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Black & White Cookies

If I had to name my top three desserts, in that too-brief list would be Black & White Cookies. I can’t visit New York without having at least one per day, although it’s getting tougher and tougher to find a decent one there. On my last trip I found a lot of shrink-wrapped cookies, but there’s nothing like biting into a jumbo-sized fluffy disk of cake that’s been twice-smeared with chocolate and vanilla icing, left naked and exposed to the world, so the icing gets crispy. And when you bite in, the dry outside crackles a bit but the inside is still soft and the icing is just a touch gooey.

Black & White Cookies

But trying to explain all that to a Parisian ain’t easy. Some things just don’t translate.

So this weekend, to inaugurate the new oven I had to buy (more about that later…I’m still recovering from the 3-day trauma…) I made Black & White Cookies. Enlisting the help of a native Parisian, I had to explain the importance of the chocolate and vanilla icings to be in exactly equal proportions—or the whole cookie just doesn’t work.

Black & White Cookies

I was working on a recipe* that I hoped to share with you. But I’m still futzing with all the new dials and buttons on my oven. So don’t blame me.

Like, can someone explain the logic of putting the temperature settings below the knobs so you have to get down on your hands and knees to check the temperature?

Or why around here they have not just ‘standard’ and ‘Phillips head’ screws, but ‘l’etoile’ as well?

So for the time being, until I can muster up the energy to face the hardware department at the BHV again, the lid of my new stovetop is being held up and open with a bungee cord wrapped around a nearby window. And it snapped across my face when I pulled the first batch of cookies out of the oven, almost causing me to have a crise cardiaque. But at least I saved the cookies.

While they weren’t the neatest looking pastries in Paris, I’d say they were the best I’ve had in a long time. And although my Parisian friends thought they were a bit sweet, they didn’t seem to have any trouble gobbling them up as quickly as I did.

So who knows? Maybe this is the start of the trend around here. That first batch disappeared pretty quickly. I’d say it’s safe to say it will continue.

Except if you start seeing them in some of the pastry shops around here, depending on your point of view, you can either blame me. Or give thanks.

I know which side I’d be on.

*UPDATE: If you’re looking for my recipe for Black & White Cookies, you’ll find it in Ready for Dessert.



    • suzyn

    oh… recipe please! i, too, live in a far off land and miss half moon cookies. yours look great, i think it’s essential that the white icing be a little… crunchier than the chocolate.

    good luck with the oven, however bad it gets, it could be worse.

    • Sandicita

    I’d love the recipe too! I tried to make them once and they were all wrong. The cookie part was almost scone-like and the white icing was too clear so they did not look at all like B&W cookies. Still tasty though.

    • David

    I’d love the recipe too!

    That makes 3 of us…
    : )

    • Michele

    Yes, please post the recipe.

    Nostalgic in Albuquerque.

    • Randi

    OMG, I love black and whites. (btw, there is an egullet thread on them). I always have one or two or three when I go back to Ft. Lauderdale (almost everyone who lives there is a transplanted NYer). So many times though, they aren’t very fresh.

    • izzy’s mama

    There is nothing like a perfect Black and White! I once received a dozen from a baker boyfriend and I have since made them a few times. The cookie comes out perfect but the icing is definitely more problematic, particularly the chocolate which tends to sometimes look more like frosting. I would be interested to see what you come up with!

    My favorite ones in NYC come from Moishe’s on 2nd Ave.

    • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a black & white cookie! But your description of the thin, crunchy-top-layer of frosting really resonates with me (my mom’s cookie cutter frosted cookies) so I am sure I will like these, too! Can’t wait to see them.

    • VeggieGirl

    Ahh, the quintessential Black & White Cookie – such a phenomenon, especially in NYC! I’m sure you will be able to start a trend with them, in Paris :0)

    By the way, I just happened to catch a television program this morning, entitled “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie,” and you were on there, talking about your (amazing!!!) food blog!! Such a great program – I’m so glad that I got a chance to watch it, since I am an avid reader of your blog. Keep up the superb work! :0)

    • Sara

    Haha! This post made my day.

    • deb

    Oooh, I’ve got a pretty good one and I was *just* thinking about refreshing the recipe for the site. Great minds! Now I must hurry, and get to them first. ;)

    • Joanna in the kitchen

    It’s fair enough when you torture your readers with a great photo and a recipe. Then we get the chance to try it ourselves.
    It’s unfair when you post a photo and write how good sth is and you don’t share the recipe. Then the one and only thing we can do is to lick the screen.
    You say yourself that you are a dictator here but please have a just little bit of mercy for your dedicated readers. :-D

    • David

    Ok—the first person who can explain the logic of 1) Putting the temperature readings on the underside of the oven dial, 2) The reason the French have a third type of screw (l’etoile), and 3) What kind of company prints booklets to go with their ovens but don’t put the model number on the booklet (or on the oven!), gets the recipe.

    WTF! : )

    • KatyBelle

    Wow! Recipe please!!

    • Bob

    I LOVE those cookies. It would be great to be able to get them in Paris. Perhaps you could open a Black and White Cookie Shop. That reminds me, I haven’t had one in quite a while (they are a bit pricey).

    • Jenne

    1) So you can make your small children do all your baking for you.

    2) So they can keep all the carpentry jobs for French people who already have the correct screwdrivers.

    3) A company with great confidence in the uniqueness of its oven models.

    There you go!

    • Charlene

    I’d love the recipe, too, but it’s far more important that you stay safe and healthy!! Hope the oven gets sorted soon. Bungee cords give me the willies. It’s like having a wild animal for a pet: it’s all well and good until something goes terrible wrong and you find your nose ripped off.
    BTW, star-tipped screws are quite common on professionally-made items, and I believe they are part of an evil conspiracy against consumers. I have otherwise good pans with wiggly handles held in place with–yep, star-tipped screws. EVIL, I tells ya. : )

    • Tags

    I’d love the recipe because I, too, live in a foreign land.


    • flavia

    The answer to your 3 questions is:

    C’est la fatalité


    • kate

    4 and still counting … c’mon … pls !!!

    • Martin

    RECIPE PLEASE, David. I can only guess that since you made no reference to anyone else’s recipe, you have a twist with yours that makes them extra special.

    • Hilary

    David, did you use lemon extract in your black and whites? The recipe that I use (Zabar’s) calls for lemon extract and I usually replace it with vanilla because I just don’t remember any hint of lemon from the black and white’s of my youth. Unless of course, Jewish delis in Detroit just make a different kind of black and white.

    • Joseph Bayot

    That’s a perfect description of a black and white cookie.

    • Shirlie

    I’ve made them once before, using a recipe from and the icing or batter (can’t remember) called for lemon juice and in my opinion, the cookies were ruined by that flavor. The quintessential b&w cookie from my baltimore days had not a trace of acidic aftertaste. Please post the recipe, or I’ll be forced to try smitten kitchen’s!! Thanks!

    • Pamplemousse

    If you’re in Montréal ever, there are some very fine black and white cookies at Cheskie’s on Bernard and Parc.

    • mb

    Oh no… don’t tell me you bought a new oven and are trying to install it yourself??? XD

    1) My oven is at EYE level. And the second smaller one is actually slightly higher.
    2) Like we say, “chaqun son métier” so you don’t normally need a special screw-driver, lol! Call a professional (Darty, lol?) and have them install it for you.
    3) Normally there are two manuals. One for the user with instructions and precautions for use and another one more technical for the installer which you never use afterwards and may be lost somewhere.

    Is that good? May I request an ice-cream recipe? Shudders at the black and white cake, looool! :P

    • mb

    P.S. I’m joking about the cake, of course!

    • Mary

    No fair! You promise the recipe to the first person with a good answer, and then give the answer yourself! I guess you get to keep the recipe :(

    1) WTF
    2) WTF
    3) WTF

    • margalit

    Although I can get black and whites easy peasy in Boston where I live, I’d love the recipe. I think I could make little ones for a finger food party!

    • CM

    Margalit — Boston B&Ws are NOT the same — they are more like a flat cupcake, with frosting on top rather than the thin icing on traditional (New York) B&Ws.

    I liked the epicurious ones a lot and would be interested to see how yours compare.

    • PMM

    David, my grandfather use to make these as a special treat for us when we were young, although he called them “half moon cookies”. Thanks for making me lick my monitor.

    • krysalia (france)

    the way you described the perfect black and white cookie reminds me exactly the way i would describe the pleasure to eat ” un palet de dame” :) It seems that it’s nearly the same thing (jumbo sized biscuit sablé with icing) but the icing here has slightly some lemon flavour and is all white. when you bite in it, the icing crackles too, leaving some nice stars and wrinkles. the cookie is crunchy on the outside too, but soft and buttery inside.

    any parisian who have tried a “palet de dame” would understand what you feel with those black and white cookies, for sure :)

    • cheryl

    David, I spent my formative years in Canada and many and many of the screws there required the so called “star shaped” screw driver. I think that maybe an “everywhere but the US” thing..sorta like metric.

    • Amy

    These are my favorite cookie. I lived in Brooklyn for a few years and having them at my fingertips was wonderful! Have tried to make them a few times on my own but they never taste as yummy as the ones from NY.

    On a side note… I watched a TV special yesterday. It was Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie. Saw you featured on it! How fun to put a voice to your writing!

    • Deb Schiff

    How scary about the bunjee! I panicked when I read that, thinking it had hit you.

    But, glad to hear that you’re getting your favorite cookie right. I still haven’t gotten there with mine — lace cookies. I used to love those fresh from the bakery, sandwiching some white or chocolate filling. Will let you know when I’ve nailed that one.

    Good luck with the new oven!

    • cher128

    I grew up at a time in New York when the Black & White was the most ubiquitous cookie around.
    This was a New York that boasted “at least” one great bakery in every neighborhood.
    Most every little kid, and probably their Moms and Dads too, left the bakery happily munching on a full moon of Black & White.
    The recipe for the Black & White along with the recipe for the perfect bagel have somehow disappeared into the vapors.
    Having said that, I also remember as a child thinking,
    “What’s the big deal with the B&W’s????!!!”
    I could never figure out why they were so popular!
    I know this goes counter to what everyone here, including you David, is saying about this humble delight but,
    They are the most uninspiring, almost blond, pudgy wudgy cookie and don’t get me started on the icing “shmear.” No matter how you romanticize the crack when you bite into the icing, it’s still a big fat cookie with a sweet shmear.
    The B&W.
    Kick this one into the “Cookie Hall of Shame!”
    *sorry folks don’t go too hard on me.

    • Milly

    Oh the Black & White cookie…

    Coming from San Francisco, I had never even heard of such a thing until I started dating someone who grew up in Queens. (More specifically, someone who really likes cookies. And, at that, someone who really likes Black & Whites.) After two years, I don’t know that I could begin to count the number of Black & Whites I’ve made.

    This cookie took a lot of tweaking. There are very few available recipes and none that I really liked. The hardest part is definitely the icing—not just taste but also achieving that nice, clean finish. (Hint: stay away from the spatula!) And it wasn’t until I visited NYC for the first time that I finally understood how large these things are supposed to be….

    Though, that being said, there wasthe time I doubled the recipe and forgot to make twice as many cookies. *cough cough* To say that they were too large is to be very, very generous.

    With B&Ws, I’ve found that perseverence is rewarded. His family tells me that they’re the best Black & Whites they’ve had (and they’re not too shy when they don’t like something). If I can make them, anyone can.

    • Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Black & whites remind me of all the Sundays wandering around New York with my grandparents, visiting museums, the zoo, window shopping — and always there would be a black & white at some point during the day. It’s absolutely true that the icing has to air-harden, to get that bit of crust that seems to protect the rest of the cookie. Thanks, in advance, for the recipe!

    • Kelly

    I saw you on TV today in Pennsylvania. Just thought I would check you out. I remember seeing those cookies in NYC. They look yummy.

    • Mrs.W

    We call them half moon cookies, and they are famous in my area made by Hemstrought’s Bakery. Delicious childhood memories around those little gems!

    • Cakespy

    Ooh, a dessert I think about frequently. Sigh, these look dreamy. Since having moved from New York to Seattle, I never see them.

    • michelle @ Us vs. Food

    recipe, please!

    it’s amazing how hard it is to find good ones, even in NYC. i can’t abide the shrink-wrapped ones with the hard glaze-like frosting.

    • CJ

    I thought these might be something that you would find at Magnolia Bakery in the village. They fit right in with the theme, but, alas, they are not listed on their menu! (What IS the attraction to their cupcakes, anyhow? I stood in line for an hour one Saturday on a visit to NYC, since they are so raved about. But you could do the same from a box!)

    I have a whole bunch of “hex” drivers that came with my drill. In 4 years of house modding, I think I’ve needed them once. I think maybe for something from IKEA.

    • Candace

    I’ve never had a black and white cookie, but seeing the pictures and having made things out of your book and tasting chocolate with you in Susan’s first Paris class, I’m SURE yours are the best. Please post the recipe! And don’t hurt yourself on that oven. Although I have to say… thanks for making me laugh out loud!

    You know how much I love all things french, but I have to say the answer to your questions are all the same… Because it’s French :)

    A bientot

    • Jane

    This is great – by some odd coincidence my DH has been talking about half moon cookies for the past week. I had no idea what he was talking about, nor that black and white cookies were the same things. Guess who is from New York and who is not? Thanks for the education – will definitely be on the lookout for the recipe!

    • dinazad

    Oooooh, Amerikaner! In Munich, where I grew up, these were called “Americans”. I live in Switzerland now and get them here, but every time I’m in Munich, I have to have at least one American (although it seems to me that they used to be better than they are these days. Which may because memories of childhood are gilded. Or because I haven’t taken the trouble to get my American from a really good bakery).

    As for your questions: Health reasons, of course!

    a) frequent bending down to read the temperature will keep your spine flexible and whittle down your waistline
    b) finding the correct screwdriver will have you training your legs (getting from one DIY to the other, braving metro stairs, searching miles of shelving) and your brain (figuring out where in DIY paradise they’re hiding their screwdrivers)
    c)Trying to find a model number which is not in the obvious place will give your brain a workout, not to mention your French when you have to phone all and sundry to find out.

    So basically you should be thankful for being kept on your toes in every way!

    Looking forward to your posting of the recipe!

    • Helen

    I love your description of the icing David, crust on the outside but still soft and gooey within – that is exactly what is great about icing! I also love the fact that they look very messy to make. My kind of cookies.

    • ParisBreakfasts

    I could swear I saw a “Black ‘n White” cookie in Paris a few years ago, but it was an upscale version. A dark chocolate and milk chocoate combo half and half. It knocked my socks off. Now if I could just remember where I saw it.

    • brett

    Whenever you recover from your French oven traumas, David, all us B&W cookie fans (who knew there were so many of us… I feel so validated) will be patiently awaiting your recipe. You’re in our prayers and we wish you a speedy recovery. What shall I send you to soothe your psychic wounds? Flours, perhaps.

    • Paula

    I also grew up on Black & Whites in NY. The most authentic recipe is in “Practical Baking” by William J. Sultan, which is a professional baking book.The original was a training manual for a baking apprentice program for NY/NJ in the 30’s. The recipes are in weights, not measures. The standard icing is in there too – David -yours is too thick! I’ll look it up when I get home tonight.

    • Ann

    I started eating b&w cookies a few months ago and I can’t stop….

    My boyfriend thinks they’re too plain and dry but I love them to death…

    Zabars in NY is my favorite! They’re the size of my face and of course I finish it in one sitting : )

    • John

    I am a Parisian (by birth) and I salivate already.

    • Kim

    I feel deprived, I have never had a Black & White Cookie before. They look really really good, so I am going to have to make them this week as soon as I am done eating the Gingersnaps & Lemon Curd I made. Thanks!!

    • Elle

    116th and Broadway they have black and whites…and then all blacks,all whites, mocha whites, mocha blacks and all mochas… definitly try them if havent and get an absolute bagel while u are up there… and a stuffed plantain from La Rosita… drat.. what the heck am I doing in Paris? Urs look devine.

    • Paula

    Here’s my recipe for real NY black & whites, based on the “Practical Baking” recipe. I made these regularly in my bakery, and sometimes make them at home.

    12 oz.sugar
    1 t. salt
    8 oz. unsalted butter
    4 large eggs
    9 oz. milk
    1 1/2 t. vanilla
    1/2 t. lemon extract
    22 oz. cake flour
    3/4 oz. baking powder

    Preheat oven to 390. Line baking pans with parchment or silicone liners.

    Cream sugar, salt & butter until light & fluffy. Add eggs one at a time & flavorings. Sift flour & Baking powder. Add alternately with milk.

    To portion, either pipe batter out of a pastry bag with large plain tip, or use an ice cream scoop. If neither is available, use a large spoon and get the batter as round as you can. Portion is about 1/4 cup per. Allow room for spread.

    Bake just until cakes are set.. When cool remove from the pan and ice the undersides with the following….

    Fondant Icing -White
    16 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
    5 oz, melted unsalted butter
    5 water

    Fondant icing – Chocolate
    12oz. powdered sugar, sifted
    1 oz. natural cocoa powder, sifted
    1Tb. corn syrup or glucose
    3 oz. melted unsalted butter
    4 Tb. Hot water

    Stir wet ingredients into dry. Consistency should be spreadable. Adjust if necessary. Ice the cookies with the white icing first, then chocolate. Allow to dry. They get that nice crust. If icing starts to harden while working, reheat in a double boiler.

    David – I hope you try this and let me know what you think!

    • Karen

    When I was growing up in Germany, we had a fabulous bakery that sold Black and Whites. It was actually the first place I had ever seen or tasted one. They were exactly as you described.

    We lived in a small farming community near Stuttgart. The name of it was Boeble Baeckerei if you are ever in Filderstadt (Bonlanden was the name of the town).

    Good luck on your hunt for the perfect “european” Amerikanishe Keks. :D

    • Carrie

    This post made me finally break down and go get a Black and White cookie at Moishe’s. I had been avoiding the cookie since I moved to NY 6 mos ago mainly out of fear of being disappointed (such a hyped cookie!) and also because it really does seem that most of these cookies are now packaged in plastic and just unappealing. I didn’t want to try this cookie until I felt confident that I was trying one that would truly set the standard and Moishe’s cookie was a lovely treat. The cookie reminded me of a Nilla wafer on steroids with a hint of lemon and you have to love how the frosting is on the bottom of the cookie since it is flat. My favorite part was the centimeter in the middle where the two frostings overlap. Thanks for the little push I needed to jump into this new cookie world. Look forward to the recipe…

    • elle

    Sorry mean to say the name of the place… Nussbaum and Wu’s and it is at 114th and Bway I think.

    • gerlinde

    David, when I was a kid, the German bakery called those cookies “Amerikaner, Funny I think now. They were always black and white. I thought all bakeries had them

    • Linda

    Ah….I grew up eating these…bought from Jewish bakeries in New Jersey…the icing was exactly as you described. So hard to find a good one now…too often the cake part is just too dense and dry…
    We always broke them in half…ate the chocolate part first saving the white icing for last…all the while dunking in a glass of ice cold milk…what a treat…
    My kids call them Moon Cookies….

    Wonderful food memory associated with these….

    • David

    Linda: Yes, I’ve heard them called half-moons too, although the original recipe I have is from an old Jewish baker who called the batter ‘wine dough’. Odd!

    I don’t know which part I eat first, I think I do a mix of 2/3rd’s chocolate, rotating the cookie as I bite down to include some of the white icing in the finish!

    • Gary

    Recipe please! I have got to have these cookies, mine never look like this!

    • Snehal

    I am probably the only person in this world who has not heard of B&W cookies .. until now! They look fab!! now where can i find one here in Sydney?


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