Copycat Levain Bakery Ginormous Chocolate Chip Cookies (Nut Free)

Once upon a time, when I only had two kids (and they weren’t babies any more), I took a weekend trip to NYC to visit my cousin, Aunt and Uncle, and BFF.  I decided to also take a tour of the most highly rated bakeries in Manhattan.  Levain Bakery was at the top of everyone’s list of “must visits”, and coincidentally was in walking distance of my cousin’s apartment in the Upper West Side.  Coincidence or fate, I ended up trying many of the cookies from Levain, with their doughy centers, crispy rugged exterior craters and plateaus, and ginormous soul satisfying size. When I tried their chocolate chip cookies, it was love at first bite.

Fast forward 6 years to the present…I have not been able to get these cookies off my mind.  It turns out I am not the only one, and their are tons of copycat recipes out there.  I researched as many as I could, watched the footage of the owners baking them on Beat Bobby Flay, and put together my own recipe that combines tips and tricks from many of the recipes….

While researching, I noticed a few odd things about this cookie recipe:

1.  They almost all called for cold butter, cubed, instead of the usual creaming of room temp. butter.  Curious, I kept this oddity in my recipe.  I believe it contributes to the craggy exterior.

2.  The bakery apparently doesn’t use vanilla in their recipe.  It feels wrong to me, just as a vanilla lover, so I put a tad in my recipe, but feel free to leave it out for the sake of authenticity.

3.  Some of the recipes called for bread flour, some called for AP flour.  I decided to split the difference and use both.  I think it was perfect.

4.  Some of the recipes called for cornstarch, which I found interesting, so I kept it in.  Not sure if it is necessary, but I believe it contributes to the center being soft and doughy, but not raw or falling apart.

5.  Lastly, this is sold as a chocolate walnut cookie (which is my all time favorite), but since we are nut-free, I left the nuts out.  You could add them back in, if you are not allergic.  Please use good quality semi-sweet, dark or bittersweet chocolate in these.  I have heard rumors that the use Guittard chips at Levain.

First, take two sticks of cold unsalted butter and cut them into tiny cubes.  Place in a stand mixer with the white and brown sugars, and vanilla.  Cream them together, adding eggs one at a time until just incorporated.  It will be lumpy at first, but after a minute or two, it should look like this.  Stop here, and resist the urge to beat until smooth.  Those lumps of butter will contribute to the rough exterior later!

Chocolate Chip Cooki dough

Add in your flours, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt.  Mix until just combined.  Or until your paddle attachment breaks in half, like mine did, signaling the end of mixing….forever.  Adieu, after market paddle attachment.

Chocolate Chip Cookie dry ingredients

Yes, it actually did break at the thickest point.  I have a knack for these things.

borken mixer paddle

Then, if your paddle isn’t broken, mix in the whole bag of chocolate chips.  If you were me, you would be folding it in by hand at this point.

chocolate chip cookie dough with chips

To look like this.  If you are adding nuts, now would be the time.  There are still a few small chunks of visible butter.  This is awesome.

chocolate chip cookie dough mixed

Okay, this might actually be the key to this recipe:  loosely grab gigantic balls of dough, like baseball size.  Resist the urge to make smooth balls, and actually try to keep the batter loose and rough.  See those valleys and craters on the outside?  Now stash these in the fridge (or even the freezer) for at least 30 minutes.  Mine were in there about 1 1/2 hours.

chocolate chip cookie dough balls

Bake at 375 degrees (Or 350 convection)for 18-24 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking.  They are done when they are still soft in the center, but golden brown at edges and gooey, but not too gooey, if that makes sense?  Sometimes, when I pull a particularly gorgeous baked good from the oven, I start singing bow-chicka-bow-bow…This was one of those times.

chocolate chip cookie baked

You definitely need a glass of milk for this baby!  And the beauty of this recipe is that they are HUGE, so 1 is enough even for the most dedicated sweet tooth.  I almost feel less guilty having one of these, even though I would not want to know the calorie count (don’t tell me), than when I make my usual chocolate chippers and devour 6 of them.  It is so much more fulfilling to eat one of these while it is warm, breaking off little chunks, and actually savor it a bit.

chocolate chip cookie

The soft center….

chocolate chip cookie center

My last little bit…For scale purposes, this was only about 1/8 a cookie.  Like my green mani?

chocolate chip cookie closeup

Levain Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies (Nuts Optional!)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used light, but I suspect dark would be even better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour (could sub AP, if you don’t have bread flour)
  • 2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups good quality chocolate chips (Guittard or Ghirardeli would be great)
  • *Optional- 1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream cold butter cubes with sugars and vanilla until mostly smooth, but with small lumps evenly distributed throughout.  Add in eggs, beating just until incorporated.  There will still be small chunks of butter.

Add all dry ingredients to mixer on low until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips (and nuts, if using).  Do not overmix.  Form dough into 11 or 12 gigantic balls, being careful not to pack them together.  Place cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheets with lots of space in between.  Keep the exterior rough and bumpy.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (mine was 350 convection).  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the center is set but soft (should seem just underdone), and outside becomes golden brown at edges and peaks.  Let cool on parchment for 5-10 minutes and serve warm with milk.

**One more interesting thing about this recipe.  It was developed by the bakery owners, who are triathletes.  They were trying to find the perfect cookies to fuel their grueling workouts.  These definitely fit the bill.

Let me know what you think!  I thought these were pretty darn close to the originals, if not exactly the same.

Gingersnap White Chocolate Granola with Chia and Dates (Nut-Free)

So, I am not really known for my self control around baked goods.  I can usually hold it together and only eat 1 or 2 servings of whatever I have made, occasionally sneaking a third in my closet, if it is really good.  However, I do have a weak spot for granola, and this white chocolate granola totally owned me.  Like, to the point that I had to promise myself that I would never make it again.  It was that good.

I am not going to pretend that granola is health food, like so many bloggers before me.  Yes, it has oats, dried fruit, seeds, etc…  It is very energy dense, which is great if you are a marathoner, or hiking or weightlifting a lot.  For the rest of us, let’s just say that it is delicious and leave it at that…

This actually was intended to be a teacher’s gift for Appreciation Week at our school.  Let’s just say that some of it actually made it to the teachers, and that it was difficult for me to part ways with it.  It would make a fantastic holiday teacher gift or brunch treat with some good yogurt.  You could even give it as a housewarming or hostess gift.  Pretty much anyone would be happy with it, I think.  Here’s how I threw it together with random stuff I had in my pantry:

First I mixed together the oats, sunflower seeds, chia, crushed gingersnaps, salt, spices, and chopped medjool dates (you could add the dates after the baking, if you want them to remain super moist).

white chocolate granola ingredients

Next, in a measuring cup, combine 1/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup maple syrup and/ or honey (I used about 1/2 and 1/2 of both), vanilla extract, and a heaping 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  I microwaved the whole shebang in a few 30 second increments, stirring in between until the sugar was dissolved.

white chocolate granola syrup

Pour the the wet mixture over the dry and mix well, until everything is coated.

white chocolate granola mixed

Pour this all out onto a parchment or non-stick foil lined baking sheet.

white chocolate granola on baking sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, stir, and return to oven for 10 minutes.  Stir again, and bake in 5 minute increments, repeating if necessary, until the mixture is golden brown but still a bit moist.  Be careful not to burn it, and do not wait until mixture is completely dry.  This will crisp up after cooling.

white chocolate granola after baking
After baking.

See, it will crisp and clump when it is cool, and only then…

white chocolate granola complete

When it is completely cool, add white chocolate chips, and if you chose to wait to add the dates, add those as well.  If you want, dried cherries are delicious in here, as would be toasted nuts (if you are not allergic).  I wanted to keep this free of nuts for my family, but feel free to customize it with whatever you like.  I ended up adding some minced crystallized ginger, as well.  Place in a ziplock bag or in pretty treat bags, tied with ribbons and enjoy!

white chocolate granola with toppings

P.s. I highly recommend this white chocolate granola served atop tart cherry or pumpkin Noosa yogurt or Stonyfield “Oh My Yog” in gingered pear or apple-cinnamon.

p.p.s.  Feel free to leave out the chia, the dates, or the crystallized ginger.   I would highly recommend that you leave at least some white chocolate in there, because as we discussed before, this is not a health food anyway….live a little!

p.p.p.s.  If you leave out the gingersnaps (or use gluten free ones), this would be gluten free.  This is assuming you used gluten free oats and all of your other ingredients were gluten free, of course.

Gingersnap White Chocolate Granola

  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (or could sub pepitas)
  • 1/4 cups chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup Gingersnap cookies, crushed (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup medjool dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used canola, but vegetable or melted coconut oil would work)
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (or a combo of both works well)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, your choice)
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips (give or take, depending on what you like)
  • 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (I used 325 convection).  In a large bowl, mix oats, all seeds, Gingersnaps, spices, salt, and dates.

In a large measuring cup, combine oil, honey and/or maple syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar.  Whisk together.  Microwave by 30 second intervals, watching carefully.  When mixture bubbles at edges and sugar is melted, pour over dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly to coat.

On a large, parchment-lined baking sheet, spread granola out into a thin, even layer.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Stir mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes.  Stir again.  Return to oven for 5 minute intervals, stirring in between, until mixture is golden brown, but still a bit moist in the center.  Cool completely.

Break up any large clumps into a zip top bag.  Add white chocolate, minced ginger, and cherries, if desired.  Serve or store in a air-tight container or bag.  Great as a cereal, ice cream or yogurt topping, gifting, or for snacking.

*Mine only lasted 2 days, but I would imagine it would keep for a week or more.  Good luck with it not disappearing sooner, though.