There is no place I’d rather be during Christmastime than New York City. A city that is already bursting with life becomes even richer in wonderment, even more vibrant. Jack and I love to enjoy the city and will often walk through the streets of Manhattan to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city during this time of year. We make our way across Central Park South, gazing down into Central Park, onto the people strolling through the meandering pathways, around ponds and over bridges and enjoying the little bit of “nature” (I use that word loosely) that is in our city. We walk past Sarabeths, one of the best brunch places in Manhattan, and see families enjoying their scones and eggs benedict, while hungry patrons anxiously pass the time during a sometimes two-hour wait for a table (I’m not kidding… but for brunch, it’s worth it. Sometimes.). We come upon The Plaza, the most famous hotel/condo building in New York, decorated in twinkling lights, with friendly doormen dressed in their black jackets lined with gold stitching and top hats and look at the opulent foyer, decked with trees, bells and holly. I can hear the John Williams score from Home Alone in my head, as I turn around almost hoping to see Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern (whatever happened to him?) smiling creepily behind me as they scheme to outsmart an out-smartable Macaulay Culkin.
Actually, come to think of it, you should listen to the score while reading this post. Seriously, do it. Click here. Start reading again.
As we turn the corner onto Fifth Avenue, we are almost lost in the crowds of thousands of people gazing into windows of the most expensive stores in the city, admiring opulent jewelry and the finest fashion, as the avenue has been transformed into it’s own mini “Holiday Mile”. Each store decks it’s façade with sparkly falling icicle lights (ala Fendi), wraps the outside like a present (Cartier), or creates a light show of falling snowflakes (Saks). A giant (and I mean giant) snowflake hovers suspended above the intersection of 57th Street and 7th Avenue and showers its light onto the people below. People make their way down 5th Avenue and head to see what stores like Saks 5th Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman have decorated their windows with this season.
Salvation Army collector bells ring through the air, as the ringers of said bells solicit money for charity in any way possible, even choreographing their own dances to the Christmas music that blares on the boom box that rests at their feet (I bet you haven’t heard the word “boom box” in a while, have you?) Even rickshaws and street vendors get into the spirit, decorating their carts with tinsel and holly, as the smell of freshly roasted chestnuts or honey roasted peanuts fill the air.
A major stop along this tour is Rockefeller Center to see the mother ship: The Rockefeller Christmas Street. 49th and 50th Streets between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue are reminiscent of Bourbon Street in New Orleans (minus the booze and debauchery), as people meander into the middle of the street as if traffic never went through there and stop to take photos of the awe-inspiring tree, gaze down into the rink to watch the ice skaters, laughing and skating happily as Christmas music fills the air. I work right near Rock Center, and always feel so lucky as I walk past the tree every morning and night on my way to and from the subway to work, no matter how much I complain about how long it takes for me to walk to the subway now that it has turned into tourist central.
ON TO THE COOKIES!
There are certain staples to New York. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Buckingham Palace, Rome has the Coliseum, but do you know what New York has got? Bagels, pizza, and black and white cookies.
Yes, my friends. In my opinion, yes, the Statue of Libery is awesome, the Empire State building is cool, I guess, but I love food in New York, and nowhere, and I mean nowhere, can anyone compete with the Trifecta of Bagels, Pizza, and Black and White cookies. And since I couldn’t make a bagel pizza Christmas cookie, I made a red velvet black and white cookie.
I’ve never made black and white cookies before, and I was so excited to try. And red velvet? Who doesn’t love red velvet? Even if it’s crap, people want to eat it if it’s called Red Velvet. But these aren’t crap. No, no, these are AMAZING.
Again, I like these even better the next day. Somehow they got SOFTER. Pillowy, but not too pillowy, bites, with just enough give, glazed with a chocolate and vanilla glaze. These are so, so, so good and definitely going on my Christmas dessert table.
Red Velvet Black and White Cookies (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
Makes 24 large cookies
4 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
16 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon water
For the Cookies:
Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 250F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder and red food coloring. Set aside.
Using stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 inutes. Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice to bowl and continue to beat until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl and beaters as needed.
Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk. Repeat with half of remaining flour mixture and the rest of the buttermilk. Add remaining flour and beat until combined. Add cocoa powder and red food coloring mixture.
Scoop 1/4 cup mounds of batter onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Using back of spoon or clean finger dipped in water, smooth tops of cookies. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking.
Let cool on sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the icings:
Bring corn syrup and water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Off heat, whisk in confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Measure half of icing into a separate bowl and whisk in melted chocolate and tablespoon of water until mixture is smooth and spreadable.
(If the mixture is too hard, you can add more water, gradually, until smooth and spreadable)
Please 2 large wire racks over parchment paper (for easy clean up). Spread about 2 tablespoons chocolate icing over half of each cookie with a small spatula, then let sit on racks until icing has just set, about 15 minutes. Repeat with vanilla icing over other half of cookie, and then let set until icings harden, about 1 hour, before serving.