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!
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.
Yes, it actually did break at the thickest point. I have a knack for these things.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The soft center….
My last little bit…For scale purposes, this was only about 1/8 a cookie. Like my green mani?
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.