July 27, 2012

Black & White Cookies and Fond{ant} Memories

Black & White Cookie

The way I see it, I could go a few ways with this post. I could chat a little bit about how situations and decisions aren't always as black and white as we'd like. Or, I could discuss yin and yang and all things harmonious, balanced and zen. Or, I could tell you a little bit about the history of the black and white cookie, but, honestly, I don't know that much about them and with such riveting facts as the black and white cookie made appearances in story-lines for Seinfeld and Sex and the City and it's sometimes called a Half-Moon, Wikipedia isn't really helping me out on this one.

So, I'm gonna stick with what I know, which is that black and white cookies are kind of a big deal around here.

Black & White Cookies | BatterAs a native New Yorker, I've eaten my fair share of these bad boys. As a kid, they were a dream. First of all, they're often the size of your head, which makes you feel like you're getting away with something when you're eating one. The genius mastermind behind the black and white chose to douse them in a thick layer of not one, but two flavors of icing, completely eradicating the dreaded choice between vanilla and chocolate. And, again, hats off to the mad baker who created them, black and whites are kind of the perfect cake-cookie hybrid - best of both worlds.

Black & White Cookies | Batter
I always felt like I needed to double check that I was actually getting the green light to eat the whole thing. I would get my little hands on one and once I realized that I did, in fact, need both hands to hold onto the thing I looked at mom in disbelief, then looked back at the cookie. I looked at dad to see if he was paying attention, then back at the cookie. Then I would go for it, take it down in no time flat, and end up with chocolate fondant on one side of my face, and vanilla on the other - because I would eat it straight up the middle - getting both a little vanilla and chocolate in each bite. That is, until it got so wide that I had to nibble a little vanilla and then immediately a little chocolate to achieve the balance. Such a gastronome at age 5.

Black & White Cookies | White Icing
Still, as picky as I may have been about eating both chocolate and vanilla at the same time, back in the day, I was not as picky about the source of my black and whites. Oh, it's been wrapped in plastic and sitting on the bodega counter since last month? Yes, that sounds delicious, I'll take one please.

Black & White Cookies | Icings
Most of the time we scored our black and whites at the bakery - so at least they were kind of safe. But then, sometimes, the bakery would try to get cute and fancy and bust out the mini black and whites - boy, was that disappointing. In that case, I felt like I deserved to eat at least like 7 of them, just to really make sure I was getting the same amount as if they were the ginormous ones. But, somehow, I don't remember being allowed to do that.

Black & White Cookies | Cookies
So, I was in a local bagel/deli place the other day and saw some plastic-wrapped black and whites stacked on the counter. They may have been there since I was in elementary school. I resisted the urge to grab one, and instead decided to have a go at making them. As with lots of foods, homemade can't be beat - they're in a completely different realm than the dry, crumbly, overly sweet cookies you find in your corner deli.

All of the recipes I found called for light corn syrup in the icing - to make it shiny or sweet or thick. I don't know if it's just me, but I didn't even know you could still buy corn syrup in a store. Here's the thing folks, you don't need that corn syrup - this icing is A) shiny enough B) sweet enough and C) thick enough.

Black & White Cookies | Icing
When they were done, I was so impressed with myself that I actually thought about marketing these cookies to Brooklyn's newest sports team, the Nets. At first, when I saw their boring old black and white logo, I ragged on Jay-Z's marketing and design skills - as in, maybe he should stick to rapping. But then, after making these cookies this week and thinking about my fond{ant} memories as a wee Brooklynite munching on black and white cookies, it struck me that perhaps Jay-Z is actually a marketing genius. Maybe Mr. Jay-Z also took down his fair share of black and whites as a Brooklynite and wanted to pay homage. There could be no other explanation.

Black & White Cookie

What you'll need for ~8 cookies:
Recipe adapted from Epicurious

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg

Vanilla icing
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp hot water

Chocolate icing
3 oz 70% bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

For the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF
Grease a baking sheet with butter and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
In a separate cup or bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
With either a stand mixer or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and beat to combine it well.
On low speed, mix in a little of the flour mixture, then a little of the buttermilk. Once incorporated, add the rest of each - be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
Mix until completely smooth.
Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the greased baking sheet - making sure to leave at least 2 inches between cookies.
Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven until puffed up and golden, around 15 minutes.
Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool before icing them.

For the icings:
Stir together 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar, the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and hot water. Mix until completely smooth, set aside.
Make a double boiler by placing a small metal bowl over a small pot of boiling water. Add the chocolate and butter to the bowl and allow it to melt. Stir only once it has melted, not before, this way it'll be nice and shiny.
Whisk in the confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth.

Remember - you're icing the flat, underside of the cookie - not the rounded side. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to ice one half of the cookie with vanilla icing. Do the same with all of the cookies.
Once all of the cookies have been iced with vanilla, add the chocolate icing to the other half. Place on a rack and refrigerate - this allows the fondant to set.

The cocoa powder helps to darken the chocolate icing to make it look more 'black.' If you don't have it, you don't really need to add it.
Add water to the white fondant gradually - this way if you need more, you can add it, but once it's too thin it's hard to fix.
Both fondants should be fairly thick - not runny - so the icing doesn't run off the cookie too much.


  1. I really enjoy the way you chose to write about these, sticking to what you know. That's my favorite kind of food story, the one where we get to know the author or about their life while they tell us about cookies. And your black and whites look so good! Thumbs up on avoiding the corn syrup--looking at them, you'd never know.

    1. Thanks, Shanna! I'm glad you liked the glimpse into my younger days as messy young cookie-monster. I'm glad I didn't use the corn syrup too! They weren't the most perfectly round black and white cookies I've ever seen, but they got full marks in the taste department!

  2. best black & white i've ever had. hands down. no ifs ands or buts. no, i didn't let james taste that second one...

  3. I have never tasted a Black and White cookie and it seems I will be busy baking with your scrumptious recipe soon! I didn't realize they were a large cookie but that's all the more reason to get baking! Very much enjoyed your story and of course the tempting cookies.

  4. Can I just use cocoa powder and omit the bittersweet chocolate. And if I just use the cocoa powder, do I need to increase the amount? Thanks much?


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