Monday, September 1, 2014

Proust, Eat Your Heart Out. New York Deli Style Black and White Cookies.

   Everybody's got a certain food something that rockets them back to childhood, a Philly Cheese Steak, those fries they call Poutine, Red Beans and Dirty Rice, Slow cooked Sunday gravy with Pasta. What ever it is, it says HOME in big bright neon letters. Probably the most famous guy with a food craving was Proust and his madeleine cookies

Proust was so enthused about these little gems that they wound up on school reading lists everywhere. Closer to home, like right around here, the big cookie memory revolves around New York Deli-style Black and White Cookies.
   Alan was born in the Bronx and lived all over New York city. He's got memories of candy stores, clubs, egg creams, living in Alphabet City, going to NYU, riding the Staten Island Ferry and the subway, everything New York has to offer. As Jay Z says, that's a lot.

   Alan also grew up eating Black and White Cookies. Not being a New Yorker, I'd never heard of them until I met him. Black and White Cookies orginated when bakeries had left over cake batter. This was in the days before twee little cupcakes were in fashion. The thrifty bakers turned batter into big hand sized cookies. The cookies have a yellow cake texture and rise up into puffy mounds similar to muffin tops. They're then flipped over and the flat bottoms are frosted generously, half with vanilla, half with chocolate.

   Black and Whites aren't just found in New York. They're also found in that home away from home for so many New Yorkers, LA.  Canters, Juniors, Nate and Al's, the delis of LA bake a mean Black and White. Many nights were spent hanging out in these places watching Alan and his fellow ex-New Yorkers go nuts over these cookies. Now, living in Sonoma, the only way he can get a decent Black and White is when we're in LA on business. He discovered there are quite a few New Yorkers now living up here in wine country and they missed these cookies too. This led to Alan talking to the owner of the best bakery here in Sonoma, Scandia, asking her if she could please make Black and White Cookies.

Marcella is a real artist.

She's also a perfectionist. She said she would love to offer Black and Whites but she needed a truly great recipe. A recipe that would make all the exiled New Yorkers here in town go "Wow!"  when they tasted them. She said that if I could bring her a great Black and White recipe she'd swap me that for a Taj Mahal Cake. The challenge was on! I had to find a cookie that made the Sonoma-New Yorkers go nuts. I found a basic Black and White recipe on Epicurious and tweaked it a few times. I spent the last week baking and it seems that I finally got it right.

New York Black and White Cookies

Here's What You Need:

2 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup of buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs

( vanilla icing)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs water

(chocolate icing)
1 1/2  cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs light corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Here's What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or use a silicone mat on a cookie sheet if you don't want the extra butter. set these aside.
Whisk together the flour...

...baking soda and salt.

Set them aside
In the  bowl of a mixer cream together the unsalted butter...

...and the sugar.

Mix them together slowly until they're pale yellow and fluffy, this takes about 3 minutes.

Add two eggs to the butter and sugar mix.

Keep beating until the eggs are combined.
Add 1 tsp of vanilla to the buttermilk.

Mix the flour and the buttermilk into this separately in small batches, alternating them, starting and finishing with the flour.

Keep the beater speed on low while doing this.
Mix everything together until it's smooth.

Drop large globs of batter onto the cookie sheet.  (abt 1/4 cups worth) keep them 2 inches apart as they'll spread some.

Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 15  minutes or so.

They'll start to puff up.

When they're puffed and lightly golden, make sure they spring back at your touch.

If they do, they're done.
Place them on a cookie rack to cool and start making your icings.
For each icing mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla, corn syrup and water.

Whisk everything together until it's thick and smooth.
If the icing is too thick, add a bit more water. If it's too thin, more powdered sugar.
Do the same thing making the chocolate icing.

Since you are using unsweetened cocoa, taste the chocolate icing and make sure you have the desired sweetness. This is a matter of taste.
 Turn the cookies flat side up, and frost what used to be the bottom.

To get a smooth line of frosting, dip your frosting knife in some cool water. Oh, and Alan says don't be stingy with the frosting. It should be thick.

Let the iced cookies set so the frosting can harden.

When the icing is firm, the vanilla side should have barely visible fine cracks in it like the lines on ice. This is coming from him by the way,  he says new Yorkers can tell.
When the cookies are ready serve them up.

We took a bunch over to our friend Bruce's store Salsa Trading Company . Bruce is another ex New Yorker. The guys tasted, and I got notes.

Sort of like turning in a script, if someone were eating it instead of reading it. I wound up making three batches of cookies, the recipe above was the final product. This recipe makes 8 large cookies. I'll be making more of them and taking them to Marcella later this week.
   Now these guys want to have a blind tasting, my Black and Whites against the real deal New York cookies. I'm supposed to make the cookies, then they'll order some by mail and then hold mine until the ordered ones arrive or some such bullshit. I think it's just an excuse to eat more cookies. Coming next and Indian gluten free alternative to the fried and the breaded. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Love your posts, and, being a New Yorker, love my black & whites! You are correct that they are not really cookies, but little cakes and the bottoms are convex. The true black & white is distinguished by its lemony flavor, which you so brilliantly achieve with buttermilk. Yes, it's really tangy more than lemony. It's near impossible to get a true black & white in NYC anymore. Sniff. My one quibble -- and this is probably a generation gap thing, and I am probably older than Alan and your NYC friends -- fondant, not frosting is what makes a black & white authentic! #tongueincheek!

    1. I'm going to be making more of these cookies for Alan, and I'm not a New Yorker, so I just get my directions from him. Evidently there's quite a controversy also as to the actual shape of these cookies. I never knew a cookie to be such a cult item!! ; )



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