Black and white

The first time I ever had a black and white cookie was at a Superbowl party in West Hollywood.  The West Hollywood part of the experience was important for two reasons.  First, given the location of the party, I’m fairly certain those giant disks of delightfulness came from Canters Deli. Canters is a Westside institution.  Think Jewish Grandmother meets Swingers (the movie). Open 24 hours, it’s also one of the few places in Los Angeles where you can get a bowl of matzo ball soup to help repair whatever it was that you might have done to yourself earlier in the evening.  To this day don’t think I’ve experienced Canters before midnight.  Canter is also famous for its bakery.  So, returning to the Superbowl party, my first black and white cookie experience set the bar high.

That party (and its location) is notable for another reason.  Having been to my fair share of similar events, at first I couldn’t figure out what was different about this one.  Lots of people in a festive mood?  Check.  Adult beverages?  Check.  Good food?  Yep.  It wasn’t until halftime that I figured it out.  During the game, the volume in the house rose considerably.  People mingled.  People ate and drank.  But, during the commercials?  Silence.  Every head was turned in rapt attention toward the television.

Only in Hollywood would people gather for a Superbowl party to watch the commercials, not the game.

I’ll admit, I can’t remember who played in that game.  I don’t remember the commercials either.  But, I have developed a fondness for black and white cookies.

I’m surprised that it has taken me this long to attempt making them.  But, they aren’t very common on the West Coast, so it’s probably a case of out of sight out of mind.

New York claims this cookie as its own, so I went to my favorite New York food blogess for this recipe, Smitten Kitchen. I made mine a little smaller so as to spread the love a little wider.

Not to ruin the romance, but, there is a particular way I like to eat black and white cookies.  Peel off and eat white frosting first.  Then the chocolate.  Then the cookie/cake.  I point this out because not all icings form a flexible enough skin to allow for this.  Should you also prefer to consume your black and whites this way, let me assure you that the following recipe delivers.


The Heavy

Black and White Cookies

I’ve linked directly to the Smitten Kitchen because this is her recipe.  Smitten Kitchen was my first introduction to food blogging.  Actually, to any blogging.  And, every time I read Deb’s blog (I make it sound like I know her), I am reminded of just how lucky I was that she was my first.

The Spaulding

Right after finishing college but before starting graduate school, I lived with two friends in the heart of the Fairfax District.  It was a very well rounded neighborhood complete with orthodox Jewish families, a transvestite with fantastic legs and, of course, lots and lots of “actors.”  Years after the three of us left the neighborhood, a plane crashed into the apartment building across the street.

Being  young, nubile, recent college graduates, the three of us entertained quite a bit.  At one such get together, the Spaulding was born.  Like most good cocktails, its origins are hazy though I’m fairly certain this was a an adult beverage derived from convenience.  We had vodka.  We had ginger ale.  We had limes.  We had ice.  We lived on North Spaulding Avenue between Melrose and Beverly.  A cocktail was created.

It wasn’t until at least a decade later that I realized “our drink” is really just the Moscow Mule’s significantly less sophisticated sibling.

Early in our courtship, I turned TD onto the Spaulding (he was very disappointed it wasn’t named after Spaulding Smails.  In fact I think his direct quote was “double turds.” To this I responded, “you’ll get nothing and like it”).  Despite his ire, TD liked the drink and somewhere along the way, it became our preferred party beverage.  In fact, if you happened to get married in the last 15 years or so and TD and I happened to be at your nuptials, we probably enjoyed a Spaulding or two in your honor.

I know this isn’t much of a recipe, but it’s a drink we enjoy often and a tiny bit related to next week’s post.


Foster the People, a little summer music

The Spaulding

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4-6 ounces gingerale
  • lots of lime

Add everything in over ice.  Give it a mix.  Enjoy!


Old and New

It wouldn’t be January in the Misanthropic kitchen without a grapefruit recipe.  In fact, I started thinking about what to make way back in November (I am convinced there is a relationship between losing the light as the year grows old and craving the brightness of vitamin C-packed fruit).  This year there were two front-runners.  However, as it is my enduring goal to have my cake and eat it too, I decided to use one with a different kind of citrus (to be continued in February) and chose a new twist on an old recipe for my beloved grapefruit.

We’ll start with the twist: grapefruit and basil syrup. I know, I know basil is generally a summer flavor.   But, I couldn’t shake the idea and so decided that if I could find it at my local, generally understocked grocery store, it might be something others could also find this time of year.  For frame of reference, on the day I went in search of ingredients, there were no mushrooms to be found at the store we lovingly refer to as Ghetto Ralphs.  But, there was basil.  It was on the expensive side.  But remember, it’s grapefruit season which means they were practically giving them away.

Grapefruit rind+ a couple of cups of fresh basil leaves+sugar and water+heat=the kind of smell you’d like to dab behind your ears.

Now for an oldy but a goody, Ina Garten’s lemon yogurt cake.  Riffing on a recipe is always easier when you know the original is a ringer.

I just swapped-out the lemon zest for grapefruit zest and, because I was feeling adventurous, used a runnier, European style full-fat yogurt.  Both substitutions were a success.

The loaf on its own is lovely.  But, we know the key to this cake is the syrup poured over the top while still warm.  And this is where our basil and grapefruit syrup makes its debute.  The result?  Refreshing!  The basil adds complexity to the flavor without being overwhelming.

For an added bonus, the leftover syrup will store nicely in the fridge for a few weeks because really, who wouldn’t want a little grapefruit-basil-vodka cocktail on a Friday afternoon?

If you liked this, you might like these

Grapefruit Whoopie Pies with Avocado Filling

Triple-Quadruple Grapefruit Cupcakes


Vampire Weekend

Grapefruit-Basil Loaf

adapted from Ina Garten

Grapefruit and Basil Simple Syrup


  • 2 C basil leaves
  • 1 C sugar
  • 4X1 inch strips of pink or ruby red grapefruit zest
  • 1 C water


  1. Bruise the basil leaves bit with your hands to release the oils.
  2. Place basil, sugar, water and zest in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Turn on medium heat and let it come to a boil and allow the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Turn off heat.  Allow mixture to steep for at least an hour while it cools to room temperature.
  4. Strain syrup through a fine-meshed sieve and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Grapefruit Loaf


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1 TBS pink or ruby red grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup grapefruit and basil simple syrup

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease, flour and line pan with parchment.
  2. Sift  together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  3. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer than pour the grapefruit and basil syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
  4. For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and grapefruit juice to desired consistency and pour over the cake.

The macaron rides again

Ever since I was left with three-quarters of container of toasted black sesame seeds they’ve been calling to me from the “S” section of the spice rack in our pantry.  So I thought, what if I replaced some of the almond flour in my french macaron recipe with black sesame flour?

My base recipe calls for 120 grams of almond flour.  I swapped-out 50 grams of almond meal for 50 grams of ground black sesame seeds.  Now, generally, the taste of macaron shells is very delicate, bland even.  In fact, most of the actual flavor from these sandwich cookies comes from the filling.

So, I was very surprised at how flavorful the batter was.  In fact, you could probably reduce the ground sesame seeds to 30 grams and still achieve toasted nuttiness.  I love the color of the batter.  I used almond flour from shelled almonds.  Trader Joes sells an almond flour with the shells ground into it that would give these little gems even more depth.

Even with the significant sesame content, I got feet.  Though, a true coniseuer would point out that the feet are horizontal suggesting a too-hot oven.  Whatever.

I liked the honey and black sesame combination used to make sesame paste and went on the hunt for a honey-based filling.

The original recipe called for sour cream, but I was curious and swapped it out for full-fat yogurt.  I liked the resulting tang, but you can do what you’d like.

I wanted something to balance the sweetness of the honey and the nuttiness of the sesame shells.  A little hidden dollop of orange marmalade to the very center of each macaron did the trick.

We already know what a lovely affair the relationship between french and asian techniques and flavors can produce.  And what more perfect venue is there than the frilly and vain macaron to play with interesting and exotic combinations?


Fun.  I can’t help it, I love those guys.

If you liked this you might also like these

Raspberry macarons with pink peppercorn buttercream

Chocolate macarons with peanut butter filling

Black Sesame French Macarons with Honey Yogurt Filling

I’ve chronicled my adventures with French macarons thoroughly here and here and here.  Read the first link for specifics on technique.


For the shells:

  • 90 grams egg whites
  • 30 grams granulated sugar
  • 200 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 70 grams ground almonds or almond flour
  • 50 grams ground toasted black sesame seeds (a spice grinder yielded beautiful sesame seed flour)


I like to use a stencil when I pipe my shells.  On parchment, I trace circles of desired size (20 for a half-sheet).  When it’s time to pipe, I lay an additional sheet of parchment over the pattern and cook the shells with both sheets.

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place rack in center of the oven.
  2. Combine confectioner’s sugar, almond flour and ground sesame seeds in the food processor until well combined.  Sift mixture into a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Add egg whites to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or use a hand mixer.  Whisk on low until egg whites are fluffy.  Turn up speed to medium and slowly add-in the granulated sugar.   Continue to whisk egg whites until they just hold a peak.
  4. Gently fold 1/2 of the dry ingredients into the eggs whites.  Fold until just combined.  Add-in the remaining dry ingredients and fold until the batter resembles lava.  Do not over mix!
  5. Using a pastry bag or ziplock, pipe shells onto baking sheet.
  6. Set aside for 30 minutes until the shells begin to harden.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Allow to cool before gently removing from parchment.

Honey-yogurt filling

Adapted from

This will easily fill about 20 complete macarons


  • 1/4 C unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 C honey
  • 1/8 C full-fat yogurt


  1. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand-mixer), cream together the butter and sugar. Until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in a little confectioner’s sugar at-a-time until combined.
  3. Add-in honey and yogurt, mix to desired consistency.
  4. I find it easier to pipe the filling onto the macarons  when the filling has been refrigerated.

I found the flavors melded nicely after the macarons were aged int he fridge a couple of days.


Buttermilk Biscuits

Happy New Year to you all!  I hope your holidays were delightful.  As you can see, TD and I survived our trip to Montana and escaped the zombie apocalypse.

I was assigned to make biscuits for our family’s Christmas breakfast.    So, on Christmas Eve, while this was going on outside (yes, that is fahrenheit):

Which helped to make this happen:

I got down to biscuit business.

Biscuits from scratch are just as easy as biscuits from Bisquick if you keep one think in mind: DO NOT harass your biscuits.  Mix, combine, touch and roll the dough much LESS than you think you need to, and you’ll be fine.

The recipe I used called for a combination of butter and shortening.

And, because I’m lazy, I used my mother’s ancient food processor.

Pulsing is the name of the game.  Piece-by-piece pulse your fat into your dry ingredients.

Then, pulse in the buttermilk and run the processor until the dough just comes together.  After that, go over and say hello to Gregory (Wood)Peck(er).

On a floured surface, shape your dough into a rectangle about an inch thick.  You can roll if you want, but, only as a last step.  Trust me, the dough will do what you tell it to do. Then, using a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter or knife, cut out the individual biscuits.  According to the Clinton Street Bakery, the source for the recipe I used, the trick is to not twist the cutter when cutting.  Just go straight down until you hit the board (this was harder to resist than I thought it would).

My parents live at about 5500 feet elevation, so I wasn’t entirely certain the biscuits would rise.  In fact, I was completely prepared to take the results  down to the frozen creek and use them as hockey pucks.

Luckily, beautiful fluffy biscuits emerged from the oven, not edible sports paraphernalia.  Which means, you’ll have no trouble at all!


The Andy Williams Christmas CD

Clinton Street Buttermilk Biscuits

adapted slightly from Neil Kleinberg’s recipe as it appeared in Food and Wine


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup cake or pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons cold shortening
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Into a medium bowl, sift the flours with the baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.
  3. In a food processor, pulse dry ingredients a couple of times.  Using the pulse function, add in  the butter and shortening a couple of pieces at-a-time until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and run the processor just until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  4. Pat or roll out the dough 3/4 inch thick. Using a lightly floured 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, stamp out 12 biscuits. Dust the top of each biscuit with flour.
  5. Transfer the biscuits to a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned; serve.