Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Black and White Cookies

Ahh, the black and white cookie.  If you're from New York, then you probably already know all about this particular treat.  If not, well, I'll fill you in.  Black and white cookies are round vanilla cookies, covered halfway with vanilla icing and halfway with chocolate icing.  They are the cookie that you will find in approximately every single location that sells some kind of food item via a cash register.  Black and white cookies are found in every bodega, every gourmet corner deli, every supermarket, every cafe, every bagel store, and every bakery.  Black and white cookies are as much a New York staple as hot dogs and pizza.  The only difference between New York hot dogs and pizza and the black and white cookie is that it's possible to find really good hot dogs and pizza without having to look very hard.  Black and white cookies, on the other had, are a completely different story.  It's actually pretty difficult to find a good black and white cookie without having to do some research beforehand, and most black and white cookies that you come across are, to put it nicely, very underwhelming.  

Regardless of how blah black and white cookies typically are, I have really fond memories about them.  When I was little, my dad signed up to take some art classes in Manhattan on Saturdays, and on his way home, he would sometimes stop at the Hot and Crusty in Penn Station and buy me and my sister a black and white cookie (his other treat for us was an enormous elephant ear).  I loved when he came home with those black and white cookies; they were my favorite!  They were also pretty enormous, and I could never eat the whole cookie in one sitting (I'm sure that if I tried hard enough now, I would have no trouble accomplishing this).  I had a very particular way of eating them, too.  I would take big bites out of the white side first, and as I got closer and closer to the chocolate side, I would start to take smaller and smaller nibbles.  I would nibble along at the border of the chocolate side of the cookie until I had pretty much consumed the entire vanilla side and there was no vanilla icing left.  Once that was taken care of, I would take more normal sized bites out of the chocolate side, but I would do so very, very slowly.  I had to savor the chocolate side for as long as I could!  It was a sad day when my dad finished taking his classes, because it meant the end of our weekend black and white cookie treats.

I haven't had a black and white cookie in a long time since then, mostly because I know that I'll be disappointed with what is being sold as a black and white cookie.  These plastic-shrink wrapped cookies tend to be on the tough side, with icing that's rock hard and lacks any flavor, which is the opposite of what black and white cookies should be.  I had a really random craving for them over the weekend, and I decided that it was time to attempt my own batch of black and white cookies.  Black and white cookies are usually really big cookies, but I wanted something a bit more manageable to eat, so I chose to make mini cookies.  You can feel free to make these cookies as big as you'd like, just remember to adjust the baking time if you make them bigger.

Black and white cookies are incredibly simple to make.  The vanilla cookie base is made like any other cookie. First, you cream together some butter and sugar until the butter is perfectly fluffy.  An egg is then mixed in to help hold everything together, followed by flour, buttermilk, and vanilla.  The vanilla extract gives these cookies their classic vanilla base, while the buttermilk adds a nice subtle tangy flavor to the cookies.  Once the dough is all mixed up (yep, it's that easy!), it's simply dropped by rounded tablespoonfuls onto lined baking sheets and then baked.  You can do this part two different ways.  You can do it the lazy way, which is the way I did it, and used a tablespoon and a small spatula to scoop out the cookies. Or, you could do it the not-lazy way and put all the cookie batter in a large piping bag and pipe the cookie batter onto the sheet pans.  The second method is probably much faster to do than the method I used and would result in perfectly round and even cookies.  I'm definitely going to use that method next time I make these, only because I'm a bit of a control freak.  Once the cookies are baked, you can mix up the icings for the cookies.  All you have to do is simply mix together some powdered sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, water, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder, and you'll have perfect icings!  

Icing the cookies may seem a little tedious at first, but it's really not that bad. Once you get into a rhythm, you'll notice that icing the cookies goes by really quickly, and you'll be done before you know it.  Start out by spreading the vanilla icing on half of all the cookies first.  Then, spread chocolate icing on the remaining half of all the cookies, beginning with the cookies that were iced with vanilla icing first.  Don't worry if your cookies aren't perfectly iced or if the icings begin to bleed into each other slightly.  They'll still taste great!  This homemade version of the black and white cookie is infinitely better than anything you'll find in any bodega or corner deli of New York.  The cookies are light and fluffy, and the icings have the perfect amount of sweetness to pair with the not-so-sweet cookie base.  These homemade black and white cookies are everything black and white cookies should be.  Enjoy!

Classic Black and White Cookies
recipe from Epicurious


For the Cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature

For the Icings

2 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup cocoa powder


Begin by preparing the cookies.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup.  In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, and combine well.  Lower the mixer speed, and with the mixer running, add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture, making sure to begin and end with the flour mixture.  Mix only until just smooth.

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake the cookies until the tops have puffed and the edges are a pale golden brown in color, about 15 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the icings.  In a bowl, stir together the confectioner's sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water.  You may need to add more water to get the icing to a spreadable consistency, but do so gradually, stirring in only a little at a time.  Transfer half the icing to another bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.  Add enough water to thin the chocolate icing out to the same consistency as the vanilla icing.  

Once the cookies are cool, use an offset spatula to spread vanilla icing on half of the flat side of each cookie. Spread chocolate icing on the other half of the cookies, making sure to begin with the cookies that were iced first.  Let the icing set for a few minutes, and then enjoy!

Makes about 30 cookies


  1. These cookies look amazing! I'm going to try them out soon (:


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