Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Black and White Project

I'll admit it. I'm glad to be back from vacation. Although it's nice to break routine every once in a while, I'm just as happy to return to my routine. It keeps me grounded AND I really missed baking. I missed creating. I actually brought a sketch book along with me to jot down my ideas as I "relaxed". I's sick. I can make a cup of coffee nervous. Sometimes I just don't know how to relax.

This week, my sister Kathy brought the kids in to the salon for haircuts and while her own hair was being done the kids walked across the parking lot to a take-out Italian restaurant for "snacks". They came back 20 minutes later with gelatos and the largest black & white cookie I've ever seen. Although traditional black & white's are made with a vanilla cookie, this one was made with chocolate. We broke off a small piece to taste and promptly declared it to be delicious. Kathy looked at me with a gleam in her eye and said emphatically, "You could make these". It was more of a statement than a challenge, but the more I thought about it, the more my curiosity was piqued by the history of these yummy cookies.
New Yorkers made them famous, however their creation came about when bakers needed to put excess batter to use. As stated in Wikipedia, "there is some confusion as to the origin of the black-and-white cookie and the sometimes synonymous name Half-Moon. The name Half-Moon is quite common in Upstate New York and New England, while in New York City, you'll find only Black and Whites. However, while the two names are often used interchangeably, there may actually be some differences between the two. The Halfmoons often come with a chocolate base, rather than a vanilla/lemon base, which is the standard downstate and in New York City. Half Moons also have a more cake-like consistency, while Black and Whites tend to be slightly dryer. The icing is a different consistency as well. These differences lead us to Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, New York -- often credited with creating the Black and White cookie, but was originally called the Half Moon. This bakery has been selling Half-moons since the 1920s. However, it cannot have originated from there, since Glaser Bake Shop on First Avenue near 87th Street in Manhattan, New York has been making black and white cookies since 1902. There is some thought that Hemstrought's Bakery copied the already existing black-and-white cookie already in existence in New York City. So while they may have created the Half-Moon, they likely did not create the black-and-white."
Hmmmmm.....a likely story.

Anyway, since my sister was the one to suggest the Black and White's, I thought it only fair that she share in the baking responsibility. So fasten your seat belts everyone.....we're going to Kathy's.
My mother's Kitchen Aid mixer was her pride and joy. In fact, growing up we weren't allowed to touch it......or even look at it for that matter. Of course we were allowed to clean it after my mother used it so until I got my own heavy duty version, that was the extent of my association with a Kitchen Aid. Kathy inherited it in 1986. It has only needed professional repair once in it's lifetime. That's a pretty good record for Kitchen Aid, I'd say. Although it is over 23 years old, it can still beat the crap out of any batter you throw at it. Way to go Kitchen Aid!!

After a couple of hours of research, we decided to use a recipe adapted from a bunch of different baking websites which also included Zabar's in NYC. Although Zabar's recipe was for a vanilla cookie, I really liked their recipe so I assembled the ingredients and made some adjustments to make them chocolate.

Sweet Moses, I just love using shiny kitchen tools!

These are Kathy's measuring cups. She can't remember where she bought them, but I love them. They are so shiny yet so heavy. I'll bet that if someone broke into her house, she could easily render them unconscious by delivering just a slight clunk on the head with the 1/4 cup. In fact, the 1 cup measurement would probably kill someone. So I know they don't look it but yes....they are that heavy. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. In case you haven't figured it out already, I tend to do that sometimes. But I only exaggerate when heavy, good quality measuring cups are involved.

I always break the egg(s) in a separate bowl or cup before adding them to a recipe. After years of fishing eggshells out of batters, you'd think I'd have learned quicker. Nothing grosses me out more than biting into a soft, moist piece of cake and suddenly crunching down on a piece of eggshell. Yuck.

This recipe called for 2 cups of cake flour as well as 2 cups of all purpose flour. We didn't have cake flour so I gave Kathy the task of "googling" a substitute. We found out that for 2 cups of cake flour, you can use 2 cups of all purpose flour minus 5 tablespoons of flour*, then add 5 tablespoons of cornstarch*.

Ahhh. Here it is! This is my favorite bowl. It lives at my sister's house because she has a lot of cabinet space. My big bowl has it's own shelf in a big cabinet and other little bowls to talk to. Some day, (hopefully sooner than later) when my new kitchen is finished, I'll strap it in to the front seat of my car and drive it home. I'll make it a little dinner....maybe a salad.....give it a nice bath and put it to bed in a big cabinet on it's own shelf. Sigh. Someday.

Black & White Cookies

1 3/4 granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups all purpose flour minus 5 tablespoons of flour*

5 tablespoons cornstarch*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups confectioners sugar

1/3 to 1/2 cup water

3 ounces bitter or unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon corn syrup

3 tablespoons Dutch Process unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven to 375. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix by machine or hand until fluffy. Add eggs, milk, semisweet chocolate and vanilla and mix until smooth. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt and stir until mixed. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients stirring well after each addition.

Mix it up well but don't over mix it! If you mix it too much the flour will develop too much gluten and it will toughen your batter, which could result in the end of the world and we're all doomed. Doomed I say! So don't overmix, O.K.? Mix it just enough to combine the ingredients. So when you peek into the bowl and think, "I wonder if it's done" is.

Place heaping tablespoons or measured scoopful of batter on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges begin to firm, about 13 - 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

I just love adding cocoa to......................ANYTHING!

This is one beater that you can't lick....."someone" dropped it on the floor and took a nice chunk out of one side of it. My Kitchen Aid, of course, is in perfect condition. I'm just saying. :)

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.....

I used a medium-sized scoop to keep the batter consistent. The scoop measured about 1 1/2 to 2 inches across.

Emily stood guard at the front door during most of the baking process. There are lots of birds to watch and bugs to stomp on outside my sister's house.

This is how the cookies look when they're just out of the oven. Once baked, they measure about 4 inches across.

"Black and White" Icing

Boil a cup or so of water in a small pot. Place confectioner's sugar in a large heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a think, spreadable mixture. Remember that a too thin frosting is hard to add the water slowly, stirring well after each addition. Leave the remaining hot water in the pot on the stove. Once the white icing is used on the cookies, place the bowl of remaining frosting over the hot water and bring it back to a simmer. Stir in the bitter (unsweetened) chocolate until it is melted as well as the corn syrup. Frost the other side of the cookies and set them aside to let the frosting set. Store in an airtight container.

I used a decorating tip and pastry bag to outline the icing, while Kathy used the back of a spoon dipped in warm water to smooth and spread it around.

Then we got REALLY adventurous. I melted peanut butter candy melts and spread them on one side on each cookie. I finished them off with a zigzag of chocolate. Very contemporary, don't you think??

Okay, all black and white aside, my sister and I saw the premiere of Julie & Julia the other night. Hands down, one of the best films I've seen in years. Not a "chick flick" at all. It was funny, warm, happy and sad. Meryl Streep has done it again, and in my opinion, this one is one of her to "Out of Africa", "Sophie's Choice", "The River Wild",. "Heartburn", and of course, "The Devil Wears Prada". When the film ended, the entire theater applauded and then everyone sat through the credits. Truly the mark of a movie hit! I was instantly energized and wanted to cook Julia's Coq au Vin, or Beef Bourguignon or something equally inspiring. So as we were leaving the theater at 10: 45 p.m., I told Kathy that I wanted to go to Barnes & Noble right then and there to purchase Julia Child's cookbook. She looked at me like I was crazy. But we went anyway and purchased THE LAST TWO JULIA CHILD COOKBOOKS IN THE STORE. The salesperson said that they have been flying off the shelves for the last six hours.......and that was just the first day of the movie release! Can you imagine? In fact, since last Friday, Amazon has sold out of over 75,000 copies of Julia Child's cookbook.
But guess who has a copy? So there.

Up until about a year ago, I considered myself to be a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" cook/baker. If a measurement called for 1 cup, a little more or less didn't matter to me. Since that time I have realized that because baking is a science....precise measurements will yield more consistent results. Julia Child agrees (how coincidental) and because she was such a stickler for precise measurements, I am giving away this set of shiny, shiny measuring cups today. Unfortunately, these are not the same heavy cups as my sister Kathy's, but they are just as shiny. As soon as she can remember where she got them, I'll let you know. I the meantime, these beauties are from my "Happy Store", otherwise known as William Sonoma. Whew, I get goosebumps just thinking about that place.

All you have to do to be eligible to win is to leave me a comment at the end of this post and tell me your favorite Meryl Streep movie. That's it. Contest ends Wednesday at midnight (eastern standard time) and winner's name will be drawn by random. org and announced Thursday morning.

See that?

It's as simple as Black and White.


Cherie Smutnick said...

My favorite Meryl Streep movie is The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep is my all time favorite actress so I love any movie she is in. & OMG, your black & white's look so good. I must stop thinking about them they are making me drool and it is almost
10:00 p.m. Thank you for sharing your cookie recipe (love all the blogging too) and the chance to win the "Shiny" measuring cups.


Susan said...

My favorite Meryl Streep movie is, of course, "A Cry in the Dark" because of the most famous line: "The dingo ate my baby" LOL
I know you are laughing, Anne!

Amiyrah said...

Death becomes her. I know, I know, but I looooove that movie, Every time it's on, I have to watch it.

Lisa said...

Favorite Meryl Streep movie....mmmmm I don't get out much!

But!!! I love black and white cookies. I remember the first time I tried one. I was with my dad. We were visiting his mother and we walked to his favorite bakery to get bread. He also bought some of those cookies.

He was so excited he was wringing his hands and pacing the store.

What a nice memory and a nice cookie....OOoooh Chocolate Black and White. Yummmmy!! I like it! :-)

Claire said...

The cookies look yummy! I love Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" -- she's so convincingly evil! What a great actress =)

Nancy said...

The Devil Wears Prada is my favorite. Meryl Streep is such a wonderful, convincing actress. And you are such a convincing baker and writer... that for the first time I am showing a love of baked goods (good for family and friends, bad for the waist line). I print out your recipes each time they appear and give them a try whenever I am able - they have been wonderful! Black and White's are next.

BeeJay said...

I haven't seen too many movies that Meryl Streep has been in, but I have seen The Devil Wears Prada and it's really cute. I need to see Mamma Mia at some point, just haven't gotten around to it. Love your blog. I'm a new reader and check back everyday!

amandadawn said...

These look fantastic! I think I'd like the chocolate version better, too. I'd have to go with The Devil Wears Prada as well. And I have been eyeing those measuring cups at W-S. mm....

Stephanie said...

Mama Mia!
I just found your blog, it's great! Thanks for the awesome recipes and inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Hey! Welcome back. ;-)

Those "half moons" look great! I remember when I was younger while visiting up north -- heading into a store/bakery with my Father.

Believe it or not we never even heard of these cookies in the south at that time. We were still getting over the culture shock of grits! ;-)

My Dad took my sister Lisa and I (perhaps brothers too) to a bakery down the street from Nana Finnell's in Dorchester. He bought a dozen or so - It was sooo exciting! ;-) I remember years later each time we visited my Mother would stop and buy a dozen or so for the ride home and to fill the desires of my Father's sweet tooth.

Later, my Mother introduced us to Brigham's fudge...Such fun memories.

Great tip in reference to the eggs.

Love, Marg

PS Love the cones as well! Great idea.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! I just read your comments posted from others! Your reader LISA made pretty much the same comment about the black and white cookies as I did. ;-) Ya think we're related?? ;-)

Love, Marg. ;-)

Patty said...

OMG you kill me- your measuring cup comments and the big bowl comments, geez I can't even drink coffee when I read your blog. Makes such a mess spraying out of my mouth/nose all over the keys and screen

Julie and Julia will be my favorite Meryl Streep movie!

smithpatty at comcast dot net

Aunt Grace said...

What do you mean NYC. Thoes cookies or rather "half and half'S" were always down at the Avenue bakery on Dorchester Ave. He would drool before we went into the bakery, almost like the sweet coffee rolls with the white frosting dripping over the sides and the cinnamon popping all over the place. The alf and alf's are still his favorite, it is so funny to hear him explain thoes cookies when we DO find a bakery here. I'll tell you, that is one of the things we miss, good bakery bread, and someone in the south that can cook like you!!!

Aunt Grace said...

By the way, your Mother had me buy the exact same green kitchen aid mixer when she came down. I must have gone through four other mixers until this on, no what?? it is still wonderful. I bought each of the girls one also, the problem is, I would like a red one.

The Amazing Trips said...

I cannot believe you didn't come see us in South Carolina.

We were LOOKING for you and your cookies!!!

Romaine said...

Just now discovering your blog. The idea of chocolate black and white cookies sucked me in. I've spent the last year perfecting my own recipe for the regular kind of black and whites and pretty much have it down. Now I will try these. Thanks so much.

Kst said...

You don't say how much baking powder to add in the list of ingredients.
The cookies look great though and I'd like to try them as soon as you put that in.

SimplySweeter said...

Oops! Sorry about that. I used 1 teaspoon of baking powder. It's a recipe from Zabar's. Have fun with it!!