Reworking the Levain Bakery Copycat CookieMarch 11, 2009 at 1:52 am | Posted in Cookies, Dessert | 237 Comments
Tags: brown sugar, chocolate chip cookie, Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies, Levain clone, Levain Copycat
OK, so I was wrong, I admit it. I hadn’t had an actual Levain Chocolate Chip cookie in a while when I tried to decipher the recipe for Levain’s famous Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie the first time. Well, a friend surprised me with a Levain cookie last week (she bought several, but couldn’t resist the smell and ended up eating two of the three she purchased). Now, don’t get me wrong, one is more than enough, and I was happy to savor that giant, mysterious, gooey mountain of gooey chocolate, brown sugar, nutty heaven on my palate and stuff it down my eager gullet.
After the first bite, I knew it – my copycat, although a really good fat and chewy chocolate chip cookie, was missing that intense caramel-molasses flavor that the Levain saturates your taste buds with. I had fooled myself and others since it looked like Levain’s (well. it was big and fat, but it wasn’t as raggedy as Levain’s) and right out of the oven tasted very much like Levain’s, but it was all the gooey, melty chocolate flavor and texture that made it seem that way at first, second. third.. bite.
Okay – it was back to the drawing board – well, not completely because, as you recall, I did make a note that if you wanted a more caramel-molasses flavor in the cookie, to increase the brown sugar and decrease the white sugar, although I’d never tasted it that way myself. After sinking my teeth into Levain’s cookie, I also realized a little dark brown sugar could be lurking in there somewhere.
Experimenting with flour and leavenings
Increasing the flour and leavenings AND chilling the dough resulted in a pale, puffy cookie, whereas decreasing the flour and leavenings, without chilling the dough, resulted in a flat cookie. Neither close to Levain’s aesthetically, but tasty nonetheless.
My original copycat came from watching that now famous Throwdown episode, over and over, and every.single.time I slo-mo’d the sugars being added, they looked to be equal amounts. However, there have been other shows these ladies have been on, and what you see and hear is always a little different each time, which makes perfect sense, since this is a recipe they came up with and want to keep under wraps.
Now that’s more like it!
Before I get to what I did with the cookie, I have to tell you a little story. A while back I received a comment, and in the throes of PMS I deleted it, because I thought it was someone going out of their way to attenuate my cookie – aka a troll. The comment, as I recall, was …
First off, I wish I didn’t delete it, and just replied to him/her, considering I stated that I could take and wanted any kind of constructive critiquing/criticism to help make whatever it was I cooked or baked, better. I wouldn’t call that anonymous person’s comment constructive criticism by any stretch, but it did deserve a reply.
An extra cup of flour and any addition or change in leavenings make a huge difference in a cookie (see experimentation photos above and Alton Brown’s 6 million variations on chocolate chip cookies)! This is why baking is called a science. Why else would there be such a variety of textures, sizes, heights ( eg: flat and crispy, flat and chewy, cakey, puffy etc) of basic chocolate chip cookies all over the nation/world? Your basic, gluten, non-vegan, chocolate chip cookie contains pretty much the same ingredients – butter (or shortening – bleccch) solid or melted, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, flour and chocolate chips. Salt is sometimes (and should be) added, as is vanilla extract.
However, the leavenings and amount of flour play a huge part in turning your cookies into what you want them to be as does the amount of sugar(s), fats and any other flavorings you add, but again, we’re talking your basic chocolate chip cookie here. To put it simply, every basic chocolate chip cookie recipe that contains butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, flour. salt, vanilla, and chocolate chips, is not a rip-off of the infamous Tollhouse cookie.
Back to the good stuff, the new and improved Levain copycat! All I really did was change the amount of sugars, incorporating some dark brown sugar for extra flavor. I also changed the kosher salt to table salt or fine sea salt because frankly, kosher salt is coarse and doesn’t disseminate throughout the dough as a finer ground salt would. You could always give kosher salt a spin in the spice grinder to break it down, if you’d like. You could also use all light brown sugar and forgo the dark brown, as the most important factor here is increasing the brown sugar and decreasing the white sugar.
I also played around with the amounts of flour, leavenings, and chilling of the dough prior to getting what I think is closer to the original Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie, which you can see *again* in the above photos.
Remember, this is NOT Levain’s recipe, it’s just another one of my many desperate attempts to create a chocolate chip-walnut cookie that comes close to it. Suffice it to say, I’ll probably end up doing it again when I take a bite of another authentic Levain in the near future. I’m very satisfied with this one, but who knows?
Without further adieu, here’s my Levain copycat modification:
UPDATE 4/1/09 – If you’ve already read this recipe, you’ll notice I’ve reduced the flour amount. This is because I wasn’t satisfied with the texture of the cookie upon cooling. The cookie with less flour is a lot more tender and remains tender for a longer period of time. NOW, I’m still not done! I’ll be experimenting with a combo of flours after a little birdie pointed something out to me..so stay tuned for the Levain Copycat PART THREE!
Update – July ’10: A little birdie told me 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. Then again, could just be yet another rumor to throw us off LOL.
Update 2011 – 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 also (see My Much Discussed Levain Bakery Copy Cat Cookie entry) 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!
Levain Copycat Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie Part Deux
- 2 sticks (8 oz) ‘cold and cubed’ unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (3.5 oz or 100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (7.75 oz or 220 grams) light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup(3.88oz or 110grams ) dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups (about 13 oz or 384 grams) AP flour
- 1 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups (12 oz or 340 grams) good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I usually use half semisweet and half milk chocolate)
- 1 cup *4 oz or 120 grams) walnuts (Toast the nuts for more flavor, if desired. Use any kind of nut you like. I love macadamias in these)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. 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.
2. Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips/chunks and nuts.
3. 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
4. Place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake in the preheated oven 15-20 minutes depending on how gooey and raw you like the 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.
These are best eaten on the day they are made (ESPECIALLY warm out of the oven – like most chocolate chip cookies). To freshen them after a few days (if they last that long), give them a quick nuke in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
Also, once again, the Levain Bakery does not use vanilla extract in their chocolate chip walnut cookies. If you’d prefer to use it, add 1 tsp along with the eggs.
Makes about 12-14 cookies
- * 6 oz portions will give you about 8-10 cookies – bake another 3-5 minutes at 350 F.
If you don’t like this version of the Levain Copycat - try my first go ’round which seems to be quite popular.
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