The other day I met a friend of mine for tea and we were talking about our upcoming blog posts. I asked her if she had ever heard of Black and White Cookies and she replied, “Are you kidding, I’m from New York! You can buy them everywhere, wrapped up in cellophane. Just make sure you eat them the day you buy them.”
Along with bagels and pizza, Black & White Cookies are the edible emblems of New York City. These iconic treats can be found in almost every restaurant, coffee shop, deli and bakery all over the city. Some say they originated in northern New York at Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica around 100 years ago, while others think they came with the Dutch settlers in the 17th and 18th century. In Upstate New York they’re known as Half Moons and in the Midwest as Harlequins.
These cookies came into the public eye on a Seinfeld episode where he was eating a Black & White and said, ”Look to the cookie,” as a metaphor for racial harmony. Even President Obama hopped on the bandwagon in a South Florida deli calling them the “Unity Cookie.”
In my research I discovered that there are two types of recipes for Black & Whites, one made with milk, cake flour and all-purpose flour, and another made with buttermilk and AP flour. Legend has it that originally these were made by bakeries from leftover cake batter with a little more flour added so they didn’t spread so much. All agree, however, that the bottom becomes the top, and the flat side is the one that is iced. The icing can be flat and shiny hard, or a thicker version with vanilla buttercream and fudgy chocolate.
I would like to know how you eat them… white side first, chocolate side first, right down the middle to get both icings together, broken in half into two cookies, just eating the frosting and tossing the cookie. Or just random munching, like me. With coffee. Yum.
NY Black & White Cookies
Makes about 8 cookies
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons water
¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.
3. In the bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until well combined.
4. Mix in flour mixture and butter milk mixture alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down side of bowl several times. Mix until smooth.
5. Place ¼ cups of batter about 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes.
6. Transfer with metal spatula to rack to cool.
1. In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water until smooth.
2. Transfer half of icing to another bowl and stir in cocoa, adding more water, ½ teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as white icing.
1. Turn cooled cookies flat side up and spread white icing over half of each with a small offset spatula. Allow to set for about 10 minutes, then ice other half with chocolate icing, overlapping slightly.
2. Allow to sit undisturbed until icing is smooth, firm and shiny, 1 to 2 hours.
Note: These cookies are best if eaten the day they are made.