A brave dessert aficionado’s pursuit of all things fried, glazed, and sugary.
Located at 47th Street and 12th Ave, Underwest Donuts is an unassuming doughnut shop. It’s actually inside a carwash, and the shop itself is just a counter where a few friendly employees dole out freshly fried doughnuts to anyone who wanders through.
For such a small shop, there was a fairly extensive choice of doughnuts, and I bought an array to bring back to campus. I ordered three of the “special doughnuts” (pictured below), and one of the regular sugared doughnuts upon recommendation from guy behind the counter. He actually fried the dough and rolled it in sugar in front of me, to emphasize the freshness.
The Maple Waffle is one of the newer flavors, and it has a very strong maple flavor, but in a good way that seems to transport you to the Vermont wilderness.
The Pumpkin Ginger doughnut was a little strong for my taste; it tasted strongly of ginger.
The Dark Chocolate was my favorite – it had a rich chocolate flavor without being overly sweet.
(Pictured, clockwise from the top: Pumpkin Ginger, Maple Waffle, Dark Chocolate, and Sugared)
Final thoughts: Were these doughnuts amazing? Absolutely. Would I go back? Not a chance. Getting to Underwest Donuts was such a pain – it’s too far West, and to get there you have to navigate the Hell that is Times Square. However, if you’re looking for genuinely good, fresh doughnuts that aren’t downtown, you’ve found your haven.
A brave dessert aficionado’s pursuit of all things fried, glazed, and sugary.
When you first move to New York, your first thought isn’t usually about food. It’s about finding an (reasonably priced) apartment, taking advantage of the cultural meccas, or visiting the famous sights before it becomes socially unacceptable to act like a tourist, and you’re too jaded with the frantic sight-seeing. You scope out a sufficient local café where you can become a regular, and drink black coffee like a grumpy New Yorker.
When I moved to New York, my first thought was, “Where can I find the food?”, and more specifically, “Where are the doughnuts?” I love food in all forms, but I have a special place in my heart for desserts, especially doughnuts. They’re the queen of basic desserts: acceptably eaten at any time of day, easily manipulated to fit any palate or diet (think vegan, paleo, or gluten free), and perfectly portable.
Coming from Massachusetts, I am accustomed to two types of doughnuts.
The slightly stale, typically flavored doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts, which you can buy at the chain on every corner (there were seven in my town alone, and several more in the near vicinity).
The quintessential New England doughnut: the apple cider doughnut, best enjoyed hot out of the fryer and coated generously in sugar. This doughnut is a staple of apple picking and pumpkin patches; the constant companion of hayrides and cool fall mornings.
But I expected New York to be different, and I was right. This is the homeland for all foods ordinary and obscure. There’s representation from every culture and country, good, bad, and just plain ridiculous. And of course, in a city well known for it’s cozy cafes and excessive coffee consumption, I knew there would be a strong selection of coffee’s best friend, the doughnut.
I started my NYC doughnut journey with the pinnacle of doughnut bastardization, the cronut. For those of you who live under a rock, let me welcome you to the extreme of an already excessive dessert. French pastry chef Dominique Ansel developed his infamous cronut in 2013, and as the name suggests, it is the lovechild of a croissant and doughnut. But that’s barely scratching the surface.
What makes a cronut different than a simple fried croissant dough is the way the dough is handled. The dough is laminated, which is what causes the flaky croissant layers, and proofed, so the dough rises before it is fried. After the dough is fried in grapeseed oil, the cronut is rolled in flavored sugar, filled with ganache, and topped with a glaze and decoration. It is an extensive, laborious process, with high risk and low reward.
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.
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.
Before we are overcome with winter weather and hibernation in the library, I vow to make one last trip to Smorgasburg, where I plan on having one final ice cream cookie sandwich from The Good Batch. But until then, I have taken on the task of making original ice cream sandwiches myself. These desserts are a great farewell to summer while still having a fall/winter twist (depending on ice cream flavor). I chose to use both Dulce de Leche ice cream and Cherry Garcia Fro-Yo from Ben and Jerry’s, but you can use whatever you like best. A nice fall twist to this recipe may be snickerdoodle cookies with dark chocolate or pumpkin flavored ice cream! Try out a variety of combinations for this cookie ice cream treat and let us know what’s your favorite!
I have been using the following cookie recipe for years and it has never failed me, but if you need to make this a last-minute treat, you can try using Tate Cookies.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1. Making things easy, I first mix all of the wet ingredients in a bowl. This includes the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.
2. Next add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient mixture. This would include the flour, baking soda and salt.
3. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chip cookies and form them into balls which you will place on an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Place this delicious cookies dough into an oven at 375°F for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.
*If you want your cookies to be even better, a bakers trick is to put the cookie dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking.
5. Once the cookies are baked to perfection and cooled, smother one side with your choice of ice cream and top those bad boys with another cookie. If you can make a sandwich, you can make an ice cream sandwich.
We all love Nussbaum bagels and Hungarian Pastry Shop coffee but occasionally we all need a change. Chokolat Café is a quaint bakery/coffee shop on 125th and Broadway that I would like to deem the “new kid on the block”. I have driven past it numerous times over the past two years and during exam week when I needed a few coffees to keep me studying and a baked good to satisfy my sweet tooth; I decided to check it out. I was blown away by the café and think it is completely underrated for something so close to campus. It opened in October 2011 so maybe it has not made a name for itself yet in the area, but I would definitely suggest making the walk there your next coffee date or study session.
I was shocked when I walked in to see how laid-back the decorum was. I wished that I had brought a textbook to read because it was the perfect, cozy atmosphere to study in. The café smelled of freshly brewed coffee and unlike Butler there were actually tables open. The next surprise was the prices of the coffee and baked goods. Everything was extremely cheap for things that were so fresh; their pastries and desserts are made in their kitchen daily. They had various breakfast options like muffins and breakfast sandwiches as well as desserts. Since it was early I ordered a coffee and a blueberry-cream cheese Danish, as opposed to the tasty looking green tea and red bean cupcake.
The danish was hands-down the best Danish I’ve had in my life. The puff pastry dough flaked as you bit into it and its buttery flavor complemented the sweet filling perfectly. Plus, the cream cheese custard was still moist, so I could tell that it had been made freshly a few hours before. There was a thick, sweet layer of it yet it was not overwhelmingly cheesy nor did it overpower the blueberry fiilling which was swirled in. My favorite part of the blueberry ham was the fresh blueberries in it which gave it a natural flavor as opposed to a fake, sugary taste. Finally, the coffee grinders behind the register were used daily to make the coffee fresh which was evident in its rich flavor.
It was fresh and inexpensive for that necessary caffeine boost during exam week. I was blown away by the atmosphere and quality of the goods at Chokolat Café; you will definitely see me there during reading week. The best part about it is that they have a mini shop on 123rd that sells all their delicious goods. If you don’t want to sit down in the café, you can go there and get your coffee and a pastry to go!
Every now and then we all deserve to do our hair, put on our heels, and enjoy a taste of luxury. There are many places in New York City you where will shunned for wearing sweatpants, and Café Luxembourg was certainly one of them. Looking in the window before going inside, you can already tell that this is a place of class, style, and quality food. The host was welcoming and we were seated promptly with menus full of divine choices.
I was with two other classy dessert lovers and we were unsure at first if we wanted an appetizer to share just to taste their food or if we should go straight to the desserts. However, most things on the menu, as delicious as they seemed, were not great for sharing and with their prices we decided to just stick to the dessert. Plus, the dessert menu was certainly no disappointment. One glance at it and our taste buds we watering. There were homemade ice creams, specialty cakes, profiteroles and more. I was really impressed by the range and combination of flavors on it as well. All the originals were paired with something more adventurous to give the dessert a little kick like the chocolate fudge cake with maple cinnamon ice cream and the pumpkin cheesecake with salted pecans and ginger anglaise. After a tough debate we ordered an upside down caramelized pear cake with butterscotch sauce and bourbon ice cream, crème brulee, and the chocolate fudge cake.
While we waited, we munched on fresh warm bread that was perfectly toasted on top to give it a crisp outer crust. We admired the simple, yet eloquent decorum of the restaurant with soft jazz playing in the background and we couldn’t help but think that this would be a great place to celebrate a special event or milestone in one’s life. Although it was certainly pricey, everything that the waiters were carrying out of the kitchen looked like it would be worth the price; especially our beautifully plated desserts. It was difficult to tell which one looked the most appetizing, so we just dug right in to find out.
The pear cake with bourbon ice cream was my first choice just because it was such a tasty combination. The sweet pear layer on top made the entire dessert. It was fruity yet not too sweet nor too thick to overcome the cake. Disappointingly, I found the cake to be a bit dry if it wasn’t eaten with the ice cream which had subtle hints of bourbon to amplify the pear cake flavor. The crème brulee was perfectly crystalized on top, almost to the extent where we felt bad ruining its beauty. I’m glad we did though because it was absolutely divine. The solid sugar layer on top was thin yet it magnified the silky custard. The custard was creamy yet it still had a light texture so that you did not feel like you were eating spoonful’s of heavy cream.
At our table, the clear favorite was the chocolate cake with maple-cinnamon ice cream. We are all chocolate addicts, so we could be a little biased; but the warm cake was rich and gooey on the inside making it the front runner. Plus, the maple-cinnamon ice cream gave it the perfect amount of added flavor. There was just enough cream and spice to complement the chocolate yet the moist chocolate cake still shown through. When the luscious desserts were completely devoured we were more than satisfied and amped up on sugar. Each one was bursting with flavors and I only wish I could go back soon to try all the other magnificent options on the menu. Café Luxembourg is the perfect getaway from campus if you want an excuse to get dressed up and treat yourself to some high quality dining. It is an easy subway ride to 70th and you feel like you’ve been transported 15 years down the road the moment you sit down in the luxurious restaurant. Whether it a birthday, an anniversary, or a summer job, Café Luxembourg should definitely be next on your list of places to host a celebration or to simply savor your sweet tooth.
I had always been a fudgy, rich, extravagant dessert lover so I’d been more attracted to luscious cakes and brownies as opposed to lighter desserts like cream puffs. But when I looked up Beard Papa’s and saw the variety of cream puff fillings and toppings, it went straight to the top of my list of dessert places to try.
Beard Papa’s is located at 76th and Broadway so it was easy and quick to get to after a tough day of classes. I went with a fellow culinarian, Amelia Rosen, who had been once before and raved about them. When we walked in we were immediately overcome by the enticing smell of warm butter and sugar. My taste buds were sparked and ready for a fresh, authentic cream puff. However, I was a bit disappointed by the limited selection of cream puffs. On the website there is an extensive list of cream puff flavors offered like cookie crunch, apple cinnamon, and pumpkin. Yet, I failed to realize that there are only a select few per day. Today’s specialty custard was banana; so we had the choice between vanilla or banana custard in an original, chocolate, or chocolate dipped puff shell. Plus, there were store classics like dulce de leche, mont-blanc, and chocolate fondant cakes and cookies served every day.
We ordered the dulce de leche cream puff, the chocolate dipped shell filled with banana custard, the mont-blanc, and the chocolate fondant cookie so that we could have a little taste of everything. Our puffs were freshly filled in front of us right after we ordered them and they looked completely delectable. We dove in to the warm chocolate fondant cookie which was filled with gooey dark chocolate. It was incredible but it was so rich I wouldn’t be able to eat more than one. Next, were the decadent cream puffs. The mont-blanc puff was my favorite because it was a regular puff with vanilla custard and a decorative chestnut frosting on top. I loved the texture combination of the thick chocolate chestnut with the creamy vanilla custard. The puff itself was nothing less than perfect. It was flaky, flavorful, and held the perfect amount of custard. The dulce de leche cream puff was filled with a generous layer of ducle de leche sauce and vanilla custard. Amelia said “The combination of the mild vanilla custard and the rich dulce de leche was delicious. However, I wish the dulce de leche was a bit less sweet, because I think it overpowered the flavor of the custard.” Lastly, the chocolate banana cream puff was phenomenal. The banana custard was smooth and not excessively banana flavored. The chocolate dipped shell was also a great compliment to the custard. Beard Papa’s cream puffs were the first fresh cream puffs I had had in a while and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them.
The atmosphere, the price, and the taste at Beard Papa’s were perfect for a busy college student. It is an easy subway ride and a fast line for your freshly filled puff. You can even order a tasty coffee or latte with your dessert before heading back to campus to finish your busy day. To top it all off, it is only $2.50 to satisfy your sweet tooth although you may find yourself buying another one because they were that good.
One of my favorite walks around campus is walking north on Broadway past the Union Theological Seminary and the Manhattan School of Music. Not only does it provide picturesque reminders of local academia, but also views of the 1 train dipping past the horizon as buildings rise and fall like mountains. In the spring, trees on this walk scatter enough blossoms to make it snow. In the summer, the urban heaviness of heat feels timeless and constant, a tradition of the strongest and most dedicated living through these months. In the fall, everything is, of course, a myriad of scarlets and oranges (autumn, for the record, is my favorite season in New York). And, now in the winter, the trees are bare but the spider-like bark leads your eyes upward to admire the facades of Broadway’s buildings.
My point? The ten (to twenty, depending on your pace) minute walk to Kuro Kuma prepares you for satisfaction no matter what time of the year. This week, my friend Christin and I walked briskly through the wind tunnel and arrived, rosy-cheeked, at the espresso bar oasis. Located on the same city block as Bettolona and a street away from Jin Ramen, Kuro Kuma is an ideal location for students and professors who live in Morningside Heights and want a break from the usual local fare. Technically in Harlem, Kuro Kuma is located on LaSalle on the west side of the 1 train bridge (nearest subway stop is 125th).
Inside, Kuro Kuma is cozy and delightful. The interiors are painted sky blue, save for one exposed brick that adds automatic urban texture to any eatery. In the warmer days, a chalkboard sign sits outside and welcomes customers in with jaunty doodles. This coffee shop has four tables, enough to accommodate walk-ins and planned coffee dates without ever becoming too overwhelming. Christin and I placed our orders during an apparent lull-as soon as we sat down, six customers came in. It was busy enough that our coffee maker asked us to wait to pay at the end (honestly, I love this because it makes me feel like I can enjoy my break and not feel rushed). A few neighborhood regulars walked by with their dogs and chatted with customers and employees inside as they ordered their afternoon decafs.
Christin had hot chocolate, and while she enjoyed it, she felt that it was a bit too rich for her taste. I loved my latte (when do I ever not?). Smooth and creamy, this was a beverage that makes one nod with proud satisfaction: “That’s a good espresso-based drink that stimulates my mental acuity.” Christin and I shared a pecan sticky bun that I had fun unraveling. Sweet and chewy, the inner texture was just right. It was a bit difficult to pull off tidy pieces, so I’d recommend just going in with confidence and taking a big bite. The sticky bun also had yellow raisins, and while normally I react with wincing and eye-twitching to dried grapes, I was pleasantly surprised at their effortless incorporation into my afternoon treat. (For the record, Kuro Kuma offers plenty of other baked goods that are just right for your daily fikas.)
So, take a walk from campus and check out Kuro Kuma the next time you have a casual interview or a friend date. Kuro Kuma, as Christin pointed out, is conveniently located a block away from Knox Hall (the epicenter of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies).
Check out Kuro Kuma’s Facebook page here. Click on any of the photos below to see larger versions! Not sure what a fika is? Read my first of the series here.
Over Election Day break, my roommate Allison got flown out to Seattle for a job interview. I’m one of those people who really likes rainy days (a bit irrationally so) so when my roommate asked how much it rains in Washington, I don’t think she was expecting so much joy in my voice when I exclaimed, “It rains nine months of the year in Seattle!” (Seattlites should feel free to weigh in on their rain feelings in the comments.) When Allison came back, she couldn’t bottle up cloudy days but she did surprise me with a package of dark chocolate linguine.
I’m sorry, Tlaloc, but I’ve gotta say that I was far more thrilled about these chocolate noodles than even the best Manhattan rains that have come about this fall. The concoction comes from Pappardelle’s Pasta, a pasta supplier founded in 1984 that ships its products to farmers’ markets, hotels, restaurants, resorts, and speciality vendors around the country. Pappardelle’s produces 100 different flavors of fresh pasta and ravioli. Its website focuses on the artisanship of pasta, describing the intricate process of choosing the pure durum semolina flour vendor (spoiler alert: its in North Dakota).
For this week’s fika, I began boiling my chocolate linguine. Almost immediately, the faint scent of chocolate began filling up my studio double. The smell of chocolate pasta cooking, just for your reference, is not quite like that of cookies in the oven. It’s not like pudding, or hot chocolate. It’s not melting chocolate chips. It’s not a cake cooling on the counter. The smell of chocolate pasta is an oddly effervescent scent, if that’s even possible. It bubbles forth into the air, unassuming and confident. It melts into the air. Your brain recognizes the theobromine in the atmosphere, perhaps, but you know it’s different. And it is. Because it’s Pappardelle’s traditional pasta recipe with dark cocoa in it.
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!
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→