Black & White Cookies: KitchenAid Honeymoon Part 2

Things have been getting pretty interesting in my little kitchen lately.

Lauren's Little Kitchen. (It's really little, folks.)

Favoritism of one daughter over another is a common example of the phenomenon of natural preference, many scientists say. (Me and Lisa, 2007)

Everybody has favorites.  You know, a favorite color or number or child or pair of jeans.  It’s totally natural.  But it’s interesting, because when I think about it, I have no idea when my “favorites” actually developed into “favorites”.  Is favoritism immediate, or is it learned?  For example, did my parents always like me better than my big sister, from the first moment I arrived?  Or was it gradual?  Did it take a few years for them to realize I was perfect?  It can hard to pinpoint these moments on a straight and simple timeline.

Such is the case for my adoration of black and white cookies.  I do not know when they became my cookie of choice, but something about them just excited me for as long as I can remember.  This favoritism (which I will ramble about in detail in a few paragraphs), combined with my Sunday evening itch to use my new stand mixer, accounts for the second installment of the KitchenAid Honeymoon, which was…


Playing Favorites: Black and White Cookies

Hello, Gorgeous!

I was looking at a billion different recipes as the sun began to set on Sunday evening.  Ryan specifically requested something “not healthy” that wasn’t “wheat” or “health muffin”, and I continued to brainstorm.  I had been looking at a few recipes for black and white cookies in passing for a while, but I always dismissed the idea of actually baking them, because my baking pantry is pretty empty and I never wanted to invest in light corn syrup or pure lemon extract.  And then it occurred to me that I have a food blog and a KitchenAid stand mixer and a bunch of baking cookbooks and if not now, when!?  I mean, I kinda have a responsibility to, like, use my kitchen…  So I gave myself permission to spend just a little bit of money on some best-quality baking staples in the same way I’d give myself permission to buy a pair of shorts or a cute sundress.  And that was that.

Action Shot!

I was pleased to see that the Smitten Kitchen had attempted black and white cookies, too.  I stuck with Deb’s recipe and was ultimately very pleased.  I have commentary, of course.  I’d change a few things, maybe looking at using some lemon zest in the vanilla icing, or something… but really, I’m mostly just beyond thrilled, because I managed to make something I never thought I’d get around to making, that I love, love, love, and I didn’t fail miserably!  They were so cute!

Now, here are some pictures of the process, and a feeble-minded attempt to organize into enumerated categories some of the possible reasons why black and white cookies rock my world.

Possible Factors Accounting for the Awesomeness Displayed by and Favoritism Shown toward the Black and White Cookie:

  1. Visual Remarkability.  The black and white cookie does not resemble your typical chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookie in the slightest.  It lacks the crumbly, brownish exterior of the standard bake sale item.  There are no scattered, disorganized chocolate chips or raisins floating around the product.  Instead, it is regal and settled, what with its hard and simple but competing black and white icings standing firm and glossy.  Its simplicity is stunning.
  2. Taste Variance.  While most cookies are a mix of the same flavor profile (flour, butter, brown sugar, baking soda, eggs…) with certain additional, character-building ingredients, the black and white cookie is actually something of a cake.

    Little cakes that bake like cookies!

    It is made with at least half cake flour, and thus has a crumb-like, fluffy texture; not a dense, drop-cookie chew.  This is probably a good time to mention the history of the black and white cookie, as bakers typically made these cookies when extra cake batter needed to be used up and somehow sold before day’s end.  The black and white cookie thus tastes much like a cake, but it really does look like a cookie, igniting a war between the eye and the tongue!  This discrepancy creates an interesting complexity that is fun to think about as you enjoy your treat.  Perhaps your train of thought will be similar to mine: This is not a cookie, but it must be a cookie, because I would never dip a slice of cake in milk, and the frosting is neither fluffy nor all over my fingers, and the whole thing is baked on a cookie sheet.  I am so confused and I don’t even care… This is just splendid!

    "What am I!??" cried the naked, just-out-of-the-oven dessert. Such an identity crisis is common amongst young black and white cookies.

  3. Supply and Demand.  Quite simply, outside of the New York and Mid-Atlantic regions, bad Jewish delis, and some Starbucks pastry cases, the black and white cookie is a rarity.  My downstairs neighbor had never encountered one in his life, which broke my heart.  One simply cannot buy a black and white cookie at any bakery into which he or she stumbles.  Nestlé hasn’t figured out a way to sell the novelty raw and waiting for busy moms in the refrigerated aisle of Safeway, all wrapped in yellow plastic and ready to bake.  And while you can find factory-made versions of the product, such imposters could never be viable, because a black and white cookie cannot be shelf-stablized—if it comes in a box or plastic-wrapped, it will undoubtably either be too soft and totally not a cookie at all (like a Twinkie) or freakishly hard and not even close to cake-like.  You cannot frost a cheap sugar cookie with black and white icing and call it a black and white cookie.  Actually, you so could, and it would make perfect sense, but everyone will think you are cheap and a liar and all-talk, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?  Of course not.

    Flip the cookies over, so the flat side faces up, to allow for easier icing.

  4. The Intangibles.  Typically, there are some fuzzy/personal/vague reasons behind an established favorite.  For me, the black and white cookie is a trip down memory lane.  I don’t remember when I started liking them so much, but I do know that when my mommy saw a particularly cute one, or if I was really sad, there would often be one waiting for me on the kitchen counter.  It became a sugary and reinforcing cycle; it was priming straight out of a psychology textbook. Every time I was comforted by a black and white cookie, I adored the dessert even more.  And at some point, I crossed the invisible line, and now I can never go back.

    Mature, fully-iced cookies are generally more confident.

Anyway, aren’t they marvelous?

Mission Accomplished! I know it's a repeat, but you needed to look at them again.

The recipe kinda yielded a treat that almost tastes like those iced, super-hydrogenated-fat-weird-color-sprinkle-cookies-on-a-plastic-platter from the grocery store… you know, the ones that have colored icing and sprinkles that coordinate with random holidays, kinda like these?  My black and white cookies tasted like that but a billion times better: every bite was butter and flour and crumb and sugar and lemon and vanilla and chocolate and somehow, cookie and cake, all at once!  Hooray for playing favorites!  Oh, and for the record, the best black and white cookie I ever ate came from a random place in Philadelphia that my mom chanced upon one afternoon.  But I also really loved the one from the Donut Pub in the West Village/Union Square neighborhood, but it’s possible the place is disgusting these days.  The really good ones are uptown, though, and I didn’t really make it above 14th street very often…

Okay, wasn’t that fun??!!  What’s next for me and my KitchenAid?  Any suggestions?  Leave a comment, and let’s talk it out!

16 Responses to “Black & White Cookies: KitchenAid Honeymoon Part 2”
  1. Chrissy says:

    Does this mean Ryan relapsed on sugar again…I have a bag of candycorn in my purse

  2. Georgia says:

    Hey Lauren! Yea, I live in West LA, about two miles from the foodie heaven that is Surfas. I went to a strawberry cooking class by Joy the Baker there last month. Have you ever been?

    I’ll give you some muffins if you give me some of your black and white cookies! 😉 The muffins would guaranteed be smooshed beyond recognition though… I’m awful at packaging my food, but it still tastes good!

    • Lauren says:

      Well, all the good cookies are gone! Only ones that went stale that my boyfriend insisted on freezing anyway… even though the point is to freeze them when they still taste good…

      I’ve never been, but I am going to look into it, like, right right now.

      Also, packaging muffins is impossible.

  3. Susan Han says:

    Hey, Lauren,
    I told my husband, a native New Yorker and big black-and-white cookie fan, about your blog. He mentioned that the bottom of the cookie is rounded because the frosting actually goes on the side of the cookie that was flat on the baking pan. Another interesting factoid on this fascinating topic. Thanks for the fun info.

  4. Oooo.. I have yet to get my hands on a stand mixer – you lucky girl! Cute cookies, and photos of you!

  5. Lauren says:

    Let the record indicate that these cookies are pretty wonderful frozen, and then thawed for about 20 minutes.

  6. Monet says:

    So of course I was on facebook at 12:30 last night, and when I saw your post, I just about died. But I was far too tired to make any kind of cohearent comment, so I waited till today. THESE ARE BEAUTIFUL! Yeah cookies! Yeah Kitchen Aid! Yeah Lauren! I wish we could share a plate of these and a cup of coffee. Yum. You are so cute, and I love love your posts. I think you should make some bread next…don’t be intimidated, you can do it!

    • Lauren says:

      Oh Monet, I really do want to make bread! I purchased this Frontier loaf I have been buying for the past few weeks the other day, and it was a little suspicious… it was really lacking in the pumpkin and sunflower seed department, which is unusual. But it was the only loaf left, and I “needed” it, so I bought it, and it’s awful! Bitter! Like some of the seeds have rotted or something! Good thing I return everything I hate to Whole Foods.

      Anyway, tonight might be the night, except I ran out of flour… I know there is a solution to this.

      I will virtually share a plate of cookies with you!

  7. Very nice. These look tasty. They remind me of cookies we used to have when I worked in a cafe/bakery when I was a teenager. They were actually shortbread cookies of various styles, but they had one that was half black and half white like this.
    Thank you for the delicious post.

    The Ardent Epicure.

  8. Lol! Hear hear about favorite children! Being the eldest is no fun that way! 😛 And I have to agree, homemade cookies are way better than anything readymade. I hate store bought cookies and biscuits.

  9. Mom says:

    Change that to “Who knew” A typo is so embarassing 😦

  10. Mom says:

    I need 2 dozen something for a luncheon Thursday…… you deliver? Who knew a kitchen gadget could be so inspiring? The Hobart 60 quart used in commercial kitchens would really get you going! I enjoyed both Kitchenaid installments. Happy blogging and both my girls are my favorite!!!

  11. Lauren says:

    I know! My mommy chose the chrome because “tastes change”, and I’m really happy with it because she’s always right. White is also a safe bet for years to come!

    Anyway, what was the first thing you made with your mixer?

  12. kalliemarie says:

    We have that same mixer, but in white. It makes baking SO much easier. They have all kinds of funky colors too

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