There is a fine line between cozy and claustrophobic, a lesson I learned the hard way during December’s mega-blizzard. My plans were simple; I would take advantage of the accompanying quiet of a city emptied of most of my friends and spend the holiday week getting some writing done. The only exception would be Christmas weekend when I would go to my parents’ house on Long Island for movie going and over-eating fun.
Word of the coming blizzard had begun, but like most New Yorkers I don’t ever believe it’s going to be as bad as they say. We are so used to the hyperbole of our newscasters that they’re a little like the boys who cried wolf. How many times have I stocked up on “supplies,” thinking I’d somehow be trapped in my 14th floor apartment until the big thaw, only to find an inch of black slush coating the sidewalks? Enough not to panic when Janice Huff (everyone’s favorite meteorologist) starts breaking into local programming every 4 minutes to update us on the storm warnings. Not to mention that even in a blizzard the well-stocked deli at the end of the block is always open (I think Mrs. Kim, the hardest working woman I have ever seen, must sleep there—if she sleeps at all).
So on Christmas day I wasn’t really thinking about the storm and just enjoyed baking oatmeal lace cookies, seeing True Grit and eating my mother’s amazing turkey sausage lasagna. What could be bad? I’ll tell you what could be bad…the next day the heavens opened and dumped a foot of snow on Eastern Long Island faster than you can say “the Long Island Railroad has suspended all service” (my intended transportation home that day.) And that’s when the realization Mother Nature was making a point sunk in. At first I thought, no big deal, I have my computer and can still get done what I’d intended. No chance. I became transfixed by the TV, waiting for news that everything was back to normal, that roads were cleared and trains were running. I was transfixed for four days.
And the thing is, when I go out to the house in the winter I never do anything anyway. I wear the old clothes from 1985 that are still piled up in the closet (an extra large Connecticut College sweatshirt anyone?), plop on the couch with a stack of magazines, cook with my mother and watch movies. Who needs to go outside? But somehow, because that choice was no longer available to me, I found myself staring out the window, wanting to be let out like a dog. That was when I wasn’t staring at News 12, the local 24 hour newschannel.
By the time I made it back to town that Wednesday I was so starved for the city streets I did something that really only a moron would do two days before New Year’s Eve: I went to Times Square. I know. It was an incredibly stupid move. I did have a reason though. My assignment? To procure a pound of orange M&M’s for Niece Two’s 3rd birthday party. My destination? M&M’s World. Have you ever been to that place? Words can’t capture the chaos, the noise, the junk for sale and the fire hazard of cramming thousands of people (most of whom would be better served scratching a visit to a candy mecca from their itinerary) into the tri-level store. After at first politely saying, “Excuse me” in my attempt to get to the Wall of M&M’s, (where every color has its own dispenser in both plain and peanut) I completely gave up any pretense of politeness and became an animal. No really. I took both hands and literally pushed people out of my way, only to look off into the distance when they whipped around to see who had just shoved them. “Who me?”
And why didn’t anyone warn me about the force with which the M&M’s come streaming out when you pull that lever? $25 worth of M&M’s later I continued my pushing and shoving until I was safely back on the subway headed home. Yes, I found respite on an uptown 1 train.
But the best thing happened when I walked into my building. I’d received a package from my dear and generous friend Laura: The Gourmet Cookie Book! I’d been secretly hoping someone would buy it for me and lo and behold someone had. The book is great, with a cookie recipe deemed “the best” for every year since 1941. Reading it is a crash course in culinary history. I urge anyone who cares about that stuff to pick up a copy.
Bells went off when I saw the winner for 2005. What is more New York than a black and white? The recipe suggests you make them mini-sized which frankly I didn’t want to do because I am lazy. Did I want to ice 60 cookies? No. I wanted to eat them. So I made some with my two-teaspoon scoop and some with my tablespoon scoop. The size is up to you. While I was icing them, sloppily as you will see, I thought they looked a little different than I’d expected. That would be because I was in such a rush that I spread the icing on the round side instead of the traditional flat side. So what? That’s New York too—we march to the beat of our own drum and don’t care what anyone else thinks.
So this week when Janice started warning us again about the approaching mega-storm I took her seriously. I suffered the throngs at Fairway, stocked up on supplies and went to sleep to the dulcet tones of snow plows—Mayor Bloomberg’s version of a mea culpa after the screw-up of his last storm clean-up. When I woke up, the sun was shining brightly and a mere 5 inches was already being shoveled in front of my building. Still, I’m choosing to stay in my apartment, eating my black and white cookies. I love New York.
I Love New York Black and White Cookies
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookie Book, 2010 Conde Nast Publications
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1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well shaken buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla
7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 ¾ cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice (NOTE: if you don’t like your icing to be too lemony omit the juice and replace with water)
½ teaspoon vanilla
4-6 tablespoons water (or more if you omit lemon juice)
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (I used Droste)
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add egg and beat until thoroughly combined.
Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix just until smooth.
Depending on your desired cookie size use either a teaspoon (for really mini), 2 teaspoon sized scoop (for 2-inch cookies) or tablespoon (for 3-inch cookies) and drop batter onto cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart.
Bake, switching positions of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffy, edges are pale golden and cookies spring back to light touch, about 6-9 minutes depending on size.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Site together powdered sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and 2 Tablespoons water in a medium bowl until smooth. If icing isn’t spreadable add more water a ½ teaspoon at a time.
Transfer half of the icing to another bowl and stir in the cocoa.
The icing will become very stiff so add water, ½ teaspoon at a time (I need 3 teaspoons, just FYI) until the chocolate icing is the same consistency as the vanilla.
You will be frosting the cookies with the vanilla first so place a damp paper towel on the surface of the chocolate and wrap that bowl in plastic until ready to use.
Using a small offset spatula (if you don’t have one you could probably use the back of a spoon but I urge to buy one. They are great and cost under $20. While you’re at it pick up the large size too. Best for icing cakes) spread white icing over ½ of the flat bottom of the cookies.
Then starting with the cookies you iced first, complete the job by icing the other half with the chocolate icing.
Yield, 60 mini OR 30 small OR 20 medium cookies