If you don’t like this version, try my other version of the Levain Copycat. A third attempt will be attempted some day soon.
I’ve been buying cookies from the Levain Bakery (sporadically) for several years now, and my god, they’re probably some of the best cookies I’ve ever had, whether it be the Chocolate Chip Walnut, the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, or Oatmeal Raisin et al. First off, they’re HUGE and gooey. One cookie is more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
That said, my main reason for buying them (being a pastry fool and baker), was to try and figure out this very elusive recipe. You cannot find it anywhere..not even copycat attempts. They’ve done a great job of keeping it completely vaulted from the masses.
One night a few months ago, I noticed they were on Bobby Flay’s ‘Throwdown’. Excellent! If I could just SEE the ingredients, and the method(s) they use, it could definitely help me on my way to cracking this seemingly ‘uncrackable’ cookie recipe. Since I’ve been baking for almost 20 yrs.. I’ve developed a knack for sort of being able to estimate amounts just by looking at the them. I recorded it on my DVR, just so I could keep referencing back to it.
While perusing through several baking and dessert sites plus blogs (using ‘Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie Recipe’ as my search term) desperately seeking any amount of extra info on these cookies I could find, I came across this entry at a dessert blog called Su Good Sweets , and the owner of this blog, Jessica, posted two cookie recipes by the Levain baking ladies that she found in Art Culinaire a few years back. One was for a Dark Chocolate Coconut cookie, the other a Ginger Valrhona cookie, which were ‘specially’ created for Art Culinaire, so neither are a cookie they sell at their bakery. However, they could be of some help, especially in conjunction with the Throwdown episode.
Now, using these formulas, plus the DVR recording of ‘Throwdown’, I’m pretty sure I was able to come up with a recipe close to my two favorites, the Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie that’s featured in the episode and their famous Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter chip cookie.
Many friends, coworkers, and Levain fanatics have said this cookie is just like or very close to Levain’s. As an avid Levain addict myself, I think they look and taste similar to the expensive Levain cookies. Everywhere I’ve brought bags of these, people think it is the Levain cookie upon looking and tasting, then some declare it’s lighter, and actually prefer it. I bake mine a bit longer, since I don’t like them almost raw inside (just soft and chewy), and always nuke Levain’s cookies for 5 seconds to remedy this. (raw cookie dough always gives me a stomach ache for some reason).
For the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip recipe, I used the recipe for the Dark Chocolate Coconut cookie, with the following changes. Subtract coconut and walnuts, and add 2 cups of peanut butter chips, plus a little more baking powder.
For the Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie, I took the Ginger Valrhona cookie, subtracting all the spices, molasses, about 1 or more cups of flour, and adding/adjusting the leavens, 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips, 1 cup of whole, shelled walnuts (which I toasted for extra flavor) and also adjusting the sugar amounts so they wouldn’t be too cloyingly sweet like Levain cookie can to be for some.
To get 12 cookies, I scaled down each portion of dough per cookie to a teeny bit over 4 oz per cookie instead of the 6 oz they use at the bakery. This is the only way you can get 12 cookies out of this home friendly recipe, unless you double the recipe and portion them how you like. Regardless, a little over 4 oz of dough per cookie still makes a HUGE, mountain like cookie. Barely any difference. If you want to use a full 6 oz of dough per cookie, you’ll probably only get 6-8 cookies out of this recipe, although I’m just estimating, as I haven’t attempted this yet.
Having said all that, before I post the recipes, as of late, in the Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie, I’ve been increasing the brown sugar to 1 cup, while decreasing the white sugar to 1/2 cup. I find it gives the cookie more depth in flavor as far as a caramel like-molasses taste goes. However, try it as written, and then try it with the sugar adjustments. and any other chips or flavors you may want to add. This is the fun part of baking and cooking, taking a recipe, and making it your own (I think I just channeled Paula Abdul). Also, PLEASE read the notes at the end of these recipes.
One more thing before I post the recipes; the original Levain chocolate chip walnut cookie is richer than this cookie. I’m going to keep trying to get as close as I can, and I think experimenting with a combination of different flours will be my first order. Also, remmber, using the freshest, best ingredients will give you a better cookie. For instance, using Hershey’s chips in lieu of Guittard won’t give you even half the rich, chocolatey, gooey goodness.. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’d love to help everyone get this cookie right if any problems are encountered.
UPDATE JULY 2010 – Another little birdy told me that 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed in with the flour and leaveners is a secret ingredient in the Levain cookie batter. Give it a try and let me know what you think. I assume it gives you a more tender cookie upon cooling. Of course, this could be yet another rumor, but it’s worth a shot!
Update 2011: I believe they cut in either pastry or cake flour to keep the cookies tender upon cooling and sitting. Not sure of the amounts yet, but that will come with my third attempt. If this is the case, cornstarch is not added (if you wish to add it in the first place) In the mean time, this recipe makes a pretty darn good fat chocolate chip cookie.
UPDATE JUNE- 2011 – I just received another little hint about the Levain cookies. Ives, a reader and huge Levain cookie fan (she gets them like 4 times a week) noticed that they freeze the cookies prior to baking them! Here’s the comment..
Hi,I am also quite obsessed with the Levain cookies and have been going to the bakery 4 times this whole month (I’m from the Philippines). Have you noticed that they put the balls of weighed dough inside the freezer and once it’s hard (but not frozen enough to have a layer of ice on the outside) they assemble 6 of them in the sheet to bake? Have you tried freezing dough and baking the frozen dough? I think this is the secret of the gooey middle! What do you think?
I think it makes complete sense, Ives. How about it, all? Another little hint that gets us a bit closer! To all who try this, let me know how it works out for you!
- 2 sticks 'cold and cubed' unsalted butter
- ¾ cup granulated sugar**
- ¾ cup brown sugar**
- 2 eggs
- 3¼ to 3½ cups AP flour - spoon and sweep method
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I usually use half semisweet and half milk chocolate AND, a little birdy told me they use Guittard)
- 1 cup walnuts***
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugars until well blended and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time.. and beat until well incorporated.
- Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chunks and nuts.
- Transfer dough to clean work surface and gently mix dough by hand to ensure even distribution of ingredients. The dough should be moist, kind of like cold cookie dough in a tube.. but not super sticky, so you can portion the cookies with your hands. Divide into 12 equal portions, about 4 oz each*
- Place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper and cover and chill the dough balls in the fridge for about an hour. OR, just make the dough and cover it in a bowl for up to 72 hours, but no longer. Preheat oven to 350F.
- Bake in the preheated oven 15-20 minutes depending on how gooey and raw you like the middles (I bake mine at 350 for 18-minutes since I prefer a less raw interior), until very lightly browned, taking care not to over bake. Let cool on rack and store what you don't immediately eat in an airtight container. To freshen them after a few days (if they last that long), give them a quick nuke in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
** If you want a more 'caramel-molasses like' Chocolate chip walnut cookie, increase the brown sugar while decreasing the white sugar, so you still have 1½ cups total sugar. (Like 1 cup brown sugar to ½ cup white sugar).
*** Toast the nuts for more flavor, and use any kind of nut you like if you don't like walnuts (or no nuts at all).
-The Levain Bakery doesn't use vanilla extract in their cookies, as they feel it's unecessary. However, some feel you need it. You can add 1 to 2 teaspoons to the recipe if desired. Just add it after each egg is incorporated.
- 2 sticks cold and cubed unsalted butter
- 1¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup good quality dark cocoa powder
- 2¼ to ½ cups all-purpose flour- Spoon and Sweep method
- ¼ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1½ cups peanut butter chips*
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well-incorporated, then beat in cocoa powder.
- Mix in flour, salt and baking powder until just combined. Gently fold in remaining ingredients.
- Transfer dough to clean work surface and gently mix dough by hand to ensure even distribution of ingredients. Divide into 12 equal portions, about 4 oz each*, and place each on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in the preheated oven 16-20 minutes depending on how gooey and raw you like the middles (I bake mine at 350 for 18 minutes since I prefer a less raw interior), taking care not to over bake. . Let cool on a rack and store what you don't immediately eat in an airtight container. To freshen them after a few days (if they last that long), give them a quick nuke in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
**If you don't like peanut butter chips, use 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips.
- The Levain Bakery doesn't use vanilla extract in their cookies, as they feel it's unecessary. However, some feel you need it. You can add 1 to 2 teaspoons to the recipe if desired. Just add it after each egg is incorporated.
Please take a look through the comment section of this entry. There’s a lot of helpful hints that will aid in getting this cookie right!