Look to the Cookie

Look to the Cookie

For the answers to life’s big questions and indeed, the key to humanity, we have only to “look to the cookie”.

That’s what Seinfeld says, anyway.

President Obama calls them Unity Cookies.

See? Already, there’s harmony surrounding the thing.

Me? I’m in firm agreement with both of them. I respect our nation’s leader in all things, not the least of which is his culinary inclinations. And Jerry, we’ll, he married a baker after all. Besides, the black and white cookie is the yin and yang of deliciousness. Have commitment issues? Having trouble deciding between vanilla and chocolate? You don’t have to! That’s the beauty of the thing. Even the cookie itself can’t quite get on the cake or the cookie train and ride the rails unabashedly. It’s gonna be both. And I like that.

Coming to the East Coast from the midwest, back in the 80s, I’d never tasted this particular brand of confectionary neutrality. It’s a New York staple; a child of the deli and the local mom & pap baked good establishment. But trust me, my friend, once you go white and black, you never go back. Sorry. I had to.

So where and how did this delicacy originate? Often confused with the Half Moon cookie, which is traditionally a devils food and more recently a vanilla cookie base, with a buttercream frosting. They’re richer than the black and white and they hail from Central New York, whereas the black and white is a New York City thing.

It all started at Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica, New York, where the Half Moon cookie was born in the early part of the last century. Either a chocolate or vanilla cake base was topped with either a dark fudge or sugary white frosting, often both, it was later re-appropriated by Long Island, New York City as a vanilla cake based, vanilla and fudge frosted favorite whose topping is now more typically made of fondant.

Now they’re so widely available, you can get them in most supermarkets. Like its black and white brother, the Oreo, everybody has a favorite way to eat one. I like to break them apart, letting the fondant fall off in pieces, eating that first, then going in for the cookie kill last.

Want to try your hand at a homemade version? Here’s a recipe for the traditional New York City Black and White Cookie. It only takes 40 minutes to make. Recipe courtesy of Food.com.


1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄3 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 large egg

Black or White icing:

1 1⁄2 cups icing sugar or 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon clear corn syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon water (approx)
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder

to make: 

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
In small bowl or cup, mix together buttermilk and vanilla.
Beat butter and white sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until it’s evenly distributed.
Add egg to butter and sugar mixture, and beat until blended.
Gradually beat in flour mixture one cup at a time, and add in buttermilk mixture between each cup of flour, and mix until smooth. It will be necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing.
Spoon batter in 1/4 cup size servings onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake on middle rack for about 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched.
Place on a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before icing.
Stir together icing sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/2 Tbsp of water in bowl until smooth.
Place half of mixture into separate bowl and add cocoa powder, and remaining water bit by bit until it is the same consistency as the white icing. If the icing is too runny, add more icing sugar until it is smooth and spreadable.
Turn cooled cookies flat side up, and spread icing with pastry spatula, or butter knife. White over one half, chocolate over the other. The icing does not set solid on these cookies, and does not harden, but it dries enough to be wrapped as they are sold in the city. They can be wrapped individually in cellophane, or sealed in a plastic container.

So look to the cookie! And don’t look back.

Photo by Yelp.com / CC BY

Featured photo by veganbaking.net / CC BY


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