When I was growing up, there was no place else for a girl my age to dazzle her jealous peers with the latest in parachute pant and slap bracelet technology quite like the Maine Mall, thanks to the existence of four different stores.
The “Pet Menagerie” was always one of the first stops. As soon as my sister and I made our grand entrance into the mall, we would hound our parents unmercifully until they brought us to this shop. The pea green walls were lined with kennels filled to the brim with doe-eyed puppies enduring a long 12-hour day of kids tapping on the glass and screeching in delight.
From there it was on to “KB Toys.” Do you remember KB Toys? The red-headed stepbrother of Toys R’ Us lived in a corner outside of Penny’s (that’s JC Penny, for those not in the know). They could not have put more toys in that store if they tried. I’m not talking about the variety of toys. The sheer volume of toys was staggering. There were five or six aisles, all lined with shelves that reached the ceiling. Each and every square inch of those shelves were stuffed with everything from Cabbage Patch Dolls to Silly Putty. It was a kid’s dream and a parent’s nightmare.
The middle of our mall trip was marked by a trip to “Sweets,” the candy store that has since been replaced Forever 21. We live in a sad time.
We had one goal in Sweets: Replenish the Jelly Belly stash. Long before they were about $15.00 per pound, we would fill our bags with watermelon, cherry, root beer and bubble gum flavored jelly beans. For weeks, we would pass the bag back and forth and try to guess which flavor we pulled from the bag without peeking.
The entire adventure concluded at the outskirts of the food court, under the iconic red and white “Mrs. Fields” sign that to me, was synonymous with the perfect cookie. There was always an elderly woman behind the counter. In my youth, I thought that each and every one of these grey-haired angels was Mrs. Fields herself. Who else would they have named the store after?
The Pet Menagerie, KB Toys and Sweets are all gone now, replaced by a maternity clothing store, a Lens Crafters and a Forever 21, but Mrs. Fields is still serving up cookies, brownies, and slushies, and I still try to end each mall trip with a perfectly chewy cookie. My new favorite is their Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie, which I have recreated here.
The cookies will keep for about a week if stored in an airtight container. To keep the cookies, or any homemade cookies moist when being stored, place half a piece of sandwich bread in the container with the cookies. The cookies will draw moisture from the bread and stay chewy longer.
- 2½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 14 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups chocolate chips and/or chunks (You can mix it up with a few different kinds)
- Sea salt for sprinkling at the end
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup brown sugar
- In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together softened butter and sugars until fully combined and light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Slowly add the bowl of dry ingredients and beat until the ingredients come together to form large balls. You want the dough to just barely come together rather than trying to make it smooth.
- Fold in the chocolate chips. You will need a bit of muscle to get them fully folded in.
- Put dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper and scoop out balls that are roughly 2 tablespoons worth of dough.
- Place at least an inch apart on the cookie sheet and gently flatten each ball just a bit. These cookies will spread, but just a bit, so I like to flatten them a little to make sure I have plenty of surface area for caramel.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges start to to a light golden brown.
- Let cook on a rack.
- While the cookies are cooling, prepare the caramel. In a small saucepan, combine all caramel ingredients.
- Cook over low-medium heat, constantly whisking, until it comes to a boil.
- Let the mixture boil for two minutes, still constantly whisking and remove from heat. Keep whisking until the mixture stops bubbling.
- Using a spoon, drizzle the warm caramel over the tops of the cookies. Let caramel set for a minute or two and then sprinkle with sea salt.