• Apron Optional: A Father’s Day take on infamous cookies

    As I may have mentioned before, my dad is quite the baker. In high school, my friends always looked forward to days when I would bring them his leftover brownies, cookies or perhaps the mythical rum cake.

    One thing I think makes my dad so great in this department is he constantly revises and improves his recipes, refusing to give up until he is satisfied with the final product (ask anyone in my family about his time spent on chocolate mousse).

    Since I was unable to go home for Father’s Day, I video chatted with my dad during the family lunch. He graciously offered his version of the fabled “Neiman Marcus Cookie,” one of my personal favorites. He sent me the recipe and I immediately became giddy with memories of taste testing each batch as they became more and more amazing.

    The cookie gets its name from an urban legend that a woman bought the recipe for Neiman Marcus’ iconic chocolate chip cookies under the impression that it was $2.50. When she saw that she was actually charged $250, the department store refused to refund her the difference. To get even, she posted it on the Internet so that anyone who wanted it could have it for free. Likely false, this story has been revised many times over with a few simple name changes. In fact, Neiman Marcus provides their cookie recipe free of charge on their website. Personally, I like my dad’s better.

    Think of it as a big, soft chocolate chip cookie ­— but even more delicious. The recipe calls for oatmeal, which gives the end result the texture of a regular cookie, but the chewiness of an oatmeal cookie. The winning combination is sure to gain the approval of anyone who likes cookies (if they don’t, really, why are you friends with them?).

    First things first! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need two mixing bowls, a food processor or blender, a hand or stand mixer, a grater (like for potatoes or cheese), a mixing spoon, measuring cups, and a baking sheet (and a baking pan to put it on).

    Cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in a large mixing bowl with your mixer. This will be easier if your butter is at room temperature, but don’t melt it in the microwave! If you’re impatient, cut up the butter in a small bowl and put it in the microwave for 10 seconds, then mix.

    Next, mix in the eggs and vanilla. I know real vanilla can be a little pricier than imitation vanilla, but use it if possible. You can really taste the difference.

    Now the food processor (or blender) comes into play. Measure out your oatmeal and pour it in your machine of choice. Blend it until it becomes a fine powder. Pour that in your unused mixing bowl.

    In the bowl with the blended oatmeal, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and mix them. Grate your chocolate bar into the bowl as well, while carefully avoiding grating your hands (something I have regretfully done before). Add in your white-, milk- and semi-sweet-chocolate chips.

    If you want to kick the cookies up a notch, you could add butterscotch chips, chopped pecans or chopped walnuts. Personally, I prefer them with a cup of crushed heath bar (like father, like daughter). Add in any extras, and mix it all together.

    Now, take the dry mixture and pour it in the other bowl. With your mixer, blend the dough until it is evenly mixed and there are no pockets of powder.

    Place your cookie sheet, ungreased, on the pan. Using a regular table spoon, scoop oversized spoonfuls of dough. Roll each into a ball and place them two inches apart on the cookie sheet. The cookies will be large so give them space.

    Place the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes, then take them out, let them cool and enjoy!

    There is one crucial and final step: Share the cookies. They are large and there are a lot of them — too many for any one person.

    Until next week, share your cookies. Trust me, I go to the doctor.

  • Pop Index: Bon Iver’s new album, a possible Destiny’s Child reunion and Jon Stewart’s media war.

    Welcome, kind readers, to the Pop Index. My name is Aleksander Chan (pronounced like Alexander, but with a Russian spelling) and I am the Life & Arts associate editor. Every Friday I will write this index of the best and worst of the week’s pop culture, handily rendered in the photo above for your viewing pleasure.