The year was 1998, the season was fall, the air was crisp and campus life was in full swing at Union University. Our school separated the girls and boys dorms so everyone was outside hanging out in the grassy area between the dorms, enjoying the weather and the socializing.
The change of season and the socializing going on outside put me in the mood to bake. Why? I have no idea, since I have already testified that I was a terrible, terrible baker. Nonetheless, defying reason and logic, I decided I would bake some cookies to take out to the crowds.
SIDE BAR: You know, as I write this 14 years later (gaa!) I do like that in both cases of failed baking, my true intent was driven my hospitality. I wanted to bake for others to bring happiness. I think that is neat. I will have to write a separate post about hospitality.
Back in the late 90s, when folks were just starting to use email regularly, the “chain emails” were going around like crazy. One of the first chain emails I ever received was the one about the Neiman Marcus Cookies. The email claimed to include the “top secret” Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe. You can read the original chain email here.
When I first got the email I printed it off and shoved it in my purse with a thousand other papers; but when I got the urge to make cookies, I remembered that I had it and dug it out of my purse to whip up a batch for all my friends.
The recipe goes like this:
(Recipe may be halved):
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a fine powder)
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. Hershey bar (grated)
2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)
2 tsp. vanilla
Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet..Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.. Have Fun!!!
So I get my bowl and start going down the list, ingredient by ingredient, without reading the instructions. Picture this, I literally started dumping everything in one bowl. This was my first mistake. No one ever taught me the fundamental concept of preparing wet and dry ingredients separately. But one would think that the average person would read through the recipe before just dumping everything in the bowl.
So there I am with a bowl full of 2 cups melted butter (not softened), 4 cups of flour, the baking soda and both sugars all just heaped in a big pile.
Next the recipe called for 5 cups blended oatmeal. Now, what could that mean? It never occurred to me that I needed to actually put the dry oats in a blender to make a powder (like the recipe kind of says). I was so perplexed about what to do with the oatmeal. I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to cook it first or just put it in dry. I was alone in my dorm so I couldn’t ask anyone and I didnt want to stop the process so I made a command decision. I determined that I must COOK the oatmeal FIRST because why in the world would I put “raw oatmeal” in a cookie mix.
So I boiled water and cooked myself FIVE CUPS OF OATMEAL.
About the time the oatmeal was cooked and I was attempting to get all of that mess in the same bowl as the other heap of ingredients, my roommate Ashley arrived on the scene.
Ashley: “Watcha doin ALC?”
Me: “Oh just bakin some cookies off a recipe I got on an email. This is the real recipe for Neiman Marcus cookies.
Ashley: “Cool, hows it goin?”
Ashley approaches the kitchen and upon seeing what was happening exclaimed:
“ANNIELAURIE OH MY WORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And proceed to laugh hysterically.
Ashley: “I DONT THINK YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO COOK THE OATMEAL FIRST!!!”
Of course now I am getting embarrassed and frustrated. But I am also beginning to realize she is right. The cooked oatmeal just would NOT mix well with the other ingredients.
What I had looked like gloppy cake batter. And my little Hamilton Beach handmixer was on its last breath getting stuck in all that mess.
Ashley, being the sweet friend that she is, tried to help me out, suggesting we should try adding flour to thicken it up. So we did. We added an undisclosed amount of flour to this disastrous batter. It did thicken up a bit. So I decided to try to bake a batch.
I spooned out 12 globs of the mixture onto my cookie sheet. They immediately ran together. I popped them in the oven anyway and baked for 10 minutes.
They came out kind of like a cookie, kind of like a cake and alot like baked oatmeal with chocolate chips.
At this point, I should’ve trashed the batter and called it a night. But nooooooooo I wanted to keep baking this insane mixture to see if I could somehow salvage my mad science. So we baked the batter on all the cookie sheets we had, all the cake tins and brownie pans and muffin pans we had on hand. (We did NOT bake anything in the microwave.)
Eventually we ran out of things to bake in so Ashley put out an all call voicemail to every girl in our sorority asking for everyone to bring their cake pans to our dorm room. Within minutes we had pans coming in from all over campus. There was even a heart shaped pan. And believe you me I used every single one of those pans.
What a disaster! We had cookie/cake/oatmeal bake for DAYS. Eventually the girls made me throw them away. Some of my sisters were kindhearted and took some of the mess home with them in the pan they let me borrow. Some even tasted the mess! Those were fine Christian ladies.
I, on the other hand, didn’t let the mishap get me down and later learned to make chocolate no-bake cookies, the easiest cookie to make ever because, as previously stated, NO BAKING REQUIRED! 🙂 And I actually became pretty good at it and some of my guy friends even requested I make them for late night study sessions. So all was not lost. But I still had a very, very long way to go!