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Low Fat Black and White Cookies

“The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.” – Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld (The Dinner Party)

Black and white cookies are one of the representative foods of New York City. They are huge, soft, frosted and tasty. In fact, while they have been at bakeries in the Big Apple for decades, it is only recently that they have spread widely beyond the city limits. The black and white cookie is actually more like a cupcake than a cookie, as it has a very soft and cakelike texture and is frosted. Some people frost butter or sugar cookies and disguise them as black and whites, but, to be honest, this is wrong. I’m sure they taste fine, but they are not black and whites.

A black and white should consist of a cookie/circle of cake (like the top of a cupcake) that has a hint of lemon flavor. The icing, while always half black and half white, can be a variety of things. You can use a regular frosting (boiled or buttercream), thinly spread, or a smoother ganache type frosting, but probably the most common frosting is a simple sugar one. Conveniently, it is also the easiest. Only lightly flavored with chocolate or vanilla, the sugary icing dries firm on the cookies and adds a nice layer of sweetness.

I believe that, traditionally, the flat part of the cookie is frosted because this provides an even surface that makes spreading the icing easy; the cookie is set on the rounded side. I like to frost the rounded part because not only do you get more frosting, but I prefer the way the cookies lie on the plate when the flat side is down.

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light, as black and whites are not usually very waistline friendly, due in large part to their huge size. These cookies are more managable and come out to be 3 in/8cm in diameter. Even when cooled completely, the tops of the cookies felt sticky and I was worried about their low fat content. Once they were frosted, though, they were fine. The cookies tasted great and stayed nice and moist!

Black and White Cookies
(adapted from cooking light)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice or a few drops of lemon oil
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Set applesauce in a fine sieve to drain while you prepare the other ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Beat in applesauce, vanilla and lemon juice. Add in egg whites and beat until well combined. Stir in flour mixture until batter is smooth.
Drop batter two tablespoonfuls at a time onto the prepared baking sheet. Smooth slightly to form nice, round circles.
Bake for 10 minutes, until set but not browned.
Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, divided
3 tbsp milk or light cream, divided
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

When cookies are cool, prepare the icing. Sift 3/4 cup confectioners sugar into two small bowls. Add 1 tbsp milk and the almond and vanilla extracts to one bowl and stir until smooth. Add cocoa and 2 tbsp milk to the other bowl and stir until smooth. Using a small knife and working over the bowls to catch drips, spread each icing over half of each cookie. Set on a rack until icing is set, then store cookies in an airtight container.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

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  • Rainey
    August 15, 2005

    It’s serendipity! I grew up in the Hudson Valley a bit north of NYC. In the last week I was just thinking of things NY and of my childhood and the thing that was the quintessential expression of it is a black and white cookie.

    You describe them perfectly: soft and cakey with just a hint of lemon to complement the vanilla and chocolate of the icing. And you made both the exactly correct choice for the simple confectioners’ sugar icing AND icing the domed surface! Why would anyone try to “elevate” perfection with overkill like ganache or (horrors) buttercream?

    Only thing is, they should be about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Can you imagine being a a little kid of 4 or 5 and eating something that’s that big around and probably at least an inch thick at the center?! … and somehow the whole concept of a sugar high took another 2 decades to surface. =o

  • Randi
    August 15, 2005

    how did those taste? I love black and whites, they are my favorite. I cant find them here in canada so when we go back to Florida, im always on the search for the perfect black and white. on my last trip to Florida, everone i tried sucked.

  • cookie jill
    August 15, 2005

    COOKIE! My favorites 😉

  • T
    August 15, 2005

    yay, another seinfeld fan! (well truth be told, im a bit obsessed with that sitcom). im so excited that there’s a lighter version, since i always wanted to try one and never had the chance whilst in ny. thanks for sharing the recipe 🙂

  • Nic
    August 15, 2005

    Rainey – I’m glad I have a New Yorker’s seal of approval! I know that they should be a bit bigger. With a smaller cookie it is easier to justify having two or three, though.

    Randi – They were great, like little cakes! Keep your eyes out, I’m sure there are some ex-New York bakers somewhere in Canada who are making these up. Or try them yourself.

    Jill – Mine too.

    Tanvi – I am a huge Seinfeld fan! And I can’t believe you’ve never had a real black and white. You must try these. I’m sure you’re family will be happy to sample some before you hear back to school, too.

  • AugustusGloop
    August 15, 2005

    I remember that episode! I love Seinfeld too.

    Never had one but I will definitely seek one out when I’m in NY in Dec!

  • Cathy
    August 15, 2005

    Count me in too – love Seinfeld and never had a black and white. My youngest brother gave me a bakery cookbook a couple years ago and then strongly hinted he wanted me to make him the black and whites. But then he and his wife borrowed the book from me and I haven’t seen it since! So maybe he’ll be getting some lowfat black and whites!

  • Jessica
    August 15, 2005

    Hmm, I had a pretty bad black and white at The Bread Factory in New York. (That was before I learned that most restaurants with “factory” in them stink here!). I don’t want to waste my money on another bad cookie, so I’ll try these.

  • Joe
    August 15, 2005

    I’ve been eyeing that recipe for some time as I have been wanting to make some black and whites. Thanks for review – they look so good!

  • Nic
    August 16, 2005

    AG – They’re pretty easy to find. I hope you get a good one! You’ll probably be suprised that some of these cookies appear to be the size of your head – I know I was when I visited NY.

    Cathy – Do try these for your brother. I had some bad results(and I mean *bad*) with a supposedly good cookbook a while back, so at least you know these will turn out! =)

    Jessica – The only factory I want to visit is the chocolate factory.

    Joe – These come together easily. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  • Lori
    August 16, 2005

    These look nicer than the other black and whites I’ve seen in cookbooks. I’ve never had one, either. I think I may just try these. 🙂

  • J
    August 17, 2005

    hi nic, those look totally awesome, as do all your baked treats…thanks for the recipe!cheers,j

  • Nic
    August 17, 2005

    Lori and J – You guys are too sweet! Thank you!

  • Emma
    July 10, 2008

    I’ve made these twice now, unsuccessfully. You see, I’ve been trying to veganize them and I can’t get it right. The first time, I just forgot to replace the egg whites altogether and they ended up being incredibly chewy and delicious, but not at all cakey like a proper b&w. Today I whipped up some egg replacer with water and xanthan gum(as a binder) but it was too light. I did use double the amount of egg replacer normally called for to replace an egg. Hmmm…what’s your best suggestion for veganizing?

  • Cookie Girl
    October 1, 2008

    Black & white cookies are a delicious treat not to be missed by anyone (no matter where you live). I’ve been lusting after William Greenbergs black & whites for years now – no others can compete with their rich, yummy fondant icing and melt in your mouth soft cookie! For all of you poor guys that don’t live in New York you’re in luck because William Greenberg ships. Give ’em a try but be forewarned…they’re very addictive!!

  • Cookie Girl
    October 1, 2008

    Black & white cookies are a delicious treat not to be missed by anyone (no matter where you live). I’ve been lusting after William Greenbergs black & whites for years now – no others can compete with their rich, yummy fondant icing and melt in your mouth soft cookie! For all of you poor guys that don’t live in New York you’re in luck because William Greenberg ships. Give ’em a try but be forewarned…they’re very addictive!!

  • Keisha
    April 2, 2009

    I’m so glad to have found this site! I especially love the fact that you used a Seinfeld quote because when I saw the recipe I immediately thought of that moment.

    I plan on trying the recipe out sometime next week…

  • Cristin
    September 19, 2009

    I love black and white cookies! I make dozens of them at a time so I have a ready supply any time I “need” one.

    I just wanted to offer the full-fat version that I got from the Glaser’s Bake Shop website.


  • the kitchen yogi
    May 19, 2010

    Thanks! The Kitchen Yogi’ loves this idea and will be baking these cookies with our cutters this week! Will keep you posted.

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