Since moving to California Jeff and I have made a yearly ritual of going to New York City while we’re home visiting family during the holidays. His parents live a few hours outside NYC and it’s easy to catch the train from there – the morning train filled with commuters and inevitably the last-of-the-night train with only a handful of other passengers. We start planning the trip weeks in advance – deciding what restaurant we want to try for dinner and then building our trip around where we need to end up at the end of the day.
I love New York in the winter. I doubt I could be a real New Yorker – living in the city’s frenetic pace and intensity all the time. But I love walking around all bundled up, the bits of snow and ice on the edges of the sidewalk, the twinkly lights, the tall buildings – it’s kind of like magic. Everything looks and feels unfamiliar but it tastes like home.
Most of our trips together center around food and New York is no different. Museums, stores, any sight-seeing we do is mostly dictated by what’s on the way to the next food stop. That’s the main focus of the planning – what restaurants or cafes can we check out that we haven’t tried before. New York is famous for having new restaurants opening all the time but to us it’s new every time, hot new restaurant or no. We eat duck tacos for lunch and pub food for dinner and in between we sample chocolates and pudding and salami wherever we go, trying new things every time. There are only two constants – a black and white cookie and a bagel, the first purchased at Grand Central Station when we arrive in the morning and the second at the first bagel shop we see.
I know the bagel is synonymous with New York but for me the real New York treat is a black and white cookie. The bagel pops up everywhere but the black and white cookie, somewhere between a cookie and a cupcake top with a slick of royal icing only seems to exist in New York. I love its soft cakiness, the intense sweetness from the icing, and the debate over which side is better (the middle bite is the best, of course). Slightly mashed from being in my purse, it’s my New York treat. Except I missed it this year; we didn’t make it to New York over the holidays what with wedding plans to deal with and nephews to see. I didn’t miss it at the time but a few months later, I miss that cookie. And the magic, but the cookie will do.
At this point you’ve surely noticed that this is not really a black and white cookie – it’s pink, dressed up for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t really make these for my Valentine since Jeff doesn’t care more about these cookies than he does about any others – it’s a cookie, it’s good, end of story. But it is a Valentine’s Day gift – for me and you.
Makes about 18 3-inch cookies
2 cups all purpose flour (9 ounces)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick of butter (1/4 cup or 8 tbs), at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
PREHEAT oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
STIR flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
CREAM butter and sugar for a few minutes in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium speed until lighter in color and fluffy.
BEAT IN eggs one at a time and then add in milk and vanilla extract, then turn mixer speed to low.
SLOWLY ADD flour mixture to the mixer and stir until just combined.
SPOON batter onto the cookie sheet, using about 1 1/2 tablespoons per cookie to get 3 inch cookies. Flatten the spoonfuls out a bit with the bake of a spoon so the tops are even.
BAKE for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are a little brown and the cookies don’t give them poked, or when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let them cool to room temperature.
1 1/2 cup + 2 tbs powdered sugar, divided
1 tbs corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbs water
1/4 cup sugar
Red dye (optional)
STIR 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water together in a large bowl using a fork or a whisk. When the icing is ready, lifting a whisk out of the bowl will create a stream of icing that falls back onto the mixture in the bowl, leaves a ribbon that lasts for a few seconds, and then begins to sink back into the rest of the icing. Add the extra tablespoon of water if it’s too thick.
DIVIDE the icing into two separate bowls.
ADD cocoa powder to one bowl and stir to combine. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar to the other bowl along with a few drops of red dye to make the icing pink – go slowly, a little goes a long way.
ICE the cookies with half of each kind of frosting. I found the easiest way to do this was to put a dollop of icing near the middle and spread outwards, and then repeat with the other color. Spreading in towards the middle made the colors blend a little at the center rather than giving a clear line.
These cookies are best the day they’re baked and start to get stale within a day or two. At most they’ll last for a few days but better to cut down the recipe and eat them freshly baked.