Of all Jewish desserts, there is none more iconic than the black-and-white cookie. It comes in all shapes and sizes, but if you’re looking for authenticity, only the round one counts. If you don’t care, you can buy it in a heart shape for a certain holiday, or the shape of magen david, a dreidel, and more. But it is the large, round, thicker-in-the-center cakey cookie that conjures up deliciousness in everyone’s mind.
So why bother writing about a dessert that is no one’s favorite and is always on the dessert table? Because last week, the creator of the half-and-half, half-moon, or black-and-white, shut its doors. This was not so much about another family bakery closing down, although Manhattan’s Glaser’s Bakery was in business for 116 years, but about the original recipe going away with them.
According to the New York Times, “The origin of the black-and-white cookie in New York City is commonly traced to Glaser's Bake Shop in Yorkville, founded in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants. The black-and-white cookie was among the original recipes used by the bakery.” The Glaser family brought the recipe for drop cake — the black-and-white’s cookie base — from Bavaria. It was one of the first recipes they used when they opened their bakery 116 years ago.
The original cakes were covered in chocolate and white fondant, a stiff, powdered-sugar-based covering that can be rolled out and cut to fit. Fondant is not very flavorful, and it was soon replaced by the fluffy white and deep chocolate frostings that we know today. The pastry was a hit, and they are now sold all around the world under many different names.
Half Moons, as they are called in the Northeast, even made a cameo appearance on the Seinfeld show when Jerry Seinfeld commented that two colors of frosting could get along. He held it in the air and said, “Look to the cookie” — and suddenly the cookies that had once only spawned discussion about whether to eat the chocolate or the white side first, was now a cultural icon of racial relations.
A few years later, then-candidate Barack Obama called it the “Unity Cookie.” It stuck through the election, but then fizzled. No one messes with a black-and-white.
On July 1, Glaser’s closed its doors forever, but you can get a black-and-white in almost every bakery in almost every city in almost every state of this country and beyond. And, if you prefer, you can make them at home and get a bit creative with both the cake and the frostings. Pink-and-Purple, anyone?
Authentic Black-and-Whites (Pareve or Dairy)
1-1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup buttermilk or almond milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1/3 cup butter or pareve margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place the milk and extracts in another bowl and mix. Set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on high. Scrape bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat until completely combined.
Add the flour and milk alternately to the butter, scraping the bowl as needed. Mix well.
Use a 1/4 cup measure and pour the batter, spaced 2 inches apart, on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes, or until cake is golden and springs back when lightly touched. Let cool while you prepare the frostings.
White Icing (Pareve)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. water or almond milk
Mix all the ingredients together until you have a thick spreadable consistency. Add more liquid if needed. Spread on the flat half of the cooled bases.
Chocolate Icing (Pareve)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. water or almond milk
Whisk all ingredients together, adding more liquid as needed. Spread over remaining half of the base.
Chocolate Half Moons (Pareve or Dairy)
2 cups cake flour (remove 2 tbsp.)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup pareve margarine or butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
1 extra-large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup almond milk or regular milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Place the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Place the sugar and margarine into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the cocoa and beat on very low speed until incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well, scraping sides as needed.
With the mixer on low, alternate adding the milk and the flour mixture. Scrape sides as needed. Beat until blended, but do not overmix.
Use 1/4 cup measures and drop cookies two inches apart. Bake them until risen and when touched, spring back, 12 to 14 minutes.
Makes 12 to 14 bases.
Super Fudgy Frosting for Half Moons (Pareve or Dairy)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces. semisweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. butter or pareve margarine
2-1/4 to 2-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Set a small saucepan with water on to boil.
Melt the chocolates and the butter in a double boiler over simmering water and medium heat. Add the cocoa, butter, confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup and vanilla extract and mix into a thick paste.
Add the boiling water, a tablespoon at a time and mix after each addition, up to 8 tablespoons. The frosting should fall in thick, slow ribbons from the spoon. Remove from heat and use a tablespoon or so of frosting for each base. Makes enough for about 12 to 14 cookies.
NOTES: For a lighter chocolate, use milk chocolate for the bittersweet chocolate.
For a mocha flavor, add some espresso powder dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water.
You can also add some chopped nuts or coconut, or other flavorings such as such as mint (in the chocolate base), hazelnut, almond, cherry, and more (in the white).
Vary the base if you like — use your favorite cake recipe or, if pressed for time, a cake mix.