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Black and White Cookies Recipe & Video

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Black and White Cookies, also known as Half Moon Cookies and Half and Half Cookies, have been around for more than a century. Who invented them, is anyone's guess, but what we do know is that they are a staple at restaurants, coffee shops, delis, and bakeries all over New York. As their name implies, these large, sweet and buttery, dome shaped cookies, are iced with two flavors of frosting. One half of the cookie is covered with a white fondant frosting, the other half with a chocolate fondant frosting.

This recipe for Black and Whites is one I adapted from Molly O'Neill's excellent New York Cookbook. These cookies have a soft, cake-like texture and are scented with both vanilla and lemon extracts. The batter is a cross between a cookie and a cake, or as some would say a "drop" cake, because the batter is firm enough to 'drop' by 1/4 cupfuls (60 ml) onto your baking sheet. It is important not to over bake these cookies as we do not want them to be dry. They are done when the edges and bottoms of the the cookies are just beginning to turn brown (a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie will just come out clean).

Now, what is unique about Black and Whites is that you put the frostings on the flat bottom side of the cookies, so the bottoms now become the tops. Both the vanilla and chocolate frostings are a combination of powdered sugar, hot water, corn syrup, and vanilla extract (plus semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate for the chocolate frosting). Once the two frostings are made, one side of the cookie is covered with the white frosting, the other side with the chocolate frosting. The frostings will harden as they dry forming a thin top crust. The recipe makes about 30 large cookies, so if you prefer a smaller amount, simply half the recipe.

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Black and White Cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. To make all the cookies the same size, on each sheet of parchment draw 8 - 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) circles, spacing the circles about 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart. Turn the parchment paper upside down on your baking sheet (so the circles you drew are underneath).

In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon extract. Scrap down the sides of your bowl as needed.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) beginning and ending with the flour.  

Using a 1/4 cup (60 ml) measuring cup (or an ice cream scoop), place mounds of batter on the prepared baking sheet. Then, using an offset spatula or the blade of a knife, spread the batter into 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) rounds, using the template as a guide. Bake the cookies for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Frosting: Place the confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Gradually stir in the hot water, corn syrup, and vanilla extract, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, smooth, and of spreading consistency. Add more sugar or water if necessary to get the right consistency.

Remove about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the frosting and place it in another heatproof bowl. Add the finely chopped chocolate. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate has melted and the frosting is smooth. Remove from heat.

Turn the cookies so the flat bottoms are facing up. Spoon a scant tablespoon of the white icing on one half of each cookie. Then, using a small offset spatula or knife, spread the frosting evenly over half the cookie. Tilt the cookie and run the spatula along the edge of the cookie to scrape off excess frosting. Place the cookie on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies. If the frosting thickens too much, add a few drops of water.

Once all the cookies are covered with the white frosting, then cover the bare half of each cookie with the chocolate frosting. If the chocolate frosting becomes too thick, reheat over the simmering water until fluid. Add a little hot water to thin the frosting if necessary.

Makes about 30 cookies.

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Black and White Cookies:

2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all purpose flour

2 1/2 cups (290 grams) cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated white sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, at room temperature


4 cups (1 pound) (450 grams) confectioners sugar (powdered or icing sugar)

1/3 - 1/2 cup (80 - 120 ml) hot water

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ounce (30 grams) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

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