Urban Myths and The Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe

Years ago when we were kids my parents and the other parents in the neighbourhood used to get together leaving all the kids outside to play. We would run around each other’s backyards like the hooligans we were playing until the sun went down until, finally exhausted, we would gather in a semicircle outside in the dark and take turns at telling the scariest stories we could think of. You know the sort of thing: “a couple was driving along a deserted road and their car runs out of petrol, the young man gets out and …..”  well let’s just say things don’t end up well for him.

Back then they were just extremely scary stories designed to see who got scared and generally had kids cowering under the covers at night. As a kid I believed these stories, but of course I now know they are just urban myths. Although the other night I was driving home it was very dark and…..

Years later while working in the hotel pastry kitchen I came across another urban myth in the guise of the recipe for the Neiman Marcus cookie. Now I am not sure if I am the only person on the planet that had never heard this story of revenge and spite about a woman charged $250 for the prized Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, but I was intrigued by it.  Not so much by the story itself because after all it was just your standard “you did me wrong now I will exact revenge story”, but more by the history and the recipe behind it.

If like me you haven’t heard this story before in a nutshell it goes something like this..

“A woman and her daughter were having lunch at the department store Neiman Marcus and decided to have dessert. Being cookie lovers they both had the NM cookie. Loving them so much she asked the waitress for the recipe. The waitress says no, but NM were prepared to sell the recipe for two fifty to which the woman said charge it to my Visa.

Long story short the woman gets charged $250 for the recipe and is so outraged she rings the NM accounting department to complain. She is told she has the recipe so there will be no refund. In revenge the woman has spread the recipe around the world begging everyone to pass it on to everyone they know so that no one else will have to pay for it”.

To this day they still don’t know who started this urban myth or who’s kitchen the cookie recipe came out of, although from all accounts it is a very good cookie. In all the research I did I couldn’t find anyone that had put their hand up and said it was their recipe.

Neiman Marcus denied this story was true and didn’t even have a cookie on the menu at the time. It didn’t stop them from going on to produce a cookie recipe that they now give away for free.

One of the things I did find fascinating was that in every version that I read the recipe remained exactly the same throughout the telling, It’s a fact of life that recipes change, they are passed from person to person and small adjustments are made to suit individual tastes along the way. Maybe it’s just that the whole story was e-mailed from one person to another so unlike a verbal retelling where things get changed it managed to get passed on word for word.

The verdict, I really liked this cookie (or biscuit as we call them in Australia). There is a good base for a cookie here and you can eat them just as they are or add some other fruit, nuts or spices to make something a little bit different.

So, the moral of this story….. always check your credit card receipt before you leave the store :)

 

Recipe

Neiman Marcus Cookie

Adapted from the Neiman Marcus “Urban Myth” Cookie – The original cookie has a Hershey bar in it, I substituted milk chocolate chips.

Makes 35-45

  • 250gm rolled oats
  • 200gm unsalted butter
  • 200gm caster sugar
  • 160gm brown sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 300gm plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 340gm dark chocolate chips
  • 110gm milk chocolate chips
  • 150gm walnuts, chopped.

Method

Blend the rolled oats in a food processor until it is the consistency of flour.

Cream the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar in a stand mixer until light and creamy.

Add eggs one at a time mixing between additions. Add vanilla and mix to combine.

Add the flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the butter mix. Mix on low speed until fully combined.

Remove from mixer then add dark and milk chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, mix together with a wooden spoon until the chocolate and nuts are evenly spread through the mixture.

Roll into balls and place 2″ apart on pre prepared tray.

Note: They don’t say in the original recipe how big to make the cookies, I did a mixture of medium and large. It is no problem to do this just remember to keep all small or all large on the same tray that way they will bake evenly and all be ready at the same time.

Bake for 10-14 minutes @ 180ºC.

Leave on the oven tray for 5 minutes to harden before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Flashback – Pear and Chocolate Hot Cross Buns and a Nursery Rhyme…

Chocolate & Pear Hot Cross Buns

In days gone by bread and buns were assumed to hold all sorts of mystical powers. It was said that if you purchased a hot cross bun made on Good Friday it would never go mouldy. This surely begs the question “why would you buy a hot cross bun that never goes mouldy, don’t you just want to eat them? But no, apparently tying them to the rafters of your home was a much better use for them. To be fair the humble hot cross bun was believed to be so empowered that it could cure illness and if hung from the rafters would protect the house. Mind you, as a country that buys its insurance off a meerkat on TV I don’t really feel that we can sit in judgement of our ancestors’ little idiosyncrasies.

Another tradition around hot cross buns is to sing the nursery rhyme “Hot Cross Buns”. This nursery rhyme has been around since the 18th century when London street vendors would hawk their wares by shouting out “Hot Cross Buns” to lure passerbys.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

Some of you will remember this song from your childhood, but for those of you who don’t know it I warn you that it is an earworm and you will never be able to eat hot cross buns without hearing it over and over and over and …… over!

 

 

Chocolate & Pear Hot Cross Buns

I originally posted this recipe almost a year ago. As I enjoyed them so much the first time around I thought I would play around with the recipe a bit to see if I could improve them. This time I have added more spices and instead of using fresh pears I have used dried pears. The dried pears were definitely a lot easier to work with as the dough didn’t get as wet so it was a lot easier to handle.

Recipe

Pear and Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Makes 10 buns

Ingredients

  • 250gm Bakers Flour
  • 30gm Sugar
  • 8gm dried yeast
  • 20gm Butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 140ml water (approx.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 50gm dark chocolate chips
  • 75gm dried pear chopped.

Paste for the Cross

  • 75gm plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 75ml water.

Place flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and butter into a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, with a paddle attachment, mix on a low speed until there are no lumps of butter left and the consistency is like breadcrumbs.

Change attachment to the dough hook. Add water and mix on a medium speed until dough has come together and is smooth. Add salt and mix on medium high for approx 5 minutes. Dough should be firm and smooth.

Place dough on a lightly floured bench and add in the chocolate chips. Knead until the chocolate chips are evenly mixed in.

Add pear and knead again until mixture comes together and the pear is evenly distributed in the dough.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Tip: Keep the oiled plastic wrap, as you can reuse it later in the process.

Rest dough in a warm place for approximately 30 minutes.

Punch down dough, knead, then cut dough and shape into 10 balls (approx. 57gms each). Cover the balls with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Rest dough for 5 minutes.

Reshape balls making sure they are smooth and tight and place on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Leave a space between each ball, to allow them to double in size. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.

Rest dough for approximately 1 hour, in a warm place, until balls have risen and doubled in size.

Just before buns are ready to go in the oven, make the flour paste for the crosses by whisking together flour, sugar and water. The paste should be firm enough to pipe.

Remove plastic wrap from buns and pipe a cross on each bun.

 

Bake at 200°C for approx 15-18 minutes.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool or, of course, you can hang them from the rafters and cure all manner of illnesses when required.

Chocolate & Pear Hot Cross Buns

Happy 1st Birthday Lemon Grove Cake Diaries!

How quickly a year goes by. The Lemon Grove Cake Diaries is celebrating it’s first birthday today and of course what is a birthday without cake. Before you get too excited, I haven’t made a cake  especially for this birthday. I have just finished making a cake for my Mum who is visiting from New Zealand and making another cake just seemed too greedy even for me :)

Thanks to everyone who has followed my blog and for all the lovely comments over the last year!

So without further ado here is a look back at some of the cakes from the last year.

Mum’s cake – Lemon and Raspberry cake with white chocolate ganache.

Chocolate and Raspberry Layer Cake

Chocolate and beetroot red velvet cake

Coconut and raspberry cake with lemon curd Italian buttercream

Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cake

Naked Chocolate and Butterscotch Cake

Butterscotch and chocolate layer cake