Black and White Cookies

The first black and white cookie I ever bit into was soggy. Wet with eleven-year-old tears on a thirty minute drive into Boston for what would be my first singing lesson at the New England Conservatory of music. A lesson that I was terrified to take part in. Between death grips of the dashboard and clawing desperately at the passenger-side window for an escape route, I begged my mother to turn around. I shouted worst case scenarios in the same manner I imagine I’d shout if I was being burned alive.

But what if I forget the words?!!! And what if the lady instructor makes me sing in front of the whole auditorium [sob]…and then my voice cracks..[wail]…and everyone laughs at me?!!!??? And…[the worst realization of all] and and and [heaving sigh] what time will we be able to eat lunch?!?!!!!!

In retrospect, lunch may not have been the worst of my problems. Though, I was never one to miss a scheduled meal time.

Perhaps as a pacifier, maybe as a sedative, and possibly a last ditch effort to save a daughter who was prying at the locks on the car door, readying herself to tuck and roll out onto the freeway, mom thrust a waxed paper bag in my lap.

“It’s a half moon,” she said,“My very favorite cookie.” I later learned that mom is the only one who refers to black and white cookies as ‘half moons.’ She’s a trailblazer, that one.

Just about the size of a CD case (if anyone recalls what those once were), inside sat a half inch thick cookie, one half perfectly smeared with vanilla glaze, and the other with a chocolate so intensely dark I wondered momentarily what flavor black might be. Black licorice was as far as I got.

I stretched my index finger and thumb around the cookie’s golden edges, as far as they’d separate without disjointing, slid that sucker into my upturned palm, and watched as my hand disappeared beneath a baked good rivaling a bagel in diameter. In mid-bite, I expected it would taste as sugar cookies do, sweet and buttery, chewy and gritted with sugar crystals. For the first time, I was happily wrong. It was a cake in cookie clothing. Moist and tender-crumbed, sweet with a faint buttermilk flavor. It was delightful. Light, fluffy, and as if those weren’t lovely enough attributes, the round was frosted too. A thin glaze of smooth vanilla sugar dissolved in the right side of my mouth, as rich, bittersweet chocolate melted on the left.

I looked up and realized I could no longer remember what I was upset about. I sat, mesmerized and momentarily calm, almost as if my inner roaring fire had been extinguished.

Where were we driving? Why was mom white-knuckling the steering wheel at ten and two? She really shouldn’t grimace like that.

I could have returned to my tantrum. I could have considered even more singing scenarios in which I was the butt of a hundred cruel jokes. I could have shimmied those bloody door locks one more time. I had wailing to do!

But the cookie was there, like a pillow between my teeth. And chocolate was flirting with vanilla. And cake had crossed with cookie. And I still knew the lyrics to Part of YourWorld. And my palm was full.

And by my estimation, I still had at least forty four inches of frosted cookie to eat by lunchtime. Sweet sweet relief.

Black and White Cookies

Cream softened butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Add eggs, then milk, vanilla, and lemon extract,  and beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk cake flour, all purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drop spoonfuls of dough (a heaping tablespoon) and spread lightly into circles. Keep them at least two inches apart, because they spread in the oven. Bake for about 18 minutes, but watch closely, until the edges begin to turn a faint shade of golden.

Stir together the white glaze- essentially a mix of powdered sugar and a few drops of water. It couldn’t be easier, really.

Stir together a simple chocolate glaze (recipe below).

Use a small spatula to spread the white glaze on half of each cookie.

Next, spread the chocolate glaze on the other half of each cookie. Allow the glazes to harden and set for 30 minutes before serving.

Black and White Cookies

(recipe from The New York Times)

makes 2 dozen very large cookies

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 to 1/2 cup boiling water

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Beat the sugar and butter in a standing mixer or using a hand-held mixer until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, milk, vanilla, and lemon extract, until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a little at a time, stirring between each addition. Drop generous tablespoonfuls of the batter on two parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between each. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn a pale golden. Let the cookies cool fully on a wire rack before frosting.

Make the glazes: Put the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and slowly add the boiling water a little at a time, stirring and then stopping when you’ve reached a thick, smooth texture.

Add half of this glaze mixture to a medium sized heat-proof bowl along with the chocolate and corn syrup, and set it over a small saucepan of simmering water. This is a double boiler. Stir the mixture until the chocolate melts and is silky and thick. Remove the double boiler from the heat, but leave the bowl of glaze on top of the hot water to make sure that it stays a spreadable consistency. If you don’t have a double boiler, you could alternately melt the chocolate in a microwave for 15 second intervals (at 50% power) and then add that to half of the white glaze mixture along with the corn syrup, being careful not to let the chocolate burn.

Now, using a small spatula or a butter knife, spread one side of each cookie top with white glaze first, and then cover the empty sides with the chocolate glaze. Let the cookies dry and the frosting set. Store in an airtight container.



34 thoughts on “Black and White Cookies

  1. Evan Thomas

    I was just watching how they make these in NYC on Unwrapped over Thanksgiving break. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Black & White cookie, but I love not having to choose between chocolate and vanilla.

  2. Kace

    I’ve been looking for a great black and white recipe since last christmas–with your great directions I’m sure this is it! can’t wait to try it; I’ve yet to not LOVE anything I’ve found here!

  3. Lu

    I’ve always thought that Black & White Cookies were so elegant. Now I realize that they are both elegant, and life changing. I think that I’ll be making these asap. By the way, the Cranberry Cornbread Muffins were the hit of my Thanksgiving dinner this year. I remade them for another event, and tweaked. I’ll be posting about it soon. Thanks for your inspiration. Now, on to the cookies!

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  6. Ashly

    Recently starting reading your blog. Love your story and recipes! I’m baking the black and white cookies for Christmas this year :)

  7. Whitney

    Just started reading you blog – really enjoy it! I’m also a Massachusetts native (Brookline) and grew up calling these half moons. I recently moved to France and this recipe cured my homesickness!

  8. Sarah B

    Oh my these look so delicious! I grew up in Syracuse, NY and they were called Half Moon cookies (which I consider the proper name for them ;)). People look at me oddly now that I live in the south and they are almost impossibly to find. Maybe now I’ll make some!

    1. Nancy

      I live in Syracuse and until I met some folks from Downstate, had never heard of “Black & White” cookies. A regional thing, like soda here is called “Pop”in Auburn. Anyway, family & friends debate where to get the best 1/2 moons…..Snowflake or Harrison Bakery seem to always come close, but my favs were from Peters IGA when it was open. The Italian bread too. Not the same since P&C, then Tops took over. Wegmans can’t compare, but Price Chopper’s are not bad. I remember my surprise when my older sister made 1/2 moons at home…….I said, Ï didn’t know you could make them yourself, I thought you could only buy them at the store! ” She the said, “Boy Mom really fell down on the job with you!” (I am the fifth of 5, 15 years younger than oldest sis)

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