Friday, October 29, 2010

Testing the famous $250 Urban Legend Cookie Recipe by Cleo Coyle

In this post, I share some of my favorite urban legends with you, including one that involves food: the legendary $250 Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I also share some tips with you on getting the most out of any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Yes, even a notorious one. 

If you'd like to download 
the recipe in a free PFD, click here
Click here to download
the free Recipe PDF.

To read my entire post, scroll down, and bake with joy! 

A Note from Cleo 

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

As a writer of quirky culinary 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 wacky.

Here are 3 Urban Legends
that have been around
since I was a kid. 

Have you heard
of these, too?

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 – After a young couple parks on "Lovers’ Lane," they hear 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 "The Hook" is supposed to serve as some sort of cautionary tale for young people who park and fog up windows. Honestly, I didn't "park" in my youth (late bloomer), but I never heard of my friends or classmates seeing a psychotic killer through their car windows. I did once see a cop appear at my car window with a flashlight. But that was in my thirties. 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... 

And you can learn how to make a classic Bloody Mary in the video above. Even if you know how, this bartender is charming enough to make it worth watching.

...which brings me to a tasty 
sub-category of the urban legend—
the culinary variety...

The $250.00
Urban Legend Cookie

The Story

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!

This tale 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. 

The Recipe

How to Bake an
Urban Legend

See my my tips at the end of the recipe
 for getting the best results out of it. ~ Cleo 

To download this recipe 
in a PDF form that you can 
print, save, or share, click here.

The Urban Legend 
$250 Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

3 Tablespoons 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


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.

By the way, espresso powder is like instant coffee. The espresso is made, then freeze dried and ground into powder. (It is not ground espresso beans.) 

Pictured below is what I use, the Megdaglia D'oro brand. If you'd like a link to buy this espresso powder online, click here. Otherwise, look for it in your grocery store's coffee section.


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…

Click here to download the recipe
as a free PDF document.

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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  1. those cookies look good! I think I'll make some tomorrow!!!

  2. Cleo, that ghost video almost stopped my heart! I threw myself backward away from the screen and had to catch my chair before it fell over. SCARIEST THING EVER!

    The Hook-Handed Man is one of my most favorite urban legends! But I think the best is the story of the sunbather who fell asleep outside. A few days later, she kept having terrible headaches, so she went to the doctor ... only to discover ants had laid eggs in her sinuses! (Other variants have the ants travelling all the way to the brain.) SO GROSS it doesn't even matter that it's not true!

  3. ...a local Michigan urban legend involves an old mansion that had allegedly been turned into an insane asylum called "The Haven"...legend (and bored teens such as myself) purported that if you snuck into the abandoned, crumbling and haunted mansion at night...and went down into the basement you could hear the chains form the padded cells rattling!!!!! A reputable source has said..(OK, it's me) that it was far too creepy to get down the stairs!!!...and somebody heard the local sheriff was on the way!!!!

    Chef Connor will add this recipe to his Miss Cleo recipe book...his dad is alleged to love chocolate chip cookies!!! OK..he loves ''s not alleged..I just like using the word alleged...some of my best cyber pals love mysteries!

    May your trick or treat bag have not one penny, toothbrush or bitty box of raisins!!!

  4. I'm in! And THANKS for that recipe! I know what I'm doing tomorrow. :)

  5. I remember getting this recipe via email when the urban legend was brand new! I was a lot more gullible back then...but the story was irresistible and I fell for it! I was too busy at the time to try the recipe (in the middle of baby stuff), but I will definitely give this a go. Thanks Cleo!

  6. Love the cookies (just a 1/4 tsp of Chipotle powder will do wonders to this)...

    Ages ago, i was a bit of a traveling salesman. MY MOTHER called me to tell me about a friends cousin who knew a guy who picked up a girl in a bar and woke up in a bath tub full of ice with a kidney removed.

    No one cares for you like your mother.


  7. Just baked sugar cookies this morning. I 'cheated' and used store-bought dough BUT I did add orange sugar sprinkles in honor of the season. That should count for something, don't you think? :)

  8. Just like Elizabeth, the first time I heard the urban legend about the cookie recipe, I believed it. Love your photographs, Cleo. Always so gorgeous, they make me want to rush out and make whatever you've featured.

    On a "scary" note... a local medium is hosting a seance tonight. I've never been to a real seance (kid seances don't count!) so I figured it would be great research in case Grace ever encounters a medium in Emberstowne. My husband and I are going tonight. Fun, huh?

  9. Julie, ask where Amelia Earhart ended up... And if Oswald acted alone... and what dirt did J Edgar Hoover have on President Johnson that led him to appoint Hoover director of the FBI for life just days before he testified before the Warren Commission???

    Now's our chance to finally know the truth

  10. Love the espresso coffee powder addition to the recipe. Great tip! Thanks for all the urban legends and more!


  11. What a great Halloween post, Cleo! I remember getting that recipe, too. Good to know that it's tasty. It's amazing how a teeny bit of coffee will boost the chocolate flavor.

    ~ Krista

  12. I think my favorite Urban Legend is the Nieman Marcus Cookie Legend..... It tastes so good!!!

  13. I've also always wanted to give this recipe a try. With the kids out of school today, maybe we will do it together.

  14. I love urban legends and this is a yummy one!
    Thanks for sharing, Cleo. Now I need a cookie...

  15. what a fun post! Perfect for Halloween, and now I need a cookie!

  16. I'm working on a fiction story for my publisher about another food-related urban legend: the Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake recipe. It's similar to the Neiman Marcus cookie legend. My story is about a magical cake recipe that makes people fall in love. :)

  17. The problem with chilling the dough is that it's hard to stop opening the fridge and eating it!

  18. Thanks for sharing. I don't know if it is my "favorite" but the legend I remember the most is the one about the gang initiation where they will flash their bright lights at you while driving toward you. If you flash back they will shoot you. This was very popular when I was learning to drive, and I laughed when my daughter who is just learning to drive told me the same story....

  19. I was that odd child who didn't much care for the urban legends that my friends loved telling about during sleep overs. However, the one you shared will be gleefully kept in my recipe file.

  20. Ends up that those cookies are really good. And the recipe makes a LOT of cookies! :-)

  21. I love these cookies. I've had the recipe for years and it is my fav chocolate chip cookie.
    I don't know any urban legends.
    Happy Halloween!!

  22. Cleo you know I am going to have to make these for the boys :). I have heard of this recipe before but have never made it. Urban legends are always fun.

  23. Those cookies look wonderful. Can't wait to try them. Plus I'm not falling for that video. Seen it before.

  24. These cookies do look good. Thanks for the additional tips.

    That Hook Man sure gets around. He was known around here as living on Missouri Botton Rd., so couples were warned against going to that area to (ahem) park.

  25. maybe you know where Jimmy Hoffa is, too. I have an awesome recipe for chocolate chip cookies and it's free! Use the same recipe as yours, but you don't have to soften the butter. Use a food processor and make the cookies with cold butter. Bake right away at 350 and they are chewy-crispy!

  26. I JUMPED when I watched the commercial, thankyousomuch for raising my heart rate. Can't wait to try the N-M cookie recipe. I made your Devil's Food Chocolate Pumpkin cookies yesterday and the guys claimed they were the best cookies I ever made. Let's see if N-M can beat that.

    HALLOWEEN LEGEND: put your clothes on inside out, walk backwards, and you will see a witch.

  27. Thanks for adding the tips with the recipe. They always help. The urban legend that comes to mind is the one about pop rocks and cola being a lethal combination.

  28. Just checking in to say I've been reading these comments all day and loving them! Thank you and keep them coming -- only a few more hours until the (spooky) stroke of midnight!

    ~ Cleo

  29. Good looking cookies, gotta love 'em. Thanks for the giveaway!


    zekks at yahoo dot com

  30. Cleo, I love those cookies!

    Here's my urban legend. It's about a guy driving home one dark night, and he sees this young girl all bloodied with a torn white gown on the side of the road. He stops and she tells him there's been an accident, then asks him to drive her home. When he gets to the address she's told him, she is no longer in the car. So he knocks on the door to ask the woman if she has seen a young girl with a torn gown and the woman starts to cry. She says her daughter was killed the night of the Prom they year before.

    I've heard other versions of this, but I like this one the best.

    Happy Halloween.

  31. Thank you!!!! Made these a long time ago and forgot about them,have to make them again!Love the legands about the alligtors,hadnt heard that one!!!

  32. ...and re: that owe me the price of a sleeping pill tonight ;-) Scared the willies out of me own wee self...

  33. (booklover, lol) and...

    Thanks to everyone who left such greats comments so far! Friday's winner, by random drawing, is Kristi! Congrats, Kristi, I'll e-mail you shortly to send your signed copy of my Coffeehouse Mystery: HOLIDAY GRIND.

    Two more nights of drawings to come, so if you didn't win Friday, check back. I'll be giving all commenters another chance to win my book on Saturday at midnight and again on Sunday (Halloween Night)!

    New comments welcome and will be entered in the new drawings as well.

    Cheers everyone!
    Enjoy your weekend.(To quote the governator...)

    I'll be back!
    ~ Cleo

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  34. No little girls slumber party was complete with out a standing in front of the mirror and seeing if someone could actually say it three times! lol

  35. A stroke of genius to add expresso coffee to the cookie recipe! Would love to win the coffee mystery novel!

    harvee44 at

  36. Oh my gosh! I thought I'd commented but it looks like I did not! Whoops!!

    LOVE the recipe! My favorite urban myth is the alligator in the sewers. My sons used to look in the toilet before they used it *just in case*! I mean you never know when a giant mutated alligator is going to squeeze through your pipes, right? lol

    Janece S.

  37. must one too many fun size Twix bars for me but if you look at your unbaked cookies...there are faces!!!!! I knew you were a great photographer but....WOW!!!!
    Can't wait for Chef Connor to get home to make these cookies...

  38. Congrats to Saturday's winner - Rochelle Staab!

    Rochelle - please e-mail me at with your address, and I'll send out your signed copy of Holiday Grind.

    Also want to add...

    - Thanks to Doggy Dessert Chef, Book Bird Dog, and Janece for the new comments. (Janece love the tale of your kids checking for those gators, lol. :)

    - Booklover - AAAAH, you are right! There ARE faces in the unbaked cookies. How incredibly ghooooulish!

    EVERYONE: Check back for Sunday Night's drawing. Anyone who has already commented is still entered. New comments are more than welcome to join in the chance to win a signed copy of Holiday Grind. Final winner will be announced right here at the (spooky) stroke of midnight, Sun. Oct. 31, Halloween Night...

    Stay tuned!
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  39. Lori Cimino on facebookOctober 31, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    I cannot wait to make these cookies.
    And the urban legend of Bloody Mary is my favorite. In fact I am still afraid to go into a dark bathroom. So is another close friend of mine.

    Lori Cimino on Facebook

  40. In high school our urban legend was very similar to Liz's and known locally as the Lady of White Rock Lake. Spooky!

    Love me some legends, with a big plate of yummy cookies on the side. Thanks, Cleo!

    Happy Halloween!

  41. Happy Halloween. Thanks for the recipe, I have always wanted to make these. Love the urban legends.

  42. Replies to --

    @Lori - LOL on that dark bathroom mirror, where "Bloody Mary" is always lurking... :)

    @Tricia - YW - thanks for stopping by!

    @Lynn - That legend is a chilling one. Great story and (you're right) even better with a big ol' plate of urban legend cookies on the side.

    @susan e. - You are very welcome. This weekend of telling tales was so much fun. I've loved all of these wonderful comments, yours included.

    Only one more hour until the spooky end of Halloween and my final winner will be randomly selected. Good luck, everyone and thanks for coming to my Halloween Weekend urband legend party!

    Like the governatore...
    I'll be back...(to announce tonight's winner.)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  43. Congrats to my Sunday night winner - Janece! Check your e-mail box for a note from me. Reply with your address and I'll get your prize (a signed copy of Holiday Grind) right out.

    Thanks to all who left such great comments. I loved hearing about your favorite urban legends (and I even learned about a few new ones, too.) What a fantastic *virtual* spooky campfire for Halloween Weekend! Thanks again, everyone, and...

    Happy Halloween!
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  44. My sister and I made those year ago. I really like the addition of coffee in a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe.

  45. Baking Baci di Romeo cookies to celebrate the coming of November! Thanks so much! Going to eat them paired with Sumatra!!

  46. Wait, why are they $250?? I was expecting to see an ounce of truffles or stg in the ingredients??!!! (your cookies look awesome btw)

  47. Replies to...

    @Joanne - agree - coffee is a great pairing flavor for bringing out the best in chocolate.

    @Anonymous - Baci di Romeo with Sumatra. Priceless.

    @theveggie - Easy to explain: $250 refers to the urban legend attached to this recipe. Scroll back up and read the entire post and it will all be made clear to you, lol. :)

    Cheers and thanks from the heart
    for your kind comments,

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

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