Sunday, December 31, 2006

Holiday Baking Recap Part 4: Black-and-White Cookies

One of my favorite treats that's unique to Rochester is a cookie called Half Moons. They are large cookies -- their footprint is a little smaller than a CD. They can be chocolate or vanilla, and the texture is kind of like a brownie. One half is frosted vanilla, half chocolate. And they aren't cheap! A pack of four of them will put you back about four bucks at Wegmans (who makes the best ones).

I thought I'd try to replicate them as part of my holiday baking. I searched online and the closest thing I could find was Black-and-White Cookies, which are popular in New York City. The only Black-and-White Cookies I've tried in New York City have been prepackaged things at airports, which I can't believe are as good as the real thing. But they've given me a sense for what they are. My sense is that they are smaller and maybe a bit cakier than our Half Moons. But I figured they'd be a good place to start.

I chose Gale Gand's recipe from the Food Network because I've met her and she's nice. The only thing I changed is that I didn't use lemon extract, and increased the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon.

The cookies themselves turned out great. They were cakey but they didn't fall apart when I turned them upside down to ice them. I didn't like her icings, though. They were too thin and hard. I ended up switching to another Food Network recipe for icings, and they were perfect. The cookies shown above use the preferred frostings. In the end, they weren't Half Moons, but they were the next best thing.

This concludes my holiday baking recaps. Come back next week, when I'll post my "Bests of 2006!"

Here are the recipes:

Black-and-Whites
Gale Gand, from the TV Food Network site

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure lemon extract (I didn't use)
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Vanilla and chocolate icing, recipes follow (didn't like these)
Vanilla Icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Icing:
1/2 vanilla icing recipe
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper. In a mixer, cream the butter. Add the granulated sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, milk, and extracts and mix to combine. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar-egg mixture and mix to blend. Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared pans. With a spatula, press and spread each cookie into a circle about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and about 3/8-inch thickness. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Let cool on wire racks.

For the icing: In a medium bowl, stir the sugar, milk, and vanilla together until it forms a smooth icing. Transfer half of the icing to another bowl and stir in the cocoa powder and milk until smooth.

When cool, turn cookies over, so the flat side faces up. Spread white icing on half of each flat surface, then spread the other half with chocolate icing. Let set at room temperature for 30 minutes.

The icings I preferred, also from the Food Network:

Chocolate Icing:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

White Icing:

2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice (didn't use -- increased water accordingly)
2 tablespoons warm water

For the chocolate icing: Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan; pour over the chocolate. Shake the bowl gently so cream settles around the chocolate; set aside until the chocolate melts, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth, taking care not to incorporate too many air bubbles.

For the white icing: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice and warm water together to make a smooth icing.

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