Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Favorite Racist Cookie

Here, take a cookie. I promise, by the time you're done eating it, you'll feel right as rain.

— The Oracle (The Matrix)

These cookies and I have a troubled relationship. They were one of the first things G asked me to make, but one of the cookies that took longest to get right. As they sit now, they rate a 9 on the official cookie rating scale, which I say with some pride. But we both agree, there's still work to be done.

Black and white cookies are one of those really regional things("pop":Midwest as having-eaten-a-black-and-white-cookie:New York), though I personally feel they get short shrift. I'd never even heard of them before we met. They're really fantastic though—I really don't understand why they're not more widely appreciated. (And no, some episode of Seinfeld doesn't count as national exposure.)

The recipe I use is one of the few I can really call my own. I've played with it a lot in an attempt to mimic the cookie of his childhood—or more likely the cookie that he's created in his imagination as the cookie of his childhood. My initial cookies were too thick, didn't have the right flavor, and lacked sufficient size. It wasn't until I saw a one in NYC for the first time that I understood quite how large these are expected to be. And one of the most important steps forward came when he admitted that he just doesn't like the white side very much, which led to the 60% black and 40% white cookie.

Of course, who are we kidding here? It's not black and white. More like brown and beige. But I guess the brown and beige cookie doesn't roll off the tongue quite the same way.

Black and White Cookies
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice plus enough milk to make 1/3 cup
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons light corn syrup, plus more if needed
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together milk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed or by hand (scraping down side of bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until smooth and refrigerate at least 15 minutes. While waiting, preheat oven to 350°F.

Spoon batter onto a large, greased baking sheet. The cookies should be quite large—one recipe will make about six cookies. Using fingers, spread cookies until flat and circular. They do not need to be extremely thin, but will puff up a fair bit in the oven. Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack. When completely cool, place cookies in plastic bag and leave in the freezer until hard. Return cookies to rack, flat underside facing up.

Combine confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, and enough hot water until you have a thick paste. In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk until smooth and fairly thin. Working quickly, ice the flat underside of a bit less than half of each cookie (it will be necessary to continually adjust heat and liquid content). Return cookies to rack to drip, placing paper towels beneath to catch any drips. Combine chocolate (as well as any needed water or corn syrup) with remaining icing ingredients to make a thicker chocolate mixture and cover remaining part of each cookie.

Makes 6 large cookies.

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