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Cooking with Myra: It's the simple pleasures

Oct. 2, 2012 at 5:02 a.m.

New York Times Cookie

New York Times Cookie

• 2 cups, minus 2 Tbsp. cake flour

• 1 2/3 cups bread flour

• 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

• 2 tsp. coarse salt

• 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

• 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar

• 1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

• 2 large eggs

• 2 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

• 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet disks (at least 60 percent cacao content)

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours. Do not skip this refrigeration time - I promise they will taste better.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop 6 3 1/2-oz. mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

BY MYRA STARKEY

Munch, munch, munch, munch. As I sat across from him at lunch and watched him, I swear he must have chewed each bite of his sandwich about 20 times.

I was already through eating my sandwich, and he was just finishing the first half of his.

We were at Jason's Deli, both eating our usual Poppa Joe's, Baked Lays and a glass of sweet tea/unsweet tea, mixed half and half.

He asked me what my hurry was, and I told him I needed to get back to the office, that the staff needed me for something. At this moment, I can't remember why I needed to return to the clinic. But I am the office manager and so I'm sure it had to do with managing something.

Munch, munch, munch, 18, 19, 20, swallow. Drink a gulp of tea.

"I think I might need a refill," he said. I ate a Baked Lays. He looked off into the distance, and I could tell he was formulating some deep philosophical thought for our discussion.

"I really like Armor All," he offered. "My truck was looking really bad on the inside, so I vacuumed it out and then wiped everything down with Armor All and now it looks like new. That's some good stuff."

"One of life's simple pleasures," I replied, and he nodded.

He then told me that he was just happy to be there eating lunch with me. It had been a busy morning at the clinic, so I know he was content to be able to sit and relax and not have people asking him serious medical questions.

I wondered if he was eating slowly in order to delay going back to work. I could tell he was enjoying each bite. He was fully living in the moment.

I realized we weren't leaving right away. I told him about a simple pleasure I had been trying to take time to do.

When I get home from work, I make a cup of hot tea in one of my grandmother's old tea cups and put it on the saucer and then sit at the dining room table and slowly drink it while I look out the window into the garden. I find that very relaxing.

I'm not sure that I slow down often enough to enjoy the moment.

We had gone out to the country the evening before, and I sat on a rocker on the front porch for a while and read on my Kindle.

The wind was blowing briskly from the north, across the hay pasture, and it smelled like an earthy, grassy country wind. It was not a cold north wind because it is only early fall in South Texas, which means that all the hot and humid air that has been blowing off the Gulf for the last four months has simply changed directions and is coming back at us from wherever it went.

As the sun fell lower, I could see whitetails warily ease out of the brush to nibble in the open pasture. I could think of nothing that would offer greater relaxation than to simply sit and rock at that moment.

Taylor was bobbing up and down in the seat of his old John Deere tractor as he disappeared down the road to the back woods.

He finds relaxation and mental rest in shredding. Perhaps it is the hum of the engine or the pleasure of looking back and seeing order restored where once there was only high weeds and brush.

I settled back into the porch rocker and let my mind wander to other pleasures of life: our children, my poodles, Hazel and Lola, hot tea in beautiful teacups, big glasses of sweet tea, morning cafe lattes with Taylor, phone calls from family and friends, walking barefoot in newly mowed grass, picking tomatoes in my garden, reading a good book, listening to music, floating on my back in a pool, eating grape popsicles or buttered popcorn or ice cold seedless purple grapes or honey crisp apples or chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven.

I frequently get recipe requests from friends and readers for the chocolate chip cookies I make. The dough is made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to bake into the wonderful finished product.

The recipe has been reprinted multiple times in the New York Times, and therefore, the title.

My daughter, Hannah, found a great restaurant in Houston called Tiny Boxwoods. They have a bistro-type menu, but serve some of the best chocolate chip cookies. Hannah and I always get them at the beginning of the meal and eat them first while we wait on our food. I think that eating dessert first is also a simple pleasure of life. After all, no one says you have to wait to the end of your meal.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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