Hemstrought Bakery’s Chocolate Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Hemstrought Bakery’s Chocolate Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Hoo boy! It’s been a while since I’ve stepped to the mic. Things have been a little hairy on this end lately between work (freelance on top of 9-to-5), parenting and a trip to the Pacific Northwest (posts of our scouting trip/food tour to come).

But I’m back in the house, and I bring you the O.G. half-moon cookie recipe from Hemstrought’s Bakery. To wit:

“Half-Moons originated in Utica, NY at the famous Hemstrought’s Bakery in the early part of the 20th century.” (The ever-dependable Wikipedia)

This was most likely the cookie served at Dan-Dee Donuts when I was a kid, so no exploration could be complete without a shot at making these at home.

Saveur magazine published the recipe in 2000.

I started the process at 8pm on a Saturday night.  Do yourself a favor: begin much, much earlier in the day.  Yes, Saveur classifies the recipe as “easy”, and while definitely not super-complicated, making a batch of these cookies is involved.

And messy.  But then again, I am a novice volume-baker.  And since the 30-yield recipe posted by Saveur was already an adaptation of a version that produces 2,400 cookies, I didn’t want to re-adapt it for a still smaller batch.  It was too late at night to do the math.  Besides, like sea turtle hatchlings scurrying to water, I knew that not every cookie was going to make it intact from Silpat to cooling rack, so having extras couldn’t be a bad thing.

Half Moon Batter Scoops

The standard black and whites I see around the City have a vanilla cookie base.  That’s a shame.  Chocolate is the foundation of a Central New York half-moon cookie.  After sifting and mixing, beating and scooping, the batter mousse-like in density and appearance.  Sure, the batter doesn’t look so appetizing coming out of the ice cream scooper, but 12 minutes in the oven creates magic.

My stand mixer received a workout. Its motor whirred and body rocked from side to side while first mixing the batter and then the buttercream frosting.  Plumes of confectioners’ sugar billowed from the bowl while mixing the latter, dusting the countertop.  The confectioners’ sugar was the ingredient that stood out most to me when making my shopping list, mainly because the fudge and buttercream icings combined to call for over eleven cups of it.  But…MMMAN, was the buttercream good!

Once the cookies were baked, and the buttercream mixed, I fired up the (makeshift) double-boiler for the fudge icing.  I’ve done chocolate-covered fruit before, so the technique wasn’t entirely new to me, but there was a moment when I freaked, thinking my melted chocolate had seized beyond salvation.  A few tablespoons of water brought us back from DefCon 1.

Hemstrought Half Moon Cookies: The Full Monty

Okay, so we’re now past 11pm, and I haven’t even begun icing (let alone cleaning up).  I started frosting the two-dozen cookies fudge side first.  So, to keep the fudge spreadable, the mixture remains on the double boiler.  I held each cookie aloft in my left hand while spreading the fudge over half of the cookie with a frosting spatula in my right.  And yes, I dripped molten lava fudge on the fingers of my left hand.  Repeatedly.

By the time I was ready for a second pass, armed this time with buttercream, the fudge had cooled and set to form a bit of a shell on the cookies.  The vanilla was much less dangerous, and honestly made me a little gitty to apply.  It was happening!  My counters overflowed with THE cookie I hadn’t eaten in twenty-five years.

So, I ate half-moons for a week and a half.  And it was a delight!  Almost like a ragù, a couple of days of settling actually seemed to enhance the flavor and composition of the cookies.  The time certainly made them more stable for one-handed eating.

But yeah, it was a LOT.  I thought about bringing them to work the following Monday, and then I thought: “Nah.”  Maybe next time.

I’m a little half-mooned out, and it’ll be a little while before I get back on that horse.  But for a glorious ten-day stretch, pounding half-moons and pint glasses of cold milk transported me to an earlier age.  All that was missing was the USA Cartoon Express.

Visit Saveur.com for the Hemstrought’s Bakery half-moon cookie recipe.


  1. Dedree Drees says

    I grew up a block away from the Oneida Square Hemstrought’s in Utica. My grandma used to walk up there with me and buy a selection of cookies. Real half-moons are enough to make you get the vapors! Whenever I would visit Utica later in life I would get some until I got too fat. When Hemstrought’s closed I was very sad.

  2. Jean Fox says

    These look great but my problem is with the size. You sure can’t get 12 of these in a standard cookie sheet (I use a jelly roll pan). It would be most helpful if you could give me a hint as to how much batter is in each one eg: 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, etc. At present I have a real variety in shapes lol. Or what size ice cream scoop.

    • says

      Hi Jean,

      Sorry for the late reply! I measured my #16 ice cream scoop and it’s about 1/3 cup. I hope this helps! Let me know how your half moons turn out!

  3. says

    I’m not sure what went wrong when I made these cookies, but they ended up being flat and the bottoms stuck to the cookie rack. Plus after I frosted them they even broke trying to pick them up. What did I do wrong? One thing I did extra was I used 1 tsp of baking powder instead of 3/4 tsp. I want to make them again, but first find out what went wrong. Thanks for your help.

    • says

      Hi Beverly,

      It’s definitely possibly that the extra 1/4 tsp of baking powder would have flattened out the cookies. Too much baking powder would create an excess of gas bubbles during the baking process, and could cause the finished product to collapse during cooling.

      For getting stuck to the pan, did you grease the cookie sheet at all? I didn’t have to with the Silpats I was using, but it couldn’t hurt if you’re scooping directly onto the cookie sheet.

      I did notice that the cookies were still pretty delicate after I frosted them, and I’d like to explore ways to make them sturdier as well.

      Definitely give them another shot, though, because they’re worth it!

  4. NYtoNC says

    I grew up in Elmira and we would get “halfmoons” from Light’s Bakery and ohhh my how yummy they were! So happy to find this recipe and cant wait to try it!!

    • says

      Let me know how they turn out! As noted in some of the comments below, you may want to try an alternate icing recipe for the chocolate side. Enjoy!!!

  5. Lisa says

    OMG! I’m from Elmira & so remember these cookie. Brings back memories… I’ve seen these several places & they just don’t know how to make them the right way. All the half moon cookies are made with white bottom. Not the right way to make them. I won’t buy them. Thanks for sharing:)

    • says

      My pleasure, Lisa! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      You’re right, too: no place else seems to make them with the chocolate bottom. Why WOULDN’T you?!?!

  6. says

    Can’t wait to try this! I’m from Central New York and I miss eating these down in TX. People in Austin could learn a thing or two about half moon cookies! :)

    • says

      Let me know how they turn out, Lauren! As mentioned in comments below, the chocolate side as instructed here doesn’t quite ring true to how I remember the OG version in CNY — you may want to go with a straight chocolate buttercream.

      I love hearing stories from Central New York transplants: what memories these jog, and how iconic it is to where we grew up. Spread the Half Moon love!

  7. Jeffrey Loucks says

    Ahhh Memories!! When I was a young boy my father owned Crown Carpet Rentals. We delivered rugs to businesses in Utica among other locations in and around Mowhak Valley. Every Saturday morning I would take the rug into Hemstrough’s Bakery and walk out with half-moon cookies. After I grew up I would stop there every time I came back home on leave and eventually vacation. I now live in Michigan with a family of my own. We make the half-moons every now and then. Finding this site brought back very nice memories. Thank you for taking the time to generate such a nice posting. You really made my week! Sincerly, Jeff

    • says

      Hi Jeff. Thank YOU for taking the time to leave such a great comment! (You’ve made my week!)

      It’s been great to hear how many fond memories people attach to a simple baked good. Half moons do the exact same thing for me. I’m gonna have to get a batch going at home soon and start passing down the happy half moon memories to my kids!

      Take care, Jeff!

  8. erin antonsen says

    Hey Kim,
    Jon, Tim, and I ordered FORTY half-moon cookies for Bethany’s 40th birthday last month from Hemstrought’s. From what I understand, they don’t have a bakery anymore, but still make them for grocery stores and the such. I am so glad I was directed to your blog…how great your creations look and how fun to “catch up.”

    I’m a big Alton fan so I’m going to have to try these pretzels and I can’t wait to try these half-moon cookies, too. I guess I’m NOT going Paleo anytime soon! Keep it up!

    • says

      Okay, I now know how I want to celebrate my 40th at the end of the year. I don’t know what the rest of the party will be eating for dessert, but I’m sure they’d manage.

      Thanks for checking out the posts: I hope you’re able to share some tasty stuff on your table. I’m not a huge Alton fan either. I kinda find him insufferable, actually, but I couldn’t argue with the recipe. Good stuff!

    • rebecca tillotson (LA quay) says

      Origianlly from Utica and my favorite cookie in all the world is a Half Moon. I live in Phx now for 47 years and when I go back to Utice, my neices have their frig stocked with the Moons. They sell them at Walmart now which is crazy. When I retired, one of the girls took up a collection and had 2 dozen shipped overnight to my jobsite. The best present ever.

  9. Jamie says

    I grew up eating these as a treat from the Hemstraught’s in Utica. After holding onto this recipe for years, I just made them for the first time. Perfect!! So worth the effort to make them.

    • says

      The only “problem” is what to do with two or three-dozen half moons! The chocolate side in this recipe is not how I remember them from back in the day, so I’ll definitely be switching that up for my next batch.

      I think I’m gonna go red velvet for the cookie part, as well. Oh yes!

      Glad you enjoyed them!

  10. Nancy says

    These cookies are great. The only problem I had is that the chocolate frosting came out hard when it cooled after I frosted them. Can you tell @e what I did wrong? Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Nancy. The chocolate did the same for me. It seems that this recipe is more of a fudge icing than a frosting. I definitely don’t remember the hard stuff from when I was a kid, so am not sure what was lost in translation.

      I’ll definitely be using a more basic chocolate buttercream recipe the next time I work up a batch.

      Hope that didn’t spoil things for you!

  11. says

    As a former employee of Hemstrought’s Bakery, I have loved these Halfmoon cookies for a very long time. I moved away from the area for 20 + years now, but always manage to get some halfmoon’s when I visit my family. I have had many different kinds of the cookie, but still love Hemstrought’s version the BEST!!!!! Actually the icing my favorite part of the cookie. Thanks again for the recipe!!!

  12. says

    Great recipe!!! These are one of my most favorite cookies from back home in Utica NY. Thank you for posting them and your experience! I may bake them this Christmas!!

    • says

      Thanks Beth! I may have to whip up another batch soon myself. Definitely one of the things I miss about back East. Let me know how they turn out. Merry Christmas!

  13. Phyllis Roehm says

    My sisters and I always went to the bakery each time we were in Utica. Our favorite was the chocolate cookie that was iced and topped with coconut. The icing was a bit different than the half moon–and really delicious. My grandmother always saw that she had some when we visited–about 2 times each month. How I missd them.

  14. Valerie West-Rosenthal says

    I have been lamenting for years about the phony vanilla cookie “black & whites” as they’re called everywhere else in this country, and SOOO missing Hemstrought’s half-moons! Thank you so much for this, I’m making these today for sure. You have fulfilled a 25-year dream. Thanks Kim–

  15. Cindy says

    I used to eat one of these for BREAKFAST almost every day when I was working in Brooklyn. On kid used to call the cookie “Brown vs. Board of Ed” which tickled me to no end.

  16. says

    They look great! I grew up in Utica and had half moons from Hemstrought daily as they were delivered to my place of work, in 37 years I never saw or had a chocolate one.. this is very creative!

    • says

      Thanks Claudia! Daily half-moon delivery… That. Is. Fantastic!!! Next time I make these, I’ll need to make sure to bring some in for my co-workers, but this batch was mine, all mine!!!

  17. StrawberryJane says

    Ahhh — Hemstroughts and Dan-Dee Donuts! Memories. (Mine: from the North Utica branches of both.) — Those so-called Black and white cookies are a sham, no? Scooby Doo should trap them under a net, pull off their rubber masks and reveal them for the evil phonies they really are!

    OK, enough of my nonsense — I’m giving these a go this afternoon. Thanks for the post!

    • says

      And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

      It was great to get a taste of the real deal. Let me know how they come out!

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