The $250 Chocolate Chip Cookie
By Cleo Coyle
As a writer of culinary murder mysteries, I find urban legends fascinating. Maybe because they cross into that peculiar realm between shadowy danger and human folly. Maybe because they test our imagination. Or maybe, like any good campfire story, they blend the scary with the whacky.
Here are three you’ve likely heard:
1. Alligators in the New York Sewers – A family supposedly brought back a few babies from Florida and flushed them into the system, where they still live and prowl today.
Personally, I haven’t detected any evidence of ferocious creatures beneath my septic system, but it would be an interesting way to, well…go. Hey, no groaning. Shakespeare and Hitchcock considered the pun the highest form of humor. (Of course, that was pre-twitter lolcat.)
2. The Hook – A young couple parked on “Lovers’ Lane” hears a radio report about a crazy escaped convict with a hook for a hand. The boy doesn’t want to leave, but the girl makes him. When they arrive home, the girl gets out of the car and screams. A hook is hanging from her door handle.
Okay, I’m sure this is supposed to serve as some sort of cautionary tale for young people who park and fog up windows. Honestly, I “parked” in my youth, but I never saw a psychotic killer through my car window—although a cop once appeared with a flashlight. But that was in my 30s. At the beach. With my husband. And, wow, were we embarrassed.
3. Bloody Mary – Stand in front of a mirror and chant “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” and her ghost will appear. I once tried this and it actually worked! My husband overheard me and brought me this:
Which brings me to a tasty sub-category of the urban legend—the culinary variety…
The $250.00 Neiman Marcus
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
A woman finishes her meal at the Neiman Marcus café and asks her waitress for the recipe of the store’s signature chocolate chip cookies. The waitress delivers the recipe to the woman’s table. A few weeks later the woman notices a $250.00 charge from Neiman Marcus on her credit card. When she calls to inquire about the charge, they inform her it was the cost of the recipe!
The story is, of course, totally false, but one true thing happened as a result. So many people repeated the tale that Neiman Marcus made their recipe available free to the public. A nice break for those of us who love testing new chocolate chip cookie recipes.
To wit: I am presently testing a brand new chocolate chip cookie recipe as a bonus for readers of my upcoming Coffeehouse Mystery HOLIDAY BUZZ, in which my amateur sleuth (coffeehouse manager Clare) must dodge two reality show divas, hoodwink a pro-hockey player, and outwit an NYPD forensics freak to solve the murder of a young baker’s assistant whose body she discovers at the close of a glittering charity party known as The Great New York Cookie Swap.
As with all my culinary mysteries, HOLIDAY BUZZ will feature plenty of tasty recipes—including cookie and holiday recipes.
After all that baking, I’m happy to share some tips with you on getting the most out of any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Yes, even a notorious one.
The Urban Legend
Neiman Marcus $250 Cookie Recipe
To download this recipe in a convenient PDF form that you can print, save, or share, CLICK HERE.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons (T) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
* See my my tips (below) for getting the best results out of this recipe. ~ Cleo
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)
2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.
4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.
CLEO’S VERDICT – A very good recipe. I especially like the espresso powder addition. Don’t be put off by this. You do not taste the coffee. In fact, the addition of coffee to a recipe is a well-known chef’s trick to intensify the flavor of chocolate.
CLEO’S TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST RESULTS:
1 – Hydrate the dough: For the best results here, I strongly suggest that you chill this dough in the fridge overnight or 24 to 36 hours before baking. Simply form the dough into a ball, wrap it snugly in plastic, and place the wrapped dough ball into the fridge. Allowing almost any cookie dough to rest in the refrigerator gives the liquids time to penetrate the dry ingredients. You are also giving the flavors time to develop in the dough. This is really the best tip I can give you for any chocolate chip cookie.
2 – Forming the cookies: I didn’t bother with a measuring scoop as the recipe suggests. I simply used clean fingers to roll little balls (slightly smaller than golf balls) and used the heel of my hand to press them gently into rounds of about 2-inches in diameter.
3 – Baking the cookies: I use a simple $5.00 oven thermometer to make sure my oven temperature is accurate. If your oven is truly preheated to 300 degrees F., then I suggest baking the cookies for only 17 minutes. 15 minutes is a little too chewy and 20 a little too crispy, but 17 minutes at exactly 300 degrees F.…ah, just right for you to…eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle, author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Visit Cleo at her online coffeehouse: www.CoffeehouseMystery.com
About the Author:
CLEO COYLE is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Like their 11 COFFEEHOUSE MYSTERIES, their 5 HAUNTED BOOKSHOP MYSTERIES (written under the name Alice Kimberly) have been national bestsellers for Penguin. When not haunting coffeehouses or hunting ghosts, Alice and Marc are NY Times bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for NBC, Lucasfilm, Fox, Imagine, MGM, and Disney. Their upcoming Coffeehouse Mystery release, HOLIDAY BUZZ, is a culinary mystery set in New York City during the magical Christmas season, and its appendix is packed with delicious cookie and holiday recipes. Their current release, A BREW TO A KILL, was a Mystery Guild Featured Alternate Selection, a B&N “must-read” mystery, and a top-7 Bookscan hardcover bestseller. There are over 20 fun recipes in A BREW TO A KILL. For a peek at the book’s recipe section, CLICK HERE.
To download a convenient checklist for Cleo’s Coffeehouse Mystery titles in order, CLICK HERE.