty of living my life and being so wrapped up in the business of it (my job is all time consuming) that I forget I have loved ones only a phone call or drive away. To remind my of what's most important, I vow to more cookies and conversation. xo 

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chocolate chip cookies with sea salt

adapted from Ashley Rodriguez's blog, Not Without Salt, and cookbook, Date Night In

yields roughly 24 cookies - more or less depending on how big you make 'em

This recipe was discovered on one of my favorite blogs, Ashley's not without salt. Ashley speaks my language. Her recipe is perfect as is, but I switched it slightly using whole wheat pastry flour instead of the originally called for all purpose flour. You can't go wrong using either flour. I made the switch because it gave me a really crunchy outside, while keeping the inside exceptionally gooey.  Also, it's an attempt at something whole wheat and I feel it only enhances the flavor. The whole wheat pastry flour does make the cookie a bit darker, which may fool some people into thinking they're overdone.... but then they take a bite and well, it's all over. 

bakers notes: Use the best quality chocolate you can find and afford! I promise you it's worth it. Try not to buy regular chocolate chips as you want to get that pooling effect that only big callets or chunks of chocolate can give. Buy that big chunk of fancy chocolate you've been eyeing at whole foods but never had an excuse to buy. You now have an excuse, so spurge.

8 ounces / 226g unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
¼ cup / 57g sugar
¼ cup / 57g turbinado sugar (you can find this online or at whole foods)
1 ¾ cup / 314g light or dark brown sugar, packed (I prefer dark brown sugar, but both work well!)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 ½ cups / 454g unbleached all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour, or a mixture of both
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 lb / 455g chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, see note about chocolate above
several teaspoons course, good quality sea salt, for sprinkling on top before baking (I love maldon salt)

Preheat oven to 360° F / 182° C. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

Cream the butter and the sugars until very light and fluffy, in an electric mixer about 5 - 7 minutes. (It should look like a light brown butter cloud.) Scrape down the side of the bowl. Continue mixing while adding the eggs one at time. Make sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Combine the flour, soda and salt in separate bowl, whisking to combine. With your mixer on low, slowly add the flour. Mix until just combined. Then on low speed, mix in the chocolate. 

Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours before baking, preferably over night. (If you can't wait, you can make the cookies with room temperature dough but keep in mind they may need slightly less baking time.) 

Form dough balls. Mine are about 2-3 tablespoons in size. I smash the tops of the dough balls just slightly to make a nice roof to hold the salt. 

Sprinkle a very fine dusting of good quality sea salt, my favorite is Maldon Salt. Sprinkle just a pinch. A little goes a long way. 

Bake at 360° F / 182° C for 12-14 minutes. Baking time depends on how big your cookies are, whether or not your dough is cold. I like a cold dough going into the oven. Cookies should be golden on the outside but still look wet gooey on the inside. Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes and then take them off the sheet pan and onto a cooling wrack. 

I'm drooling as I type this.