On my way back from class this morning, I ran into my neighbor, Mrs. W, in the hallway outside of my apartment. Mrs. W is a sweet, spunky, fiercely independent woman who will be celebrating her 91st birthday this year. When Mrs. W turned 80, she inaugurated an annual birthday tradition of gathering a group of loved ones and walking several miles both to and from her favorite restaurant in the area. When we see her shoveling the snow around her car, Dylan and I always offer to help, and she always politely declines because in her mind, if she can’t do that, what’s she good for? In fact, one time she even walked over and started helping me clean my car, even though I insisted that she didn’t have to go through the trouble. In a lot of ways, her spirit seems more youthful and more energized than many of my twenty-something year old peers.
When we had an electrical fire in our apartment building earlier this year and were displaced for nearly a week, she was mostly upset about losing her frozen rhubarb and cherries from summertime. She told us the story of how during that same fire, her husband was walking too slowly for the firefighters’ liking, and so, a man in uniform threw her husband over his back and raced him down the stairs. She got a kick out of telling us that story, I think. Although I don’t know them too well, I have looked up to Mr. and Mrs. W ever since I first met them. To me, they truly seemed to be the sweet old couple that warmed the hearts of everyone they met.
This morning, Mrs. W told me that her husband had passed away yesterday. She told me they’d been married for 68 years, and that they were so lucky. She told me that he knows she is going to be okay. She told me she had to stay strong for her kids, because they were so devastated by the somewhat anticipated, yet totally unprecedented passing of their dad. Not knowing what to say at first, I opened my arms and hugged her – an instinctive reaction that has never been quite so instinctive for me, an action that surprised and comforted me all the same. I then told her that Dylan and I are always just a door-knock away, should she ever want our company. I held back my tears, out of respect for the fact that she was strong enough to hold back hers.
When I entered my apartment, I found Dylan, still in bed and still asleep. I knelt down beside him and cried, if only for several moments, but just long enough to acknowledge the feelings I was having. I mourned the loss of Mr. W, but not of their love, for that still burns in the beating hearts of Mrs. W, her family, her friends, and her neighbors over here in Apartment 11.
Later on in the day, I baked the cookie dough saved in my fridge and left a plate of chocolate chip cookies at the foot of Mrs. W’s front door. I don’t know how much good cookies can do in this sort of situation, but I wanted to do something, even the smallest of things, to offer my condolences to her and her family.
- 238 grams (1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 134 grams (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons lightly packed) dark brown sugar
- 12 grams ( 1 3/4 teaspoons) pure maple syrup (alternatively, use molasses)
- 104 grams (1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
- 167 grams (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 jumbo-size egg (I always use the largest egg in a carton of large eggs)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- approximately 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, chunks, or a mixture of both (I use a mix of half bittersweet, half semisweet)
- sea salt (for sprinkling)
- Place the flour in a medium bowl. Sift in the baking soda. Add the salt and whisk together. Set aside.
- In a separate small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, maple syrup, and granulated sugar – breaking up any lumps; the mixture will not be completely smooth. Set aside.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn to medium-low speed and cream the butter until it is the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted. Add the syrup mixture and mix for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds, until just combined. Scrape the bowl again. The mixture may look broken, but that is fine (over-whipping the eggs could cause the cookies to expand too much during baking and then deflate).
- Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there. Add the chocolate and pulse on low speed about 10 times to combine, or just fold in by hand. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
- Position the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Scoop out large mounds of dough. Roll the mounds into a ball between the palms of your hands. Since the cookies are large, only place about four on each cookie sheet – leave at least 3-inches of space between each cookie and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake until golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. (Note: The cookies will look undercooked – that’s okay. They will set up perfectly once they have cooled off.) Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 8-10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.