Sunday, July 29, 2012

Taking a Bite Out of New York: Black and White Cookies

This past May marked 10 years since I moved to New York City. I guess that officially makes me a New Yorker, according to Carrie Bradshaw. Even though I've been here for a decade, I still get giddy when I see the skyline anytime I'm coming back from a trip to visit my family in Ohio or my in-laws in New Jersey. I can't believe I actually get to live here!

So to celebrate my being a New Yorker, I decided to bake New York's most famous cookie: The Black and White Cookie.

I searched around for what I thought would be the best recipe. I've had and love Zabar's version and decided that would be a good place to start. According to The New York Times, which published Zabar's cookie recipe years ago, Black and White Cookies aren't really cookies, but little drop cakes with a bit more flour added so the cookies keep their shape.

Making the cookie dough was the easiest part of this baking experiment. The first snafu occurred when, following the recipe's directions, I let the cookies bake for the full 20 minutes. 
They didn't burn, but they were a tad darker on the bottoms than I would have liked. It made the cookie a firmer than they were supposed to be. For the next batch, I watched the cookies and pulled them out of the oven after 12 minutes.
These were much better. The tops of the cookies should feel slightly firm when touched. You just don't want the bottoms and the edges to get too brown.
The cookies on the right turned out much better than the ones on the left, which I think were a little too hard. Once the cookies were iced, however, you couldn't tell the difference by looking at them, but the darker ones were drier.

These cookies really aren't hard to bake, but they do take some patience when it comes to making and putting on the icing. Have extra milk and powdered sugar on hand when mixing the icing. I also suggest using good chocolate for the chocolate icing.
Make sure the cookies are completely cool before attempting to ice. I let mine sit out for an hour or so before making the icing. 
Using an off-set spatula (a butter knife would work, too), spread the white icing over half of the cookie. Make sure to get all the way to the edge and don't skimp on the icing. The icing is a bit thin, so you might want to hold the cookie over the icing bowl while spreading.
I started with the white side because I figured it would be easier to cover up a non straight line with the chocolate side if I made a mistake.
Use the spatula to scrape the side of the cookie to get ride of icing drips. If you notice in the above photo, I put sheets of parchment paper underneath my cookie racks to make clean up a bit easier in case I had runny icing.

Let the white icing set on the cookies for a good 15 minutes before adding the chocolate side. The chocolate icing is made by adding the melted chocolate a cup of the reserved white icing. 
Follow the same technique when adding the chocolate. Your hands will get messy. Keep a paper towel handy.
Be generous with the chocolate and don't forget to scrape the side of the cookie to catch the drips.
When all of the cookies are iced, let them sit for at least an hour to set. 
Try to keep your taste tester from eating one. It will be hard. 
After an hour or so, store the cookies in an air-tight container. The cookies will still be good for about 3 days, if they last that long. I took these cookies to my parents' house while visiting last weekend and they were thrilled to have a little bite of the City.

Here is the recipe, modified slightly from Zabar's:

Black and White Cookies

Preheat oven to 375.


1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup boiling water
2 ounces good quality dark chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpats or with parchment paper.
2. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix until fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and lemon extracts, and mix until smooth.
3. In medium bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until mixed. Add dry mixture to the wet in batches, stirring well after each addition. Using a small cookie scoop (or about two tablespoons), place heaping spoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to lightly brown, 12-15 minutes. Watch your oven, as mine were perfect at 12 minutes. Some recipes say to bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely.
4. Turn your cookies bottom side up (flat side) on a cooling rack. Place a sheet of parchment or waxed paper underneath the rack to make clean up easier.
5. Place confectioners' sugar in large mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a thick, spreadable mixture.
6. Reserve about a cup of the white icing.
7. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler (or use a glass bowl on top of a sauce pan). Mix in the corn syrup and then add to the reserved white icing. Periodically stir the icing to keep it smooth while icing the cookies.
8. With an off-set spatula, coat half of the top of each cookie with white frosting. Let set for about 15 minutes to set (the time it takes to ice all the cookies with the white side should be enough, but check to make sure they're not still runny.) 
9. Use a second off-set spatula to apply the chocolate icing. 
10. Let dry, about an hour and store in an airtight container. The cookies should keep for about 3 days.
Yield: 2 dozen large cookies.
P.S. - Thanks to my taste tester for helping take some of these photos. It's really hard to grab a camera while holding a cookie and a spatula topped with icing at the same time!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Key West Coconut Bread

Key West is such a fun place to visit. Great weather, great vibe, great drinks and, as I learned last month, great food. My husband and I were in Key West, Florida last month for a friend's wedding and for a little school's-out-for-summer vacation. 

We've been to Key West before, and loved the laid back attitude and island quirks. On previous trips, we scouted out the best places to drink (which is a lot of what you do in Key West), but somehow didn't spend much time visiting the island's great eateries. This time, we found some great restaurants to soak up all of the mojitos. Our favorite places included Pepe's, Blue Heaven (which we liked so much we visited twice for breakfast), El Siboney (best Cuban sandwich ever), and a little stand at Mallory Square selling amazing conch fritters.

At Pepe's, we stopped in for breakfast, and I had the most amazing coconut bread with my omelette. It was so good, I had to look for the recipe when we got home. Turns out the people at Pepe's were nice enough to put the recipe on their website. I guess a lot of people must have asked for it - it's really that good!
Photo via hiddentraveltreasures.com. I forgot to take a picture!
The recipe is much like that of a simple quick bread, but called for butter, sour cream, and coconut extract. I decided to use coconut oil in place of the butter, and substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream. I also substituted vanilla extract for the coconut extract called for in the recipe, because I didn't have any on hand. The coconut oil gives the bread a nice, subtle coconut flavor.
As you can see from the above photo, I used a bit more than the 1 cup of shredded coconut called for in the recipe. I like coconut. Add as much as you like.
I had unsweetened coconut flakes in my cupboard, so I decided to sprinkle some on top of the bread before baking. It made for a nice appearance and texture on top of the loaf.
The coconut oil and Greek yogurt make the bread nice and moist. It's hard to just eat one piece!

Here's the recipe with my alterations:

Coconut Bread (adapted from Pepe's Key West)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (mine was melted, but you can use it solid)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shred sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cream together coconut oil and sugar. 
  2. Beat in eggs and extract, then the Greek yogurt. 
  3. Add the coconut. 
  4. Fold in the flour, baking powder and soda. Do not overmix.
  5. Turn into lightly greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes or until done.



Friday, July 27, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I happened to be at Whole Paycheck (AKA Whole Foods) one afternoon picking up something for dinner, when I decided to take a stroll down the baking aisle (surprise, surprise!). I've found that Whole Foods tends to have a few different baking ingredients and mixes, although most of it is organic or gluten-free. 


Looking at the chocolate chips (because as a baker, you've got to have a stock pile), I noticed a bag of dark chocolate chunks that I haven't seen before. The wheels started turning, and I thought they'd be great in my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with some dried cherries.
I'm sure the cookies would work with regular semi-sweet chocolate chips. You could always buy a bar of good dark chocolate and chop it into chunks. I wouldn't use fresh cherries though -- too much juice in them, which would make for a mushy cookie.


Mix the ingredients together, adding the chunks and cherries last. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough, which will give you nice, evenly sized cookies.
I fit about six cookies on my cookie sheets. Do give them a little bit a room, as they spread a little. Use a Silpat if you have one, or parchment paper if you don't. 
Bake for about 17-18 minutes (check your oven, and don't let them get too brown).  Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then move to a cooling rack.
Try to resist eating them all. :)
Here's the recipe:


Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies 
Preheat your over to 325 degrees now

  • 3/4 cup salted butter (melted)
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (make sure it's large, not extra large or jumbo!)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I like to use whole milk when baking, but any works)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (use good quality, pure extract)
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate chunks (1 bag)
  • AND
  • 1 package of dried cherries (about a cup or so)

  • Directions:
  1. Sift together the flour and baking soda into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Pour the butter into your stand mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well-mixed.
  3. Whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup or separate bowl. Never crack eggs over your dough/batter in case a loose shell gets in the mix!
  4. On a low mixer speed, slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Gradually pour in the dry ingredients, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Once the flour is worked in, drop the speed to "stir" and add the chocolate chunks and dried cherries.
If you want larger cookies (like mine in the photo), scoop the dough using a 1/4 measuring cup or an ice cream scoop. For smaller cookies, use a cookie scoop (a good rounded tablespoon). Make sure your cookie sheets are either lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. You should be able to fit about 6 cookies per sheet.