Neiman Marcus Nerd Cookies

Remember that old spam email that got passed around so much years and years ago?  The one that claimed a woman was charged $250 for a cookie recipe by Neiman Marcus, and so she decided to share it with everyone she knew to get back at them?  The neighbors came by while I was baking these, and neither of them had ever heard of the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe email, so now I feel like an old nerd.  Oh well.

That story was obviously a load of bull, but the cookies that recipe makes are amazing.

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For the most part, it’s a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Butter, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips.  The secret of the amazingness is espresso powder.  Not regular instant coffee.  Espresso powder.  It’s magical stuff.  I love the slight coffee flavor in this recipe, but if you’re some kind of mutant weirdo who doesn’t think coffee tastes good, cut the amount of espresso powder in half.  That way, your cookies won’t actually taste like coffee.  If you’re just leaving coffee out of chocolate recipes that call for it, you’re missing out.  Coffee, in all its various forms, enhances the flavor of chocolate in amazing ways, even when you don’t use enough to actually taste the coffee.

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See that beater?  It’s called a Sideswipe beater.  If you have a stand mixer, and you don’t have one of these, trust me when I tell you that you want one. They’re amazing.  No stopping the mixer to scrape down the bowl, the beater does it for you, and everything gets mixed in less than half the time.

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One of the most important steps in making most kinds of cookies is creaming the butter and sugar.  When a recipe tells you to do this, it doesn’t mean to just kind of mash them together until it looks mostly mixed.  The purpose of creaming is to use the sharp crystals of the sugar to puncture the butter and turn the solid mass of fat into a network of microscopic air pockets so the chemical leaveners can do their thing and fill those pockets with gas.  To do this, you need to start with butter that’s at slightly cool room temperature, about 70ºF.  Press on the top of a stick, and if your finger just makes an indentation, it’s ready.  If the whole stick of butter tries to smush out of the wrapper, it’s way too warm and you’ll end up with greasy cookies.  You should just be able to make a bit of a dent.  Beat the butter until it’s nice and smooth, then add the sugars and beat some more.  You’re not done until it’s light and fluffy.  Then you add the eggs and vanilla and beat again.  Adding the eggs will make the batter look sort of curdled and gross for a bit.  That’s okay, just keep beating until you get back to light and fluffy.  After that, you just mix in the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips.

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This is a really stiff dough.  I can make the whole thing in my mixer because I have a Kitchenaid Pro.  Also, that awesome SideSwipe beater means there’s room for the chips to not get jammed between the beater and the side of the bowl.  If you’ve got a smaller, less powerful mixer, you’ll probably have to mix in the chips by hand.  That’s okay, just make sure they get evenly distributed.  If your dough doesn’t look this stiff, DO NOT ADD FLOUR.  At least not yet.  If you think your dough is too soft and sticky, let it sit on the counter for a good 15 minutes to make sure the flour already in there is fully hydrated.  Then, bake a single test cookie.  If, after that, you still think it’s too soft, add flour a tablespoon at a time, and let the dough sit and hydrate between each addition.  If you start dumping in extra flour without making sure the existing flour has had a chance to soak up all the moisture in the dough, you’re going to end up with cakey little hockey pucks instead of cookies.

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I always bake cookies on parchment.  It’s just a good idea.

The recipe:

  • 1 cup butter (if you use salted butter, cut the salt you add in half)
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered espresso (it comes in a little glass jar, this is not just finely ground coffee beans)
  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). If you’re going to be silly and not use parchment then lightly grease your baking pans.  But really, parchment is your friend.  No kitchen should be without it.
2. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and espresso powder; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the chocolate chips.
3. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet, leaving a couple of inches in between to let the cookies spread.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes for chewy cookies. Add a minute or two if you like them crispier.  Let the finished cookies stand on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool completely.



2 thoughts on “Neiman Marcus Nerd Cookies

  1. I love this. I love that you go in to the WHY as well as the HOW. You are the BEST kind of geek. I totally remember that spammy email, and I never bothered to try the recipe. Apparently, I’ve missed out!

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