Literary recipe: Black and white cookies inspired by "Rich and Pretty"
I put off reading Rich and Pretty because I figured it would be fluff. Don't make the same mistake I did.
The title refers not to a single woman (as I initially thought), but a pair of friends — one rich, the other pretty. They grew up together, went to college together, moved to New York together and, eventually, started drifting apart. But through it all, they somehow manage to stay together, though at a distance.
Author Rumaan Alam does a surprisingly good job examining female friendships, considering he's a man. He perfectly captures the ways women want to be seen by other women, the shame of hiding things from a disapproving friend, and the pain of needing someone more than she needs you.
Rich and Pretty is emotional, sure, but it's juicy, too. Like when one friend rebels against a bachelorette weekend with women she doesn't like by sleeping with a hotel employee.
Alam paints a scene of two particular women with two particular lives, but through them he demonstrates the shades of support and competition that color so many female friendships. He does this with a variety of interactions, which range from fraught to downright tender.
In Rich and Pretty, each woman envies some aspects of the other woman's life, but at the same time judges the other with the kind of honesty and insight that can only come from deep friendship. It's a reality that is actually somewhat ugly, but truthful nonetheless.
Like the duo in this book, black and white cookies are the product of two supposedly contradictory flavors meeting. In my case, the challenge of giving the chocolate and vanilla sides equal real estate resulted in something delicious, but also messy and imperfect. Go figure — that's kind of perfect for this book.
For the cookies (makes 8)
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk, or 1/3 milk mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of half a lemon
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
For the icings
- 1-1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
- 3/4 ounce of dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place oven rack in the middle position. Butter two baking sheets.
In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) for cookies. In a measuring cup, stir together buttermilk or milk mixture and vanilla extract.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until combined well. Mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately at low speed, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth.
Using a standard ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup, dollop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets two inches apart. Cookies will spread while baking. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until tops of cookies are puffed and golden. Cookies should spring back when touched.
Remove from oven and cool completely, ideally on baking sheets, before icing.
Make icing by mixing all icing ingredients except the chocolate in a small bowl. If the icing is not spreadable with 2 tablespoons of water, add 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time until it is a good consistency. If it starts to become too thin or transparent, add more confectioners sugar.
Divide icing evenly into two bowls. Melt dark chocolate in double boiler, then stir into one portion of icing.
To ice, flip the cookies so the flat side is facing up, then spread white icing over half of each cookie using an offset spatula. Repeat process with chocolate icing on the other half of each cookie. Place on a cookie rack on a rimmed baking sheet while the icing hardens (in case of drips), then enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Epicurious