July 7, 2004:
pounds of butter later
Hundreds of happy students
By Jen Albinson Í05
The third week in April, a flurry of mass e-mails advertised the last cookie study break of the year. Sent by the bakers, the e-mails invited all students to come to Colonial Club on Wednesday night at 10:30 for a quick break from end-of-semester work. Around 10, hungry students started milling around the eating clubÍs dining hall, waiting for the energy boost of Anne-Louise Bigliani Í05 and Adie Ellis Í04Ís homemade cookies. As helpers Meena Anand Í05 and Amy Saltzman Í05 emerged from the kitchen with tray after tray of cookies, students leaned over the crowd-control ropes, and inhaled the sweet, warm scent of sÍmores, snickerdoodles, strawberry shortcake, and banana chocolate chip, cinnamon frangelico, honey nut oat, and toffee cookies. By 10:30, the cookies were in place, and students pushed toward the tables. By 11, the cookie frenzy had finished Æ students could return to their studies.
There is something comforting and calming about cookies, and student-bakers Anne-Louise and Adie know it. TheyÍve made thousands of cookies over the last three years for their friends and the campus at-large. They met in fall 2001 on the junior varsity tennis team. After realizing they had a common love for baking, they cooked their first batch of cookies together and shared them with friends in AdieÍs dorm room in Forbes.
The rave reviews led the two to plan a low-key study break in Wilson College. Its popularity led to a bigger one that spring, again in Wilson..
With the demand for their cookies growing, the girls decide to move into mass production in fall 2002 in the newly renovated Dod Hall. Using the dormÍs communal kitchen they baked and set up trays of cookies in the open lounge and study space. Another study break in Dod followed that winter, but then the girls moved to a bigger venue: AdieÍs eating club. When the chef offered to prepare a cold meal that night, Anne-Louise and Adie had full use of the oven. Eight hours before the break started, the girls worked alongside the clubÍs kitchen staff, sharing counter space and appliances.
This year, Anne-Louise and Adie held three breaks, one ñsmall one,î as Adie called it, back in Dod, and two larger ones in eating clubs. Even the small study break required five hours of prep work in the kitchen, 14 hours of baking, producing 700 cookies. The final study break of the year proved the largest, with the two girls baking about 2,000 cookies (and using 20 pounds of butter, 18 pounds of flour, and 62 eggs). The eating club paid for the basic ingredients Æ the milk, flour, sugar, and eggs, leaving Anne-Louise and Adie only responsible for the fillers Æ the candy, fruit, flavors, and spices. They advertised this break via mass e-mails, posters, and word of mouth, inviting anyone to come eat cookies. While Anne-Louise and Adie never charged for their goodies, this final break was the first to benefit charities, with donations accepted at the door for student groups: Princeton Against Cancer Together, Princeton Tuberculosis Awareness Group, and Princeton-UNICEF.
Producing this many cookies is not easy. The girls carefully plan out the necessary ingredients and flavors, using spreadsheets to make sure that they donÍt buy, for instance, too much caramel and not enough raisins. For the most recent study break, they created a schedule, and Anne-Louise said their ñoutput improved as a result of the better organization.î The spreadsheets and timesheets show how the two divide the labor and when each type of cookie needs to be prepared and baked. The two found the plans helped them work together better. ñThe cookie study breaks are always very stressful,î says Adie, ñand Anne-Louise and I are both type-A, highly excitable people, so itÍs made for some interesting situations. We work well together because we both hold ourselves to very high standards and trust each other.î Anne-Louise adds that ñAmy and Meena are two of our best helpers, because they can deal with us when it starts to get hectic.î
And hectic it gets, with students like Tim Churchill Í05 „ butterscotchÍs biggest fan „ knocking on the doors to the kitchen, demanding more of his favorite, as the girls keep a frantic eye on the oven while also managing the industrial-sized beater.
As stressful as the breaks can be, the girls „ and the campus at large „ adore
them. Adie says its great when strangers ask her if sheÍs ñone of
the cookie girls.î Anne-Louise loves all the e-mails that friends
send ñin anticipation and/or appreciation.î And while Adie graduates
this spring, sheÍll only be as far as New York next year. She wants
to come back and ñdo two big ones again next year, because itÍs
so much fun baking with Anne-Louise.î
Jen Albinson, a cookie lover herself, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.