Bennison’s is where I had my first black and white cookie and my love for them was immediate. A cakey, airy, yellow sugary cookie topped with white and chocolate frosting, what isn’t to love?
For those of you unfamiliar with the North Shore of Chicago, Bennison’s is one of two quintessential Evanston bakeries. It is where, if you were lucky, your parents got birthday cakes, paczkis, pies, and cookies. Almost every kid who grew up in Evanston has fond memories of walking into Bennison’s and picking out a cookie from the glass case. The options were plentiful with smiley face cookies, m&m cookies, oatmeal raisin, and of course, black and white cookies.
On nice spring days when everything was finally starting to thaw after those rough midwestern winters, my friend Charity and I would head out of the highschool for lunch in her dad’s old 1999 Toyota Camry and go straight to Bennison’s. We’d grab a cookie and drive the extra few minutes to the beaches of Lake Michigan where we would sit in the grass, bask in the sun, and eat our cookies (hers was usually a smiley face cookie and mine was almost always a black and white cookie). That car and those cookies represented our freedom and relief from the monotony of the school day. Now when life gets crazy, I long for those midwestern spring afternoons eating cookies by the lake with friends.
Given that there is so much uncertainty surrounding when I will be able to have one of those midwestern spring days again, I decided to do the next best thing and attempt to make black and white cookies. I used the recipe from Zabar’s (a Jewish grocery store in NYC):
1 Cup Butter
1 ¾ cup Sugar
1 cup Milk
½ teaspoon Vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon extract
2 ½ cups cake flour (I used pastry flour)
2 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 cookie sheets w/ non-stick spray and set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. Add milk, vanilla, and lemon extract. Mix until smooth. (My mixture looked like it had split here and I got very worried but it came together nicely in the next step.)
In a medium bowl, combine cake and all purpose flour with baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in batches (I did about 4 batches).
For each cookie, place ¼ cup batter on a baking sheet. Use a knife or offset spatula to shape each cookie into a circle. Do not flatten the cookie. (some flattening is ok, otherwise the cookie will have a big bump) Space the cookies 2 inches apart.
Bake until edges are brown 15-17 minutes (mine only took about 14 minutes).
4 cups Powdered Sugar
⅓ cup boiling water (may need to add more depending on consistency of frosting)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Place the powdered sugar in a large bowl. Gradually add enough of the boiling water, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and spreadable
Remove half of the frosting to a double boiler set over, but not touching, simmering water and add the chocolate. Warm the mixture, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and the frosting is smooth. Remove from the heat
Turn the cookies to frost the bottoms. Using a knife or offset spatula, coat half of each cookie with chocolate frosting and the other half with white frosting. Repeat until all cookies are done.