cookie dough
Flour, 3¾ cups
Baking powder, ¾ tsp
Baking soda, 2 tsp
Sugar, 2¼ cups
Butter, cut 1-tbsp into pieces, 16 tbsp
Cocoa powder, sifted, ¾ cup
Salt, ¼ tsp
Eggs, 2
Vanilla extract, 1 tsp
Whole milk, 1½ cups

fudge icing
Bittersweet chocolate, 3½ oz
Semisweet chocolate, 3½ oz
Butter, 1 tbsp
Confectionary sugar, sifted, 4 1/3 cups
Corn syrup, 2 tbsp
Vanilla extract, 1 tsp
Salt, 1 pinch

vanilla buttercream icing
Confectionary sugar, 7 cups
Butter, cut 1-tbsp into pieces, 16 tbsp
Vegetable shortening, ½ cup
Whole milk, 7 tbsp
Vanilla extract, 1 tbsp
Salt,  ¼ tsp

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Put sugar, butter, cocoa, and salt in bowl of standing mixer and beat on medium speed until fluffy.
4. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat.
5. Add half the milk, then half the flour mixture, beating after each addition until smooth; repeat with remaining milk and flour mixture.
6. Spoon batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets, making 3-inch rounds two inches apart.
7. Bake until cookies are set, about 12 minutes.
8. Allow to cool, then remove from parchment.

fudge icing
1. Melt bittersweet and semisweet chocolates and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water over medium heat.
2. Add confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt, and 6 tablespoons of boiling water.
3. Mix to a smooth, stiff paste with a rubber spatula.
4. Thin icing with up to 8 tablespoons of boiling water. Icing should fall from a spoon in thick ribbons.
5. Keep icing warm in a double boiler over low heat.

white buttercream icing
1. Put sugar, butter, shortening, milk, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Beat on low speed to mix, then increase to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

1. Using a metal spatula, spread about a tablespoon of warm fudge icing on half of the flat side of each cookie.
2. Spread the other half of each cookie with a heaping tablespoon of white buttercream icing.

the story
Halfmoons (they are not not NOT black and white cookies! completely different!) from Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, New York were a staple of my childhood. Though sometimes called cookies, the base is a chewy chocolate cake with the BEST icing combination ever - rich chocolate fudge and fluffy vanilla buttercream. As a childhood, I always ate the white side first, saving my favorite - the chocolate - for last. Now I nibble the chocolate, then the white, saving a ribbon of both down the middle - because getting both in one bite really is the best.

Hemstrought's started baking halfmoons in the 1920s. When I was growing up, they were after-school treats that never stopped being special. Pizza-size "halfmoon cakes" were popular for birthday, and although they probably weren't as great as the original halfmoons, my parents managed to ship one all the way to Virginia for my seventeenth birthday, my first away at college. The pizza we ordered got lost on its way to our dorm, but the halfmoon cake arrived safely.

My favorite memory of elementary school Career Day was when one of the Hemstrought's pastry chefs came and taught us how to make halfmoons, even letting us frost our own (mine might have ended up about two-thirds chocolate, one-third vanilla...). Of course, I also remember the time a caterer for one of my parents' parties included the not-exactly-elegant halfmoons on the dessert table...my mother never let them handle dessert on their own again.

Another staple of an upstate New York childhood:
My sister (always the one in pink) and I (always the one in purple) playing before school on one of the less snowy days
c. winter 1986

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