Monthly Archives: February 2008

Black and White Cookies

The black and white cookie is a New York classic, which can be found at delis all throughout the city. In fact, it was even mentioned on an episode of Seinfeld! When I was younger, my cousins would come visit every winter, and we’d pick them up at Newark Penn Station, and my mother would always let us get black and whites from the Zaro’s Bakery there, so these have a special place in my heart.

Black and White Cookies
3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbs) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c vegetable shortening
1 c + 3 tbs granulated sugar
2 large eggs + 1 yolk
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/4 c heavy cream
Black and White Icings (below)

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350oF. Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter, vegetable shortening and sugar.  Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time and mix until combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the cream.
4. Form about 1/4 c of the dough into balls and place about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will appear cakey.
5. Cool on baking sheets for about 10 minutes and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
6. Using a small off-set spatula, frost half of each cookie with the white icing.  Allow this to set, and then repeat on the other half with the black icing.  Let the cookies stand for about 3 hours before storing—this will give the icing time to set completely.

Makes about 36 full-size cookies

Black and White Icings
4 c confectioners’ sugar
2 tbs + 2 tsp light corn syrup (do not use dark—it will tint your white icing)
1/4 tsp clear vanilla extract (again, if you use regular vanilla extract, your white icing will not be white)
2 tbs Dutch-process cocoa powder

1. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup and vanilla with 3 tbs hot water.  Whisk until smooth.  The icing should be slightly thicker than honey.  You can add a little more sugar if it is to runny, or more water if is too thick.
2. Pour half of the icing into another bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.

Butter Pecan Cookies

When I started to make these, I had no idea how similar to the Russian Tea Cakes they would turn out to be (I didn’t read the recipe before hand).? I just saw “butter pecan” and decided to make them because I like butter pecan ice cream.? Of course, this doesn’t take away from their deliciousness at all, but it does give you an idea of what they will be like.

Butter Pecan Cookies
4 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c pecans, finely chopped
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325oF. Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and 1/3 c. powdered sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla, salt, and flour and mix until blended. Stir in the pecans and mix until evenly distributed.
3. With floured hands, shape the dough into 3/4-inch balls and place on the prepared sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Be sure to press gently to prevent them from rolling off. Bake until the cookies are very light brown, 15-18 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes.
4. Put some of the powdered sugar into a bowl.? Roll each cookie in the sugar until it is evenly coated, and shake off the extra.

Makes about 36 cookies

Cassandra’s Birthday Cake

On January 28th, my friend Cassandra turned 20! To celebrate, I cooked up a little feast, which culminated in this birthday cake. It was something of a change from the rest of the meal, which was more Eastern European-themed (mushroom soup, carrot, cucumber and beet salads, and stuffed cabbages).

The cake consists of a vanilla genoise with an almond dacquoise sandwiched in between. The entire thing is then smothered in almond buttercream. I wanted to make a layer cake, but with only 4 guests, this seemed a bit excessive, so I used miniature cake pans for a smaller cake (they were 7.5″ and 5.5″ in diameter).

Genoise is typically a dry cake and is therefore drizzled with syrup, although I forewent that step because I was pressed for time. Dacquoise is similar to mergingue in texture, so it adds a nice crunch in the middle of the cake (my favourite part, in fact). However, you should eat the cake immediately, as some of the moisture from the genoise is absorbed by the dacquoise and it loses its crunch after a day or two.

Cassandra’s Birthday Cake
Almond Dacquoise
4 1/4 oz whole almonds, toasted
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tbs cornstarch
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 300oF. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of one half-sheet pan. Using a 9-inch cake pan as a guide, trace 2 circles on a sheet of parchment paper, cut to fit the half-sheet pan. Place each sheet, circle side down, on the pan. Butter the paper, then dust with flour.
2. In a food processor, combine the almonds, 1/4 c of the granulated sugar, and the cornstarch. Process until the almonds are ground to a powder.
3. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they form soft peaks and have tripled in volume. Slowly pour in the remaining granulated sugar and vanilla and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy, being careful not to overwhip.
4. Pour the almond-sugar mixture over the egg whites and quickly fold in with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ tip. Starting in the middle of one of the traced circled, pipe spirals of batter until you reach the each of the circle. Repeat for the second circle.
5. Bake the layers until they are crisp and dry and begin to brown, about 50-60 minutes. They will feel crisp on the top and will crisp completely after the are cooled. Transfer to wire racks to cook completely.

Genoise
3/4 c cake flour (not self-rising)
4 large eggs
2/3 c granulated sugar
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the paper and dust the bottom and sides of the pan with flour.
2. Sift the flour onto a plate and set aside. Put the eggs and sugar in a deep stainless-steel bowl and set over a saucepan filled halfway with water. Bring the water to a simmer. Gently stir the eggs and sugar with a whisk for several minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Remove the bowl from the water. Beat the egg-sugar mixture on high speed until the batter is light, has tripled in volume and is thick enough to fall back on itself like a ribbon when a spoon is dipped and removed. (This is important, as the genoise gets its volume from the eggs only)
4. Sift the flour over the batter and fold in with as few strokes as possible. When the flour is nearly incorporated, quickly fold in the butter and vanilla as well.
5. Bake the cake until it springs back lightly when touched with a finger tip and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately run a small knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a wire rack on top of the cake and invert them together. Peel the parchment off of the cake, turn it back over onto the rack and let cool completely.

Espresso-Almond Buttercream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c water
1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbs instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tbs hot water
1 tbs amaretto
1/2 tsp almond extract

1. With a wire whisk, stir the egg yolks together in a bowl. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (239oF on an instant-read thermometer), about 5 mins.
3. When the syrup is ready, begin to bead the egg yolks with a mixer on medium speed. While beating, carefully pour the hot syrup onto the yolks. Beat until all of the syrup is incorporated, and continue to beat until the mixture is cool and thick.
4. Beat the butter into the mixture until smooth and satiny. If the mixture looks curdled and the bowl feels cold, warm it over hot water and beat again. Beat in the espresso, amaretto and almond extract.

Assembly

Slice the genoise in half using a serrated knife. Sandwich one dacquoise piece between the layers and place another on top. Cover the entire thing with frosting, and garnish with toasted almonds.