Seeing the world in black & white (cookies)

Long before Jerry Seinfeld made the black & white cookie central to a plot, I've been a mass consumer of these uniquely New York desserts. The perfect black and white cookie is about the diameter of your open hand, has a sponge cake like base that is soft (never crunchy, unless the cookie has been in the damaged goods bin for a month), and has a layer of vanilla fondant icing that covers the entire cookie, with the chocolate half iced on top of the vanilla icing base. There's probably some haute cuisine reason for this, other than the chocolate icing having more opacity than the vanilla, but the experience of two icings at the same time defines the B&W cookie thrill.

Searching for wireless access and a caffeine boost before a customer event tonight, I popped into a Starbucks in TriBeCa, treating myself to iced coffee and the literal check-out lane candy: Starbucks branded black & white cookies. They're undersized (if they were summer flounder, the state of NJ would require them to be thrown back until they reached maturity), but sold in packages of two I can get the daily engineering recommended intake of sugar in one serving. But here's the horrifying part: the chocolate and vanilla icing do not overlap. They are carefully, precisely, almost mechanically lined up, a perfect demarcation line down the center of the cookie. While it's nice to see black & whites gaining traction on the west coast (of the Hudson river and parts further west, like Ohio) thanks to Starbucks, I feel like the entire experience is somehow lessened. If I want machine-layered icing, I'll eat a Ring Ding (or two). Black and white cookies are home-made, they reside in big glass display cases, peering out like neatly stacked waxing (or waning) moons. Some things are not meant to be mass produced, even if they are mass consumed.

Comments:

Those cookies can be found in every bakery in Germany. They are called "Amerikaner",ie Americans. I found it odd, as being from the Midwest, I never seen them in America before. Some are all white, some are all black and some are black/white. I have asked for years why they are called that and all I get are shruggs. The only thing I can figure out, is that Germans percieve the Americans, that they came in contact with for last 60 years,that being the GI's, as either black, or white, or mixed.

Posted by Kelley Wright on October 23, 2007 at 06:34 AM EDT #

In Elmira, NY we called them "Half Moon" cookies. The local bakery used to make them. I didn't know they made them any more. I haven't seen them in years, but then, I haven't been looking for them.

Posted by Carolyn on October 24, 2007 at 06:20 AM EDT #

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