On Trial: Mini Black and White Cookies

I know, whenever you see the “On Trial” label at the top, it makes you wary. And it should, as it’s the dumping place for all of the recipes that have disappointed me horribly.

Photo courtesy of epicurious.com

This is another recipe that I snagged from Epicurious.com’s “25 Days of Christmas Cookies” section. It was one of those cases where you know you will hate these cookies, but you feel compelled to make them anyway because the picture is so great.

Look at that picture, would you? They’re beautiful. They look scrumptious. Funnily enough, they’re “mini” cookies, and yet in comparison to those (what appear to possibly be) Linzer cookies in the bottom right (anyone know?), they don’t look so mini to me. False advertising alert! Also, I just don’t like black and white cookies. The cookie itself is rather bland and, in my opinion, coating it with watered down powdered sugar just isn’t doing it for me. That’s just me – I know lots of people who love these things… for reasons I can’t explain.

Mini Black & White Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Gourmet

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

2 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 to 6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

The batter is simple:

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets. 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 at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

That’s it. That’s all it makes. I use this bowl for most other cookie and cake mixing, and in normal recipes, the bowl is almost filled if that gives you any idea as to what we’re dealing with.

So here’s where things get a little complicated. These cookies are supposed to end up being only somewhat larger than my thumb – and I don’t have big hands. According to the instructions, this batter makes a whopping 60 cookies, so whatever you think you should drop on a cookie sheet, cut it in half because I promise whatever you think is small enough will not be.

The other issue I ran into is that the recipe instructs: “Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart onto baking sheets.” A serious issue I had here was that whatever weird, lumpy pseudo-spherical shape you drop down on the cookie sheet is going to spread out in that exact same form and bake that way. My first incarnations ended up being some really goofy looking shapes, and these cookies are supposed to be perfect little circles.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart onto baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed, edges are pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a rack to cool.

As you can see above, I put the batter into a plastic ziploc bag and cut one of the corners off, to use as my cheapo alternative for a piping bag. After you pipe them, dip the tip of your finger in a little bit of water and smooth out the tops to make a round shape. (Another tip from our Magazine of the Month, Cook’s Illustrated Holiday Baking!)

Here’s the end product, sans powdered sugar glaze:

These came out better, and all mostly the same size. Then comes the powdered sugar icings:

Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. If icing is not easily spreadable, add more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Transfer half of icing to another bowl and stir in cocoa, adding more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as vanilla icing. Cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl with plastic wrap.

I tried out the icing instructions…

With offset spatula, spread white icing over half of flat side of each cookie. Starting with cookies you iced first, spread chocolate icing over other half.

…then discarded them. Instead I ended up dipping these dinky little things into the icing bowls one at a time. I started on the white icing first — the icing wasn’t as thick and white as I wanted it to be. It soaked into the cookie, so after the icing dried it wasn’t so white anymore. So I did that first. After those dried, I stuck the other half into the chocolate side. After the chocolate side dried, I put the first halves back into the white. I think I may have dunked the cookies into the white sides three times to make them come out white, rather than the translucent yellow of the actual cookie.

Here’s one of my end products, after the dipping process. I really felt that the cookie fell short of its promise, especially based on how long it takes to keep icing them. The cookie itself was not all that exciting, which made the overall experience really disappointing.

If you decide to make them and have other thoughts or results, post below or send us the link to your site so we can check out how you fared.

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