Cookie of the Month: Looking to THE cookie

I first learned of black and white cookies the way many Americans who don’t live in New York (where the cookie is well-known), learned about the black and white cookie — from a “Seinfeld” episode. Jerry Seinfeld, waiting with his friend Elaine on her quest for a chocolate babka at a bakery, gets himself one of the now famed cookies, frosted half with vanilla and half with chocolate icing, and he philosophizes on the cookie’s representation of racial equality. “Look to the cookie, Elaine,” he says. “Look to the cookie.”

Indeed. Maybe sometimes we need to be seeing those kinds of symbols, wherever we can find them. Of black and white cookies, I only got my first taste of one a few years back, from a local bakery (over the years, the cookies’ presence had crossed the country). I was surprised by the softness of the cake-y cookie sheathed in smooth icing with dual flavors. The cookies, as I’ve learned from reading and seeing more about them, are traditionally a soft vanilla cookie topped with a coating of half creamy white vanilla glaze and half deeply chocolate.

They are delicious. I had actually confused them with a cookie recipe I saw some years earlier for Half-Moon Cookies, which, as it turns out, are chocolate cookies topped with more fluffy buttercream frosting in vanilla and chocolate (I may have to test those out, too).

Black and white cookies, also known as  a “half-and-half cookie” were first baked and sold in Ratchets Bakery in Brooklyn at the turn of the century and later Glaser’s Bake Shop in Manhattan, according to “American Cookie: The Snaps, Drops, Jumbles, Tea Cakes, Bars & Brownies That We Have Loved for Generations,” by Anne Byrn (Crown Publishing Group; 2018). The cookie may have German roots, coming from the lemon-glazed round little cake known as “Amerikaner.” The Jewish bakeries developed the dark and white glazes that topped the iconic cookie.

I was eager to try making these cookies myself, and my “cookie-of-the-month” project had them with a definite place on the list. I followed Melissa Clark’s (of The New York Times) recipe, as I had watched her video of how she developed a black and white cookie with what she considered to be all the perfect flavors and just the right texture. Her cookie recipe includes some lemon zest and vanilla and almond extracts whisked into the sour cream and milk for the cookie’s wet ingredients. This not only looked like a flavorful start, but also, with the sour cream, a tender one for the soft cookie base.

Softened butter and sugar are creamed together and then two eggs are added.

To this, flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt is mixed, alternating with the wet ingredients, to the creamed butter and sugar to make a soft dough (described by Clark as similar to a poundcake batter).

I used a large scoop (It’s advised to make the cookies in 1/4 cup mounds) to dole out the cookies on parchment lined sheets.

The cookies came out puffy and golden after baking, just like little vanilla cakes.

It is the underneath of these cookies that serves as the flat top to be bedecked in glaze…these cookies would have ample surface to hold plenty.

The base vanilla glaze is so simple — confectioner’s sugar, a little light corn syrup, vanilla and boiling water. It whisks to a smooth sheen in seconds.

The glaze is smoothed onto half of each cookie using a spoon…I love this old-school, no-fuss method.

With the remaining vanilla glaze, cocoa is added, along with some melted unsweetened chocolate, turning all into something deep, dark and chocolatey.

The unglazed half of each cookie is spread with the chocolate glaze and there it is! The cookie I first saw so long ago on TV. The cookies needed to set up a bit before sampling.

The cookies are soft and pillowy, lightly flavorful with a buttery meld of vanilla, lemon and almond. Depending on how you eat it, you can bite into vanilla or chocolate…or a little of both for a rich mix of flavors and a taste of a cookie with a long history and a little idyllic inspiration.

For Melissa Clark’s Perfect Black and White Cookies, visit The New York Times Instagram recipe link page: .

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