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All About New York’s Famous Black and White Cookies
Jerry Seinfeld made it famous and New Yorkers have claimed them as their own. The black and white cookie is in a class all by itself. Anyone who has ever eaten one can tell you why.
In an episode called, “The Dinner Party,” Jerry Seinfeld, on his namesake show, eats a black and white cookie while waiting for his friend Elaine to come out of a New York bakery. Jerry likens the cookie to a perfect metaphor for racial harmony. He advises that everyone should “Look to the cookie!” for world peace.
Despite the hilarity of the situation, the cookie has always been a serious New York icon. The iced cookies are simply a circular shortbread, sponge-like cake/cookie that is frosted on one-half of the top in chocolate fondant and the other half in vanilla fondant. The icing is sweet and when combined with the cake-like texture of the cookie, is pure eating delight.
The origin of the black and white cookie is really a mystery. It may have something to do with a cookie called the Half Moon which originated in upstate New York. The cookies look similar, but are actually quite different in texture. So, any stories traced back to the Half Moon fizzle out when held under scrutiny. The mysterious black and white has no definite birth place. But New Yorkers are still crazy about it nonetheless.
The black and white is a bakery favorite in its larger version as well as in its mini version. Grocery stores have tried to emulate that classic flavor and texture, but end up falling short. Perhaps only a hand-made batch of batter can turn out the perfect black and white. Maybe it needs to be made by someone’s Uncle Joe in a basement bakery in Brooklyn to taste right.
Anyone visiting New York City, in addition to seeing the Statue of Liberty and eating a dirty water hot dog from a street vendor should rush to a bakery and grab hold of a luscious black and white cookie. It matters little whether you eat the vanilla or the chocolate side first. One bite and you’ll be hooked. You may require weekly shipments of cookie boxes to your home after that first delicate bite. Or, you can try making them yourself if you dare. Here’s how.
Black and White Cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed (scraping down side of bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until smooth.
Spoon 1/4 cups of batter about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack and chill (to cool quickly), about 5 minutes.
Make icings while cookies chill:
Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer half of icing to another bowl and stir in cocoa, adding more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as white icing.
Turn cookies flat sides up, then spread white icing over half of each and chocolate over other half.