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Bella Levison Is Baking the World a Better Place

Bella Levison wants to “bake the world better, one cookie at a time.”
[additional-authors]
June 15, 2023
Photo by Michal Levison

Bella Levison wants to “bake the world better, one cookie at a time.”

The 14-year old started Bella’s Cookies in December, and donates the proceeds of each month’s sales to a different charity. Levison absorbs the ingredients and overhead costs, so all sales go to the organizations.

Bella Levison
Photos by Michal Levison

“Every month I have different flavors,” Levison told the Journal. “[In June], I chose to raise money for the Trevor Project because it is Pride Month and I wanted to raise awareness.” The Trevor Project is a suicide prevention nonprofit that provides 24/7 crisis support to LGBTQ+ youth. The June cookies are rainbow chocolate chip, rainbow pinwheel, crispy oatmeal, honey almond sesame, blueberry and a flourless brownie cookie. Levison uses organic flours, pasture-raised eggs, fair trade chocolate and sugars; some of her cookies are vegan and/or gluten-free.

People can by a half dozen or a dozen cookies (there’s a pick-up service from her home in New Jersey) or just make a “doughnation.” For non-locals, there’s merchandise on the site, as well.

Levinson raises at least $500 every month, and she has been receiving  supportive feedback. “[People] think it’s an amazing idea, that I’m really helping the community and that it’s really inspirational,” she said. “It allows me to use my passion for baking for something good.” 

Levison started cooking when she was around 10 months old. “I remember standing in the kitchen, learning how to cook scrambled eggs and ravioli with my dad, which is always a great memory.” She attributes her Jewish values and a family love of cooking to this endeavor. “For all the Jewish holidays, when I was in the kitchen cooking with my family, I was always in charge of baking the dessert,” she said. “One of the main desserts for all the different holidays was cookies.”

Levison likes to experiment with different flavors. “I love the brown butter chocolate chip cookies because they are a way to elevate a simple cookie,” she said. “They are also super tasty.” 

Levison values the time she spends cooking and baking with her family. “I think [it’s what] made me love cooking,” she said. “I also love the smell of fresh cookies in the oven.” She also loves that she is inspiring younger kids to do similar things. She believes anyone can make a difference by finding a way for their own interests to benefit others. “Originally, I didn’t think I could do anything helpful with baking, but now I raise money by selling these cookies,” she said. “It makes me so happy.”

Kindness pays off. Something as little as a cookie will make a big difference.  

For more about Bella’s Cookies, go to DoughnateNow.com or follow @doughnatenow on Instagram.

Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

TOFFEE
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
1½ cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp salt
Water, as needed

COOKIE DOUGH
2 cups unsalted butter
8 ice cubes
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
4 tsp espresso powder
4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
4 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate,
chopped
Maldon or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

MAKE THE TOFFEE
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar and salt, stirring until well mixed. If there are grainy lumps, add a couple splashes of water and stir until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 290°F, about 10-15 minutes.
3. Pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out slightly with a spatula. Freeze until ready to use, about 30 minutes.

MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH
1. Add the butter to a medium nonstick pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns dark brown and smells nutty. Watch that the butter does not burn. Remove the pot from the heat.
2. Add an ice cube to the butter and slowly let it melt. It may froth and bubble. Add the remaining ice cubes and gently stir until melted.
3. In a large bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugar, espresso powder, salt and baking soda.
4. Pour the brown butter into the sugar mixture and mix until combined.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Pour into the sugar and butter mixture and whisk until glossy and smooth.
6. Add the flour and fold with a rubber spatula to incorporate until the dough has no visible flour streaks.
7. Remove the toffee from the freezer (it should be a frozen disc) and break it into chunks that will fit inside a gallon zip-top bag. Double bag the toffee and seal both bags. With a rolling pin, break the toffee into small pieces.
8. Fold the crushed toffee and chopped chocolate into the dough until evenly distributed.
9. Using a large ice cream scoop or a ½ cup (65 g) measure, scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Wrap the baking sheet in plastic wrap, but leave a small opening at the corner of the tray. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 36 hours. This will allow the flavor to develop and the dough to dry out a little as it rests, which will result in less spread when it bakes.
10. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
11. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches (5 cm) of space between the cookies and away from the edges of the pan.
12. Bake until the cookies are golden brown with crispy edges, but still slightly soft in the center, 18-20 minutes.
13. Immediately sprinkle the cookies with flaky sea salt. then let cool completely. The cookies will be very soft at first but will set after they are fully cooled.

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