Sunday, September 13, 2009

Look to the cookie.

There’s just something about autumn in New York. I know at least a half a dozen people who have gone to the Big Apple in the past couple of weeks. And while a stroll through Central Park, shopping at Henri Bendel or a cannoli in Little Italy is not on my agenda any time soon, I can at least bake the quintessential New York biscuit: the black-and-white cookie.

In the beginning the black-and-white cookie was created as a way for bakeries to use up their extra cake batter. In texture and consistency they’re really more of a spongy little cake than a typical cookie.

I bought my last black-and-white cookie at William Greenberg Bakery on Madison Ave. I ate it in a yellow taxi on my way to Laguardia after a pre-Christmas weekend in Manhattan last year. William Greenberg’s black-and-whites are some of the best around but the folks at Zabar’s on the Upper West Side are no slouches either. This, if the internets are to be believed, is their recipe.

Get ready.

Put on some Woody Allen movie music. Nothing puts me in a NY state of mind like this.

Preheat your oven to 375. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or grease them but, really, if you bake and haven’t invested a couple of dollars in a roll of parchment paper what are you waiting for? You will thank me.)

The cookies.
(have all your ingredients at room temperature)

1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp lemon extract
2 ½ cups cake flour
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs, milk, vanilla and lemon extract. Mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet mixture in batches mixing to blend after each addition. Remember: this is going to look more like a thick cake batter than cookie dough.

Place spoonfuls about 2” apart on the sheets. (A true black-and-white cookie is an enormous and overwhelming thing. I find an ordinary dessert spoon creates a nice medium-size cookie that’s not too much but not so tiny that you’ll go bananas before you finish frosting them.)
Bake until edges begin to brown, 15-18 minutes. This is a good time to forget everything your mother ever taught you about salmonella and lick the batter off the beaters.

Cool cookies completely before frosting.
The Frosting.

4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/3 to ½ cup water
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp corn syrup
1-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
Boil a cup or so of water. Place the sugar in a large heat-proof bowl. Stir in about 1/3 to a ½ cup of boiling water to create a thin icing. (Be careful not to thin it too much! Because then you will have to add more sugar. And then more water. And then more sugar until you end up with enough icing to cover everything in the kitchen including your dog. This is bad.)
Frost half the flat side (i.e. the “bottom”) of all the cookies.
Place the bowl over the pot of boiling water to create a double boiler. Stir in the chocolate and the corn syrup. If you find the icing isn’t as dark as you want, add a little cocoa.

Ice the remaining halves of the cookies. If you find the icing getting dry, just whisk in a teaspoon of hot water to bring up the sheen again. Let the icing set.

Because these are little cakes, they will get stale more quickly. Store in an airtight container, share with friends and polish them off within a couple of days.
And Jerry Seinfeld is right. The key to eating the black-and-white cookie is to get a little of the both sides in each bite.
Look to the cookie, Elaine. Look to the cookie.

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