Black and White Cookies

When I was in law school, I spent the summer between my second and third years working at a firm in New York City and living in the dorms at NYU. I won’t lie – at the time, I kind of hated it. I’d never lived in any major city, nevermind one as bustling as NYC, and the whole experience was completely overwhelming. I so wish that future me could travel back in time and knock some sense into share some words of wisdom with 20-something me. I didn’t take advantage of even 10% of the amazing things that NYC has to offer, and if I could do it over again, it would be such a different experience. But, live and learn, I guess, right?

One thing I was introduced to that summer was the black and white cookie. We had a lot of lunch meetings/trainings/speakers/etc at the firm, and they were usually catered. There was always a platter of dessert treats, and black and white cookies were prominently featured. I don’t specifically remember trying one for the first time, but I do know I fell in love with them that summer. The black and white cookies were always one of the first things to disappear from the dessert tray, so I quickly learned that if I wanted one, I’d better act fast!

Black and White Cookies

I’m fairly certain I haven’t had another black and white cookie since that summer many years ago, but when my blog friend Teanna posted about red velvet black and white cookies recently, the memories came flooding back. It had never occurred to me to attempt this classic New York treat in my own kitchen, but I’m always up for a new challenge so I figured, why not? Teanna’s recipe was adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks; I grabbed it off my bookshelf and headed into my kitchen just a few days later. I waffled back and forth for a while over whether I’d make the original cookies or the red velvet adaptation, but eventually I realized it would be easy enough to make both from one batch of dough. Problem solved!

The only real challenge for me in making these cookies was icing them. I struggled a bit to get the consistency of the icing just right so it would sit up on the cookies and not overflow the edges. At the end of the day, it all tastes the same, but I guess you could say I’m a stickler for presentation. Luckily a few turned out well :) These cookies are big, probably close to 3-inches across if I had to guess. They’re cake-like in texture, and coated with a combination of chocolate and vanilla-flavored icings. I can’t say for sure how they compare to the ones you might buy in a deli in NY, but I really enjoyed them. The red velvet adaptation was delicious too, though the red velvet cookies turned out thinner than the original. A minor complaint for sure, as I really loved the look of these for the holidays. They’re both prime candidates for inclusion in my holiday cookie trays!

Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies
from Baking Illustrated

4 cups (16 oz) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 oz) sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup milk, at room temperature (I used 1%)

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
5 cups (20 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar gradually then continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, vanilla extract and lemon extract and beat until combined. With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture (in 4 additions) and milk (in 3 additions), beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined. (The dough will be on the thin side, don’t be concerned.)

Measure out 1/4-cup portions of dough, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets – 6 to a sheet, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Moisten your fingertips with water, then gently press each of the dough mounds into a disk measuring 2 1/2-inches wide by 3/8-inch thick. Bake for 18-20 minutes (rotating the baking sheets halfway through), until the centers of the cookies are firm and the edges are just starting to brown. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks, and let the cookies cool for 2 minutes before removing them to the racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

To make the icing: Add the chocolate to a medium heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally, then remove and set aside. Combine the corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and mix in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the vanilla icing to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. (Note: you can adjust the consistency of the icing as necessary. For the vanilla – if it’s too thick, add hot water a teaspoon at a time and if it’s too thin, add confectioners’ sugar a teaspoon at a time. For the chocolate – add milk, a teaspoon at a time if it’s too thick, or confectioners’ sugar, a teaspoon at a time, if it’s too thin.)

To glaze the cookies: Set the cookies on wire racks place on top of wax paper. (The flat side of the cookie should face up – that’s the side you want to glaze.) Use a small offset spatula to spread about 2 tablespoons of the vanilla icing on half of the flat side of each cookie. Tilt the cookie and run the spatula around the edge to scrape off excess icing. Let set for about 15 minutes so the icing hardens. Use a small offset spatula to spread chocolate icing on the other half of the cookies, again scraping excess from the edge.

Place the cookies on the wire racks, and let the glaze set for at least an hour. Store at room temperature in an airtight container between sheets of parchment paper.

Red Velvet Adaptation
adapted from Spork or Foon

Combine 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons red food coloring in a small bowl to make a paste. You’ll add your cocoa paste once the batter is made (right after alternating the dry ingredients and milk). Otherwise, follow the recipe above exactly.

Makes about 24-26 cookies