A former architect, Harry Hemstrought, opened up a little bakery in Utica in 1925. His signature cookie, half chocolate icing, half white, caught on immediately with his customers. The cookie’s popularity has spread throughout Central New York, and you can now find Half-Moon cookies just about everywhere, including Wegmans.
Don’t even think of calling these Black & Whites! The Half Moon cookies of Central New York, are drastically different from the Black & Whites of New York City. Where the Black & Whites have a thin shortbread-like cookie, Half-Moons have a pillowy, cakey devil’s food base. Black & Whites are glazed, Half-Moons are slathered with vanilla buttercream of one-half of the top and chocolate buttercream on the other, resulting in the half-moon appearance. I have always been a huge fan of soft cakey cookies, so these will always be one of my favorite cookies, EVER.
Hemstrought’s Bakery is now closed, but they continue to churn out Half Moon cookies daily at the bakery plant located 900 Oswego Street in Utica, NY for mail order. Yes, you can order them online and the original cookie will arrive at your doorstep 3 days later via UPS! The recipe used today is the original one dating from over 80-years ago. It is a handwritten recipe still tacked to the wall of the bakery and produces 2400 cookies. But if you want to try your hand at making your own Half-Moon Cookies on a slightly smaller scale, Saveur magazine published the recipe in 2000, scaled down to a more manageable 30 cookies for the home cook.
Making the Cookies
I feel the need to state right up front these cookies, while not technically hard to make, are pretty time consuming to make. Half-Moons are not delicate little tea cookies, these are monstrous cookies, are more of a full-out dessert. I was able to fit 5 on each of my baking sheets. I used a #20 Scoop, and rotated every single cookie sheet I own to keep things moving. The original recipe makes 2400 cookies, but trust me you will have your hands full with the 30 this recipe has been scaled down to make.
Full disclosure: The Cookie recipe is the original from Hemstrought Bakery, according to Saveur, the very recipe that was tacked to the wall of the bakery for 80 years. The Frosting, not so much. After reading a bunch of online reviews, mostly HERE, and realizing I was out of cooking chocolate I decided to go with a straight chocolate buttercream for the chocolate side.
I used a recipe for the frosting that I found on Food.com, and I have no regrets! It was easy to mix up with minimal mess, and tasted delicious!
Hemstrought’s Half-Moon Cookie Recipe
These iconic cookies are an Upstate New York favorite! Now you can try making your own at home.
- 3 3/4 cups flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 16 tbsp butter, softened
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 6 tbsp butter, softened
- 2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Half of the vanilla frosting
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp milk
MAKE THE COOKIES
- Adjust the oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
- Beat the butter at medium speed for 30 seconds to loosen it up. Keeping the mixer running, gradually add the sugar, and cocoa powder and then gradually increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy about 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, vanilla. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour in four additions and the milk in three additions (beginning and ending with flour), and mix until just combined.
- Give the mixture a few final stirs with a rubber spatula to ensure all of the flour has been incorporated.
- Use a #20 Scoop to portion out mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets about two inches apart. Using an off-set spatula, gently press each mound of dough into a 3-inch circle. Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Cream the butter in a small bowl. Blend in the confectioner's sugar, vanilla, alternately with the 1/3 cup milk. Beat until the consistency is creamy, with no lumps!
- Remove just over half the frosting into a separate bowl, leaving the remainder to be turned into the fudge frosting
TO MAKE THE FUDGE FROSTING
- To the mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus 1-2 Tbsp of additional milk.
- Beat until the cocoa is all mixed in and the frosting is nice and smooth.
- Frost the top of the cookies, half of the cookie should be frosted with the white frosting. Half the cookie should be frosted with the chocolate.
by Jennifer Morrisey