As Halloween approached, I agonized over whether to join in. Not to be a grouch or anything, but it’s not my favorite holiday. Yet, failing to acknowledge it seemed downright un-American.
My past Halloween posts have been a bit, shall we say, “serious” – healthy snacks (roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin butter) and tips on how to avoid – or get over – a hangover from too much adult-type celebrating. This year I decided to edge closer to the sugary side of the holiday, with pumpkin black-and-white cookies. These Halloween-appropriate delights are a version of a cookie that is near and dear to my heart.
Where I come from, black-and-white cookies are a “thing.” Go into any Jewish bakery worth its salt and you’ll see them lined up like soldiers in the case, waiting for kids to press their noses up against the glass as they conjure up a good reason why the adult they have accompanied should buy them at least one black-and-white cookie. In Baltimore, they even have Berger’s brand black-and-whites, sold in local stores and treasured by those who love the cake-like cookie and the sweet icing in the familiar half-black, half-white pattern.
Like traditional black-and-whites, these cookies are made with buttermilk. (If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make it easily with plain milk and either vinegar or lemon juice.) The resulting cookie is soft, basically a mini cake in the shape of a cookie.
I even like them plain – a light pumpkin-infused snack that goes well with a milk, tea, or coffee. Of course, without icing they aren’t black-and-whites. But if that’s the way you roll, who am I to criticize?
Pumpkin Black-and-White Cookies
Servings – about 2 dozen 2 ½ “ cookies Cost – $3
For the cookies
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2-3 pinches of nutmeg (I used fresh that I scraped, but store-bought ground is fine)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (¾ of a bar), softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned, unsweetened)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla (not pictured)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ cup buttermilk
For the icing
- ¾ – 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2-3 teaspoons buttermilk
- dash of vanilla
- ¾ – 1 cup of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, melted
- 3 bowls (2 small and 1 medium-large)
- Measuring cups (for liquids and solids)
- Measuring spoons
- Mixer (preferable, although you can mix by hand)
- 2 tablespoons
- 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats
- Wire rack
- 2 ramekins or small bowls for icing
- 2 butter knives or pastry brushes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
- In the medium-large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until they are light white. It’s best to do this with a mixer and it takes several minutes, moving from low speed to high.
- Mix the egg, pumpkin puree, maple syrup and buttermilk together in the second small bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients and the wet ones alternately to the butter and sugar mixture with a spatula. At the end, make sure that all the ingredients are fully combined.
- Using 2 tablespoons, dish the batter onto the parchment or silicone-lined cookie sheets, forming a cookie with one tablespoon and pushing it onto the parchment or silicone with the other. For the best looking black-and-white cookies, press the tops of the batter down slightly; you turn the cookies upside down to ice them and they sit better if the tops don’t rise into tall mounds. (My tops on this batch were a bit too high. I should have pressed them down lightly, but forgot to do it.)
- Bake for about 12 minutes, one pan at a time in the oven. Let the cookies cool on the pan for about 5 minutes, then move them on wire rack. Once completely cooled, the cookies are ready to be iced.
- Melt the chips for the chocolate part of the icing. (I microwave them carefully in a ramekin.) Separately, mix the confectioner’s sugar with a vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of buttermilk. Stir until the powdery sugar is all mixed into the liquid – it will be stiff. Then add more buttermilk, drop by drop, until you get a thick icing, that slowly drips off a spoon. If the icing gets too thin, add more confectioners sugar to thicken it up.
- To ice the cookies, turn them upside down and make a line with the white icing down the center. Using a small knife or pastry brush, fill in one half with that icing. Then add the chocolate on the other side. Put the cookies back on the wire rack until the icing hardens.
The cookies stay soft for several days. Keep the iced-side of the cookies upright when storing them and use waxed paper to separate layers if you must store them in more than one layer.