sea salt dark chocolate chip cookies

In the last few years, working at the restaurant, leaving the barn full time, I found myself...pudging up around the midsection. Before leaving the farm, I never worked out, but I stayed the same size and pretty fit, because my life was essentially mandatory hard labor, day in and day out. At the restaurant, being surrounded by my favorite foods, from a menu I created, without any corresponding exercise, well, it didn't do me any favors.

A few months ago, I started running with Truman. We both needed the exercise, and it was enjoyable, but I didn't see much of a result. I got to the point that I was running 4-5 miles a day, but I still had trouble fitting into my old clothes. I would lose motivation, and only go a mile or two, even when I knew I could push further.

After making the move to Atlanta, Boyfriend and I started taking yoga classes together. We go two or three times a week, to 90-minute classes. We are both beginners, but since we each have fairly athletic backgrounds, the classes are still enjoyable. Having never taken a group fitness class before, the first time I was apprehensive, but now I eagerly anticipate each class.

After a month or so of yoga, I talked myself into trying another workout: pure barre. If you haven't heard of it, it's a 55-minute class that revolves around very small and specific movements. Each muscle group is targeted, and the goal is to work the muscles to the point of failure- until they start to shake. And then to keep going, of course, because why go to a fitness class if not for the push to go beyond your usual routine?

The dichotomy between the yoga classes and the barre classes is stark. Our yoga studio is very relaxed, comfortable, and open. The instructors are super cool. One of my favorite instructors at yoga often uses the phrase, 'whatever is available'. As in, this pose is supposed to have you folded like a pretzel...but your body will tell you what is available. No judgment, no pushing, just whatever is available. Can't touch your toes? That's okay. Use your shins. Or your thighs. Whatever is available.

On the other hand, in the barre classes, the instructors are constantly pushing. There's no 'whatever's available'. What's available is your muscles, for torture, and you're going to do it to yourself. Tucking and pulsing and standing on tiptoes until your legs literally give out: that is the goal of the class. That being said, I love it. The barre instructors are great, helpful and friendly, and it's powerful to stand in a room every morning with a group of very strong (literally) women. Why am I telling you this? Because I've been going to barre five days a week for a month, and despite that, I still made these cookies. They are insanely good. They are the epitome of a chocolate chip cookie; the pinnacle of what should be reached by weaving together flour, sugar, and chunks of chocolate. They are worth the calories. Even though I'm going to have to go burn every single one off tomorrow morning at barre. 

Now: they are more of a commitment than your classic Tollhouse situation. They require a little forethought and some ingredients you may not have lying around. But if you want to reach the peak of cookie glory, the Everest of chocolate chip goodness, you're going to have to put in some more effort, and that's all there is to it. Okay? Okay. One more thing: do not make these to give away. Don't make them for a bake sale, or to take into your office as a treat, or to give away to anyone. Perhaps even your immediate family. I'm just saying. They're more expensive (because of the chocolate) and they're more effort (to make them the pinnacle!) and you have the option of only baking one at a time. Forever.

Ready? Here's how it's done:

First, there's a few things you're going to need to procure.

1. The most important. Really good dark chocolate. I mean, really, really good, chocolate. It should be at least 60% cacao and somewhere around 25-30$ a pound. Some Whole Foods carry Valrhona 'feves', which are just disks, but most don't. You can order them online, or you can be like me, and buy a box of whatever really good dark chocolate bars are on sale at Whole Foods that day. The feves will probably be more convenient, but harder to find.

2. Make sure you have bread flour and cake flour on hand. Really, scroll on down to the bottom and read the whole recipe. Make sure you have everything you need before you go to the store to pick up the extras.

3. Sea salt. Maldon flake salt is what you are looking for- again, you should be able to find it at Whole Foods or another specialty retailer. The goal is a very fine salt with thin crystals- kosher salt really won't do here.

Okay, now that you have all your supplies, we can start. First, you're going to sift together all of your dry ingredients. Set them aside. Next, you're going to cream the sugars together with the butter.

One of the most common mistakes I see home bakers make is in this fundamental step: creaming the butter and sugar together. This is a process. It will take a few minutes. Commit!

I have seen many bakers stop at the point pictured below because the butter and sugar has been incorporated together. Here's the thing: keep going. You want the mixture to be a fluffy paste. 

Properly creamed butter and sugar will look like this.

Now you're ready to add the eggs! Add them one at a time, and beat well after each addition- at least a full minute. 

After the eggs are incorporated, add the vanilla, and combine well. Then add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet mixture. I combined mine by hand, as your goal is to agitate the flour as little as possible. 

The dough will be crumbly and very soft. Add the chocolate chunks- which will have almost equal volume to the dough in the bowl. Don't be afraid. We're climbing cookie Everest together.

Fold in the chocolate as best you can without breaking it. It will not be super cohesive. That's okay.

Form the mixture into three separate logs and wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. Place each log into a gallon freezer bag and make sure there is no air in the bag when you seal it. At this point, I put two of the logs in the freezer and one in the fridge, but depending how many cookies you want to make tomorrow, you can choose your choices.

Make sure to keep a close eye on the dough at this point, or some of it might just walk away.

salted choc chip cookies (17).JPG

Leave the dough to chill in the fridge for at least 24 and up to 72 hours. When you're ready to bake some cookies, slice off 3/4" thick slices and space them out on a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet. After slicing, sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of the Maldon sea salt.

Bake them at 350 for about 18-20 minutes. They really will take that long. Pull them out as soon as they turn golden brown.

Let them cool on the cookie sheet for ten minutes, then slide the silicone or parchment onto a cooling rack for another ten minutes. 

Of course, if you don't have to take pictures for the internet, you could just eat one now.

So there you have it. Remember: these are a gift. Only bestow them on the truly deserving. You're welcome.

This recipe is adapted from a Jacques Torres recipe that originally appeared in the New York Times in 2008. The only thing I changed is using salted butter instead of regular butter, and using 1 cup of dark brown sugar for a more butterscotchy version. 

Here's the recipe: use it wisely!