Tag Archives: cookies

Sweet Struggles

I have a problem, I thought as I started eating my third dessert of the day. I began at Jacques Torres Chocolate with a luscious, rich hot chocolate, to warm the coldest day I have experienced in a while. Then my friend and I crossed the street to Levain Bakery, my personal heaven (though it is not only mine – the bags from Levain actually say “Your Little Piece of Cookie Heaven” on them) (also whoever said that the Upper West Side is boring was deeply wrong). We split a cookie – oatmeal raisin, doughy in the middle, with a crispy, buttery top – and a luscious slice of banana chocolate bread. Honestly, these treats made me feel more serene and satisfied than I have felt in awhile. Of course, it helped that I was with an old friend who always makes me feel like home is near.

Afterwards, I walked around the flatiron and found Dough, one of the doughnut places that I have been dying to try (the other being Doughnut Plant). It was no coincidence that this shop, where I sat at as I wrote this, played gentle piano music, for this calmness that both the sweets and sounds provided made me feel so whole.

Doughnut from “Dough”

I think that sugar is my drug; I don’t ever really want to get drunk or high. I just want to feel satisfied. Sugar sure does it (and it apparently makes your brain react in the same way as it does to cocaine, so I guess it is more than a drug than I would like to think).

It’s like the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, that requires all things sweet: raisin-filled challah, apples and honey, all that goodness. These sweet things are supposed to hail a sweet, good New Year. They have a power to replicate their greatest qualities in your world.

The food we eat – it all taps into something. If meat evokes our carnal, then sugar evokes our comfort; so many carbs come with those little kernels of sweetness, that comfort and internal peace are almost sure to come. Indulgences also allow us to say “yes” to our desires, which is no small thing. I prefer to sit at a bakery, café or doughnutery, and join others as they enjoy themselves, be they strangers or friends. I like to feel like a free agent – I just want to want what I want, and to have a desire satisfied. We all have holes in ourselves, and as I start to find my own, I realize more and more that they are not worth leaving empty. If something like a cookie really makes me feel better, then cookies I shall have. Why shouldn’t I have what I want?

Here’s the sour, bitter, anything-but-sweet truth: sugar makes me feel like shit after too much of it. As I write, I feel my brain whirring, my stomach growing heavy. I don’t feel like I have slept 8 hours all week, which I have. I wonder if my skin will begin to break out even more than it has been. While all of these worries bubble up, I can’t help but think that whatever I just ate did something to me. I guess Julia Child said it best: everything in moderation, including sweetness.

Writing while eating desserts

Levain Bakery

This short and sweet post is dedicated to the city’s smallest sweet shop: Levain Bakery. There are two locations in the city, one right around the corner from Columbia on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, past Morningside Park. The other location is on the Upper West Side on 74th and Amsterdam. The shop sports only a small eating area, and the selection of food and drinks is small, but there is a reason why this place has been able to survive.

For starters, it carries the basic coffee selection, with any type of drink you’d like. While this isn’t the main attraction, it is definitely on the pro list. Levain also offers an assortment of breads, such as scones, muffins, baguettes, lemon cake, and ginger spice bread. While I did have the option of trying all of these, I was on a mission to eat the infamous Levain Bakery cookies.

Yep, these are the cookies that New Fork City always instagrams, the cookies that everyone always raves about, the ones that people swear are the best in the city. I tried the cookies. They offer four flavors: chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin, dark chocolate chocolate chip, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip. I tried all but the oatmeal raisin, and yes, they not only met my expectations, but exceeded them. For starters, the massive cookies are warm when you get them. My favorite was definitely the dark chocolate chocolate chip, followed by the chocolate peanut butter chip, and then the chocolate chip walnut. You may be wondering what makes these cookies so well known across the city. Apart from their size, these cookies are extremely rich and dense. It’s like a brownie and a cookie all in one, with the hard exterior of a cookie on the outside and the softness and creamy texture of a brownie on the inside. Beware, one cookie will easily put you in a food coma. In fact, I recommend these cookies be shared.

Overall, I must say, all the instagrammers who snap pics of these wonder cookies know what they’re doing. These cookies are worth putting on a pedestal and sharing with the world.


If Music Be the Food of Love

In preparation for the highly-anticipated Night Market event on October 16, hosted by Columbia’s Chinese Students Club, Columbia Classical Performers (CCP) decided to have a baking party of cookies and brownies. As I’m lucky enough to be on CCP’s board, I joined president Alison Chang CC ’16 and vice president Lilian Finckel BC ’16 in a delectable baking session that infused Lilian’s homey Barnard suite with some of the most ubiquitously comforting smells in the food repertoire: those of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies and Betty Crocker extra-fudgy brownies.

We began our sweet expedition at Westside (where else?) and stocked up on two massive rolls of chocolate chip cookie dough (other enticing flavors included Reese’s ® peanut butter cups and oatmeal raisin), as well as brownie mix, eggs, milk, veggie oil, and some handy icing tubes. As no trip to Westside is complete without a sample scavenger hunt, we shamelessly tooth-picked cubes of queso blanco and provolone and dipped pita into spicy red pepper hummus while resisting the urge to buy everything in sight (a traditionally difficult endeavor for any trip to the market). Though we didn’t end up doing this ourselves, the sight of Hershey’s “Symphony” chocolate bars, highly appropriate for the occasion, and various other chocolate bar flavors, spurred ideas for potential brownie variations—perhaps dark-chocolate cherry fudge-filled brownie or even a caramel-white chocolate bar brownie sandwich?

Ingredients assembled, we first tackled the cookies. Few things in life are more frustrating than attempting to suppress the urge to eat heaping quantities of raw cookie dough, but Lilian and I managed to control ourselves with relative success. The cookie dough itself was the perfect texture—elastic enough to lend itself to molding but also a balance of dense and creamy that promised some delectable cookies as the final product. The ratio of chocolate chips to dough was also harmonious (pun intended), for there were enough chips to ensure a perfectly gooey final product while still preserving the distinct chewiness and sweet, slightly nutty flavor of the dough.

The anticipation is excruciating.
The anticipation is excruciating.

Though Betty Crocker labeled their brownie mix box “extra fudge” we had little idea just how dense this dough would be until we broke Lilian’s Ikea © whisk. After mixing together two eggs, ¼ cup water and 2/3 cups oil, the powdered brownie was surprisingly difficult to incorporate due to the sheer fudgey-ness of the batter. Just as difficult to not eat before baked, the brownie batter was prepared, as was a buttered sheet pan:

Armed and ready to bake!
Armed and ready to bake!
Proper damage done.
Proper damage done.

In happy anticipation, we placed two cookie sheets and the brownie pan in a preheated 400 degree oven and waited for the magic of therapeutic baking sessions like this one.

Cookies 1
Enough said.

The finished product was nothing short of miraculous: the cookies sported a golden brown and slightly crunchy crust, their insides just set and, thanks to the Pillsbury wizards, had an extraordinary balance of gooey, chocolately, and melty. The brownies were a harmonious blend of crisp edges and oozing comfort on the inside.


Dorm dessert doesn’t get much easier than this, and could be even cheaper by making the doughs from scratch. Consider these two delectably simple recipes your go-to’s for gratification you can always count on, dorm desserts that’ll make your taste buds, literally, sing.

Dessert Sampler

Sometimes the dessert options at the dining hall can feel a little repetitive. It seems like they always cycle between the same three cookies, the same 5 ice cream flavors, and the same 4 types of cakes. How can you improve your dessert experience? The answer is simple: Eat all the desserts at once! This is what I like to call the dessert sampler. If you see they have out the same old cookies, cake, and ice cream that you are already sick of, try sampling a little bit of each option and putting it all on the same plate! You can even top it all off with hot fudge and sprinkles. I promise this concoction will be far from boring. See the recipe below to make the dessert in the picture above!


  • All three ice cream options available (cookies and cream, strawberry, chocolate)
  • Marble pound cake
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Chocolate sprinkles


  • Look around at all the dessert options, soak in the glory, and refuse to deprive yourself of one bit.
  • With a slightly crazed look in your eyes, fill your plate with everything in sight.
  • Devour by yourself or share with friends for a family-style dessert experience (lol jk. Like you would ever share this masterpiece!).
  • Enjoy!

Sweet Tooth Recipes: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Creating the perfect cookie is possible.  If you take the subway down to 72nd and walk to 74th and Amsterdam, or walk over to 117th and Fredrick Douglass Blvd, you will find Levain cookies.  They are unbelievable and will change your life.  But, if you don’t want to spend the time and money (at $4 a piece) for a Levain cookie, I’d say this recipe is pretty good for relieving that craving.

 While this is not your standard chocolate chip cookie, its just as simple to bake and great to share with friends, especially around midterm season.


Flour: 1 cup

Baking Powder: ½ tsp

Baking Soda: ½ tsp

Salt: ¼ tsp

Cinnamon: ¼ tsp (optional, but who doesn’t like cinnamon?)

Rolled Oats (the one with the Quaker oats guy on the front): 2 cups

Butter: 8 tbsp (1 stick)

Brown Sugar: ½ cup

Granulated Sugar: ½ cup

Egg: 1

Honey: ¼ cup (may substitute with maple syrup)

Vanilla Extract: ½ tsp

Chocolate Chips: handful (about ¾ cup)



  1. Preheat that oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2.  ***Cheat the system.  Don’t get more dishes dirty than necessary.  Start by whisking together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a medium size bowl
  3. Continue to whisk as you add the egg, vanilla, and honey
  4. Once this mixture is tan and fluffy, make a hole in the middle of the mixture for the dry ingredients
  5. In the center of the bowl, pour in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and rolled oats
  6. Mix all of the ingredients together until it forms a cookie dough texture
  7. Toss in the chocolate chips and fold them in with a spoon
  8. Prepare two baking sheets (either grease or parchment paper) and place walnut sized balls of dough about 2 inches apart from each other
  9. After popping these delicious treats into the oven for about 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown, they’re ready to devour. Enjoy.

Levain Bakery: The Cookie of Kings

So as of Friday, February 21st, I’ve just finished about half of my first round of midterms. Deserves some kind of reward, am I right?! I’m right. Even if you haven’t tackled any midterms just yet, I’m sure you deserve a reward too. We do some good work here, guys! It’s time to burst out of the Insomnia Cookie rut for just one night and go gourmet with your dessert choices.

Take the short walk to Fredrick Douglass Boulevard and 117th (my advice: choose the scenic route and cross Morningside Park; its definitely an under-appreciated gem) and grab yourself a ginormous cookie, or two if you’re especially ravenous. There’s even a quaint little bench right outside that’s perfect for instagramming your treat!

Homey and charming

Since it opened in 1994, Levain Bakery has been praised for its chocolate chip cookies. First of all, any cookie that’s been around as long as I’ve been alive is worth a shot. But even without that endorsement, Levain has earned a spot on most every top bakeries list—even before Buzzfeed—and for a good reason. They make some damn good cookies.

They know what they’re doing over there, too; along with three flavors of cookies, they only sell a few more items of standard bakery fare. Their limited selection almost forces you into indulging in their cookie. Not that I’m complaining.

Look, they even sell Levain themed merchandise! Christmas shopping DONE.

People are usually allied with one team or another: there are the crispy cookie lovers and the chewy cookie lovers. Personally, I prefer the crispy variety (Tate’s chocolate chip are insanely amazing if you’re ever browsing for a new snack at Milano’s). However, Levain is probably so famous because of their ability to bridge this great divide and unite all us chocoholics together—so poetic, I know.

Their ridiculously enormous cookie is beautifully crisped on the outside, protecting an almost molten, gooey center. The middle of the cookie is reminiscent of eating cookie dough before it even has a chance to bake, yet with a more deeply caramelized flavor than your average roll of Tollhouse. There’s no shortage of chocolate either.

Golden brown and delicious (GBD, if you will).

Levain uses shards instead of ordinary chips to give you a much more substantial chocolate experience, and packs them in there along with toasted walnuts. The nuts cut through the intense sweetness of the cookie with a hint of bitterness, as well as providing some texture inside the soft center. So smart.

Soooo chocolatey

Coming in at a hefty six ounces, this cookie is definitely an experience; after we devoured our afternoon treats, my lucky companion and I agreed that we wouldn’t be returning to Levain for a good while. The cookie’s richness will stay with you for a while, but if you want to satisfy a nagging sugar craving in a gratifyingly delicious manner, Levain Bakery is the place to go. You get more than enough for the $4 price. I’d advise the classic walnut chocolate chip if you’re just starting out, but if you’re experienced in the art of their giant cookie, or if you’re especially in the mood for some chocolate, branch out and try their double chocolate chip or their peanut butter chocolate chip. Levain has some seriously high demand from their customers, so they’ve started to ship their cookies, unbaked, all across the country. Now you can send cookies to your friends and make them even more jealous they don’t go to college in Manhattan!

Lost in Translation – Spain

‘Tis the season. Fifth Avenue has unveiled its windows, blocks of the sidewalk have sprouted evergreen forests, and, way uptown, Columbians face the mounting tension of finals.  Taking all this into consideration, I decided that there was no better way to spend my Friday night than flipping on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and embracing the absurdity of baking cookies from a recipe I can’t really understand.

This month’s Lost in Translation comes from Spain.  Polvorones are crumbly holiday shortbread cookies.  I first encountered these confections under the name Mexican Wedding Cookies, which usually include pecans. Their name comes from the Spanish polvo, meaning powder or dust, which I had no clue about because I only took two years of Spanish in middle school.  However, the recipe I found for polvorones online seemed simple enough, despite the slightly worrisome “Dificultad: Media” rating.

I figured that “harina” was probably flour, based off the word “farina,” which I knew from my cereal cabinet at home, but I had no clue what “trigo” meant.  So I went with the same method that I used for the bread experiment; I ignored it and moved on.  Everything else seemed pretty clear, once I sounded out “almendras” and determined that it meant almonds.  Guessing that azúcar meant sugar was a combination of process of elimination and references to “azúcar glacé.”

Actually, because of the plentiful cognates, translating the recipe wasn’t much of a problem.  In fact, I found the preparation rather enjoyable, since “tuesta”-ing the flour and almonds on the stove released lovely smells that mingled with the Muppets Christmas Carol songs drifting through the air.

The bigger problem, however, came when I tried to form the sizable mound of crumbling dough into little cakes for baking.  The recipe recommends that you “corto” the “masa,” which I supposed meant cutting out the cookies, rather than trying to knead them together, but any attempts to cut the crumbly mountain of dough was futile to say the least.

In the end, I added a bit more butter than the recipe called for in an attempt to force some cohesion.  After a brief ten minutes in the oven, my little spheres of buttery, sugary dough were ready to eat.  After looking at a few more recipes for polvorones – in English this time – I can safely say that, in any language, these cookies are simple, sweet, and an ideal way to spend an hour’s study break.


Tiempo de preparación: 30 minutos + enfriar

Raciones: unos 24 polvorones


300 g de harina de trigo

150 g de azúcar

150 g de mantequilla

100 g de almendras tostadas molidas

1/2 cucharadita de canela

la ralladura de 1/2 limón

azúcar glacé para espolvorear

Tuesta la harina en una sartén o en el horno, procurando que ocupe toda la superficie y no haga montoncitos, a fuego lento, tardará como mucho 10 minutos al horno/5 a la sartén. Si lo haces en la sartén tendrás que moverla con una espátula para que se tueste por todas partes. Debe quedar de color marrón claro, no negro ni caramelo. Deja enfriar la harina.

Pon la harina tostada en una superficie lisa y seca, forma un hueco en el medio y pon las almendras, la mantequilla,  el azúcar, la canela y la ralladura de limón. Amásalo bien hasta obtener una masa compacta. Es un poco quebradiza. Estírala con un rodillo hasta que quede una lámina de 1,5 a 2 cm de espesor como máximo. Utiliza un cortapastas redondo u oval y corta la masa en porciones. Engrasa ligeramente una placa de horno con mantequilla y ve colocando los polvorones. Precalienta el horno a 200ºC.

Mete los polvorones al horno a 200ºC aprox. 10 minutos. Vigílalos y sácalos cuando se doren un poco (no dejes que se pongan negros!). Déjalos enfriar sobre una rejilla y después espolvorea azúcar glacé por encima.

Variantes: se pueden hacer polvorones con otros sabores añadiendo otros ingredientes a la masa, como cacao en polvo, canela (más cantidad), vainilla, almendras, anís, etc.

Dinner and a Movie: This is the End

At midnight during the summer I am usually tucked into my bed, nodding off to the next episode of “Game of Thrones” on HBO to Go.  There are those, however, who are still out at the movies at that ungodly hour, which means that I now often find myself at work along with them.  The night that “This is the End” came out was one of those nights.  Much to my mother’s chagrin, I stayed at the movie theater after my shift ended to catch the midnight show.  Still dressed up in my collarless, navy, button-up uniform shirt, I bought myself some caffeine and settled in for the ride.  All I can say is if you have not seen it yet, get up and go.

The apocalyptic comedy stars…well, everyone, but namely Seth Rogen, Jay Burachel, James France, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson.  (Seth, Jay, and Danny actually stopped by my theater on opening day to hand out candy and popcorn to unsuspecting moviegoers; I was an entirely unhelpful employee as I stood off to the side and stared at them walking in.)  The stars, who all play hilariously obnoxious versions of themselves, find themselves stuck in James Franco’s mansion to hide out while the rest of the world burns down around them.  Unfortunately for them, Franco’s pantry contains just “12 bottles of water, 56 beers, Nutella, C.T. Crunch…and a milky way bar.”  Naturally, a fight ensues over who should get some of that Milky Way:


Jonah Hill:  Can I have that Milky Way?
James Franco:  No you can’t have the Milky Way, cause it’s my special food, I like it.
Seth Rogen:  I want some of the Milky Way.
Craig Robinson:  I’ll be pretty bummed if I don’t at least get a bite of the Milky Way.


I get it, Craig.  I would be pretty bummed too.  It is also good to know that Milky Ways are James Franco’s “special food.”  I understand where he’s coming from, too.  But if the world is coming to an end you better believe I will be stuffing my face with every kind of chocolate available.  Frankly I’m surprised that no one was fighting over the Nutella.  Thankfully, though, it is not the end of the world, and there are still plenty of Milky Way bars to go around, a fact which was quite helpful when I made Milky Way cookies.  These surprisingly simple cookies are gooey and delicious.  If Milky Ways aren’t your thing, most other types of chocolate candy should work just as well.


Milky Way Cookies 

Adapted from iheartnaptime.com



2 sticks softened butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 ¾ cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

35 mini Milky Ways, coarsely chopped (I cut them in quarters)



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda.  Slowly add this mixture to the other bowl.
  4. Pour in the chopped candy bars, and mix well so you don’t get all the candy in a few of the cookies.
  5. Roll dough into small balls and place on the baking sheet.  They expand, so leave a bit of room in between each ball.  I would also recommend coating your hands in flour so that you can get nice, even balls without them sticking to you (it’s a pretty sticky dough).
  6. Bake for approximately 8 minutes.  Let cool about 2 minutes on baking sheet.

Bitter/Sweet Winter Treats

Milk chocolate, white chocolate and butterscotch chips all mix together!
The Cookie of better times past -- Photos by Nana Abrefah.

In this edition of Colors (with cookies!), Courtney brings you three great winter treats that are sure to tantalize those tastebuds.  Amanda’s fika post will arrive later today, and she knows that she wish she had some of these cookies with her coffee…collaboration, Courtney?  Cookie recipes and photos after the jump!  

Hello Everyone!

Despite the ever-freezing weather and cloudy days, there are still wonderful treats to be made and eaten. Since we’re all in the thick of it in our classes, I have chosen to create three types of cookies that exemplify the current moods of Columbia students: a trio of bitter, sweet, and bittersweet.

Pumpkin and White Chocolate

For those who may have had a midterm on Halloween day, the pumpkin will strike you as a reminder to the ghosts and ghouls that did not have the time to scare you. However, Fall break gave the rest that we all needed and with Thanksgiving break just a few weeks away, you can still smile. Let these cookies  warm you up for the oncoming pumpkin pie, family/friend dinners, and booming laughter set to come.

Dark Chocolate and Cranberry

With the winter blues coming on, you may need some cookies to “get you going”. These sultry cookies encompass that bitter chocolate bite that wakes you up as the cranberries sooth the tastebuds with a familiar natural sweetness. While brisk gusts of air fray your skin and face during walks to and from classes, days can drag on and you may feel a bit weary. These cookies are for the stressed out Columbians who desperately need some “me time”. Eat them slowly while basking in the warmth and comfort of your room.

Triple Chip Cookie 

It’s cold. Some days it’s below freezing, but that is not stopping you or your assignments with looming due dates. More than just relax, you may need a quick getaway- to times in the summer when your largest worry was to wear flip flops or flats and the sunlight upon your face produced a goofy smile. These cookies are a throwback to the days of when you had some peace of mind. Now go on, and take your time with each bite.

With all of these recipes, the common theme is to RELAX. Take a few moments of your time to smile at something funny, or indulge in that interesting thing your friend emailed you. Grab  some flour, sugar, and just a bit more ingredients to manufacture your own sense of calm in these bite sized pieces. Continue reading Bitter/Sweet Winter Treats

Introducing the Culinary Archives

Believe it or not, the Culinary Society has a small archive of ancient recipes. Yes. These recipes date back all the way to 1994! Some of us weren’t even born yet! How did the Culinary Society come to find these recipes? Strangely, we received a call from a random ABC representative claiming that he had found “the Culinary Book.” Deep in the cavernous storage units of Lerner, maintenance had found a red 3-ring binder filled with old Culinary minutes, recipes, restaurant notes and so on. We thought it was high time that we started to share this wisdom from the past Culinary crew… waaaaay past.

Back in the olden' days, even cookie monster looked different. He looked... well, like a monster.

The Culinary Society binder is neither pretentious nor does it feign importance. It simply presents itself as a resource for students who just happened to love food. Our predecessors seemed to have a particular knack for baking. (It only makes sense–The Culinary Society was a branch off of the old “Barnard Baking Buddies” of the early 90’s.) The following recipe is one of my favorites:

Electronic Mail Cookies (Yep, that’s right. This recipe pre-dates the shortened “e-mail”)

The recipe notes that the original may be traced to the department store Neiman-Marcus, but this is not confirmed. Continue reading Introducing the Culinary Archives