Thursday, December 11, 2008

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 10 ~ Mini Black-and-White Cookies

Black and Whites are my kids' standard choice any time we visit a bakery. Maybe it's not the prettiest pastry in the bakeshop, but it is what it is ~ a New York classic. Also known in parts of the state as the Half Moon, the much loved Black and White is essentially a dropped vanilla (or lemon, or rarely but occasionally chocolate) batter cake with enough body to stand up on its own, decorated with half white and half chocolate fondant icing.

Some Black and White cookies may look like the real thing but they monkey around with the formula enough to miss the boat. These may be high in yum, but they're like the difference between eating a really good pizza from Cinncinnati and eating one from a neighborhood pizzeria in Brooklyn. There's a difference. One of our favorite local bakeries, for example, frosts their version of the Black and White cookie with buttercream. Now, no one is disputing the fact that buttercream is tastier than fondant. But a "Black and White" with buttercream is just not a true-blue Black and White. It's more like a large, flat cookie-cupcake. Still delicious, but different.

I feel it's worth noting here that polled independently of one another, both of my kids said they felt the version I made from Gourmet's recipe was a pretty darn good approximation of the true-blue Black and White. Now that's saying something.

Mini Black-and-White Cookies

~Adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 2005, available online here

For Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk (I used plain nonfat yogurt)

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I used salted)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg

For Icings

  • 2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  • 4 to 6 tablespoons water

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or butter them.

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, stir buttermilk (or yogurt) and vanilla together.

  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until well combined. Reduce speed and add flour mixture gradually, alternating with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until batter appears smooth.

  4. Drop batter by rounded teaspoons on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between cookies. Bake at 350 degrees F, until puffy and edges are pale golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Tops should just spring back when touched. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

  5. While the cookies are cooling, make the icings. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons water. Whisk with a fork until blended and smooth. Icing should not be watery ~ the frosting should stay in a nice, thick layer on the cookie, not run down the sides, but if it's too stiff to spread easily, add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time and stir. Spoon half of the icing into a new bowl and add 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Stir, adding water 1/2 teaspoon at a time to reach the same consistency as the vanilla.

  6. When cookies are cool, use an offset spatula to ice half of each cookie in white icing. When the whites halves are complete, go back and ice with the chocolate icing, starting with the cookie you began with last time.

  7. Once icing has dried, keep cookies in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • For my first batch, I tried using teaspoons to drop the batter, but the resulting cookies were decidedly misshapen. Since I've yet to see an authentic Black and White cookie in the shape of Australia, I decided to use my #40 ice cream scoop. The cookies were a little bit bigger than I'd planned to make, but they were perfectly round and consistent in size.

  • This frosting isn't what I'd call "delicious" ~ it's not the sort of thing you find yourself eating straight from the bowl with a spoon, hunched over the sink and hoping that the kids don't find you. But it's not exactly supposed to be. Everyone who's ever had sunk his or her teeth into an authentic New York Style Black and White know that its icing is what it is. Which is, in this case, fondant. Sweet like crazy, and perfectly authentic. It's shiny and dries to a firm gloss on the outside, with a smooth, slightly creamy texture below. The real deal.

  • If you want to decorate your cookies like I have, just reserve a little of the white glaze and mix in some gel food color. I used a few toothpicks to "paint" on the holly leaves and berries and tiny Christmas trees.

*Special thanks to my 12-year-old daughter, who used her own offset spatulas to (patiently) frost all but one of these cookies. She's my icing angel!

Now go see what my fellow bakers are up to today, on this 10th day of Cookies! Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, Kelly of Sass & Veracity, Courtney of Coco Cooks, Jerry of Cooking by the Seat of My Pants, and Judy of No Fear Entertaining are sure to have something yummy going on.


RecipeGirl said...

These are very cute! I love how you did the Christmas decorations on them. Good idea to use a toothpick!

Anonymous said...

You're making me wish I had one of these beauties with my coffee right now. You are so funny -- love reading your posts. I'd agree with you on the "not getting caught in a corner" with this frosting. It's okay, but nice with the cookie. Sounds like you know your B&Ws! Love the Christmas tree on them. Nice touch!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Beautiful looking cookies. I was laughing so hard when I read about the icing and it not being good enough to risk getting caught by the kids!!!

Katie Barlow said...

Yum, these look almost too pretty to eat! Okay maybe not. come check out my holiday cookie list and my giveaway which ends today!

once in a blue moon... said...

these are so cute and going on my never ending cookie to do list!

Carmen Cooks said...

They're beautiful! I've had this recipe from Gourmet bookmarked for awhile meaning to try it out. Hurrah to your daughter for a great job frosting these!

Megan said...

These are beautiful! I've wanted to make a black and white cookie for a while now but didn't know anything about them. Thanks for the lesson and the tips!

glamah16 said...

Look how beautiful these are!

Andrea said...

How beautiful! I like how you made them even more festive with the holly decorations.

Sandy Smith said...

~RecipeGirl: Thank you! Toothpicks are a must for this icing ~ too thick to brush on. :)

~KellyPea & Judy: Thanks so much! I make this one brown-butter caramel icing that is like Kryptonite to me. I literally have to put the pan in the sink and run water in it to stop eating. Sick!

~Katie: Thanks, Katie, but trust me, they weren't. In fact, they're all gone! :) Will stop by!

~Once in a Blue Moon: I have one of those lists too! :)

~Carmen Cooks: Thanks ~ I will pass along your hurrah. She's awesome with a piping bag too! :)

~Megan: I was always intimidated by the frosting ~ it being fondant and all. But really, it's a piece of cake!

~Glamah16: Thanks much!

~Andrea: Thanks, Andrea. The holly and Christmas trees are such easy designs, thankfully . . . I'm no artist! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! just ran into these on accident! Wonderful and cute! I imagine that you could make them for any holiday with a different design. I would like to see you try these for easter!

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