(New York Jewish Week) – As far as New York Jewish desserts go, perhaps the most ubiquitous is the black and white cookie, that soft, sweet, frosted treat found at bakeries and bagel stores throughout the city.
Black and white cookies, sometimes called half-moon cookies, are understood by most to be a Jewish dessert. “Seinfeld” once dedicated an episode to singing their praises. “You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite,” Jerry says. “Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.”
But now, in a testament to New Yorkers’ innovation — or possibly the old adage, “everything old is new again” — bakeries across the city are riffing upon this tried-and-true classic. These days, black and white cookies are available in a myriad of colors and flavors: yellow and blue to support Ukraine, red to celebrate Valentine’s Day, brown and yellow to mark the merger of banana, chocolate and hazelnut.
The latter is one of six new flavor combinations at Zaro’s Family Bakery, where brothers and fourth-generation owners Brian, Michael and Scott Zaro have wholeheartedly embraced new versions of the two-tone classic. Earlier this month, the bakery unveiled its new black and white cookie color and flavor combinations, which include orange and white (cream cheese frosted carrot cake), green and black (mint chip), as well as an M&M-topped cookie, a sprinkle-filled birthday cake flavor and a cookies and cream flavor.
“We’ve been making the black and white cookie for 95 years,” Brian Zaro, who has been working full time for his family’s business since 2006, told the New York Jewish Week. “My brother, Scott, had a vision to make an iconic item that meets innovation.”
The black and white is one of the signature offerings at Zaro’s, which is known for setting up shop in New York’s biggest transit hubs, including Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and LaGuardia airport. The bakery’s website boasts that it sells over 90,000 black and white cookies annually, and this season’s new flavors join Zaro’s chocolate chip black and whites, which they have been offering for several years, Brian said. (Black and white on the outside, with chocolate chips baked into the dough.)
Of course, these creative interpretations prompt an obvious question: How far can a bakery stray from chocolate and vanilla before a black and white is no longer a black and white?
“It’s a valid point,” Brian Zaro admits. “But right now, yes, it’s a black and white. That could change; we always try to be as open-minded as possible.”
Shannon Sarna, author of “Modern Jewish Baker” and editor at our partner site The Nosher, agrees. “I’m not a purist,” she said. “I don’t think they have to be black and white to be a real black and white cookie.”
For Sarna, what are most important to the integrity of a black and white are the flavors and technique. “A good black and white cookie is going to have a little taste of vanilla or orange or lemon zest that might be in the dough,” she said. “It’s got to have a good quality icing. It’s not going to just taste like sugar. It’s going to have a little chocolate flavor and it’s going to have a little bit of the white, more vanilla-y taste.”
For some, the doughy cookie with its signature bi-color frosting is only as good as the sense of nostalgia it offers. As the New York Times wrote back in 1998, “Today’s black-and-whites cannot compare with the black-and-whites of yesteryear, of course, just as no mayor will ever be as good at LaGuardia and no team as beloved as the Dodgers.” Sarna, who grew up in New York, calls black and whites “the cookies of my childhood.”
The black and whites as we know them were said to have been popularized by the Upper East Side’s Glaser’s Bake Shop, which was founded in 1902 by John Herbert Glaser. Glaser reportedly brought the black and white recipe with him when he immigrated to the United States from Bavaria.
Third-generation owner Herb Glaser, who ran the bakery with his brother until it closed for good in 2018, is not able to confirm this — but, at 70, he says that they were a feature of the bakery since he was a young boy.
Though he now lives “in the country,” Glaser is well aware of the new black and white trends. “Some of the businesses are making them a little too outrageous,” he said. “They’re not really black and whites anymore.”
Still, Glaser said that his bakery did occasionally make the cookies in different colors — for graduation parties, schools and, most notably, in orange and blue when the Mets were in the World Series in 1986. “I’m a traditionalist but I understand,” Glaser added. “It’s a marketing thing and that’s fine. It’s a way to stay in business.”
“I think there’s a sort of New York pride associated with it as ‘the New York cookie,’ and it just so happens to be a really good cookie,” said Noah Aris, the baker and proprietor of The Cardamom Man, which sells its baked goods online and at street markets. Aris bakes black and whites with blue and gold frosting as a fundraiser for humanitarian relief in Ukraine. In addition to lemon zest in the dough, Aris has added lavender, leaving the dough flecked with dots of purple.
The different colors “help start a conversation for me to talk about what I’m about as a bakery and raising money for Ukraine,” he said. “Then you hear [the customers’] story about their experiences with black and whites. It’s fun.”
At some bakeries, innovation starts in the dough. Last holiday season, Breads Bakery rolled out black and whites made with a laminated, croissant-like base instead of the classic doughy, cakey consistency .
“The first time I took a bite of it, it became very clear to me that we’ve elevated this cookie to a new level and given it the treatment that it deserves,” Breads owner Gadi Peleg said. “I think we have done enough to wink at the nostalgic nature of the cookie — there’s enough there to sort of connect you to the memories that you may have associated with a black and white cookie. But it’s just different enough to bring it into a more modern New York, the New York of today.”
At Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys — which now has three locations across the city and one more on the way — customers will find traditional black and whites sitting alongside all-chocolate or all-vanilla frosted versions, as well as multi-color and M&M-topped versions.
“Some people like only the chocolate, some people like only the vanilla. So we use that as our inspiration to move forward,” said general manager Sharon Bain. “People do love the fact that we’re doing something with the black and white. We’re catering to everyone.”
Kossar’s will frost the cookies with green for St. Patrick’s Day or red for Valentine’s Day, but the reboot is only skin deep. According to Bain, the “black and white refers to the chocolate and vanilla flavors of the frosting, and not the color.”
For Brian Zaro, too, the flavor and color innovations are all about customer satisfaction, and this year the new black and white varieties are also available at the Zaro’s outpost at the Bryant Park Winter Village. “It’s new for us,” Zaro said. “But so far so good.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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