Friday, February 29, 2008


NOTE: See my 3/20/08 updated successful copycat version.

Bobby Flay had a chocolate chip cookie throwdown with Levain Bakery recently. (Levain Bakery is a NYC bakery that makes what they call the world's best chocolate chip cookie. One cookie weighs almost a half-pound and sells for $3.50. Check them out here: The throwdown has been televised on Food Network several times, and naturally, there's a copykat recipe circulating on food blogs. Cookie Madness has had success in very nearly duplicating the cookie's height and texture. I've made two attempts and both have failed. Levain's cookie looks almost like a scone -- it's that high. A photo of my second attempt is above. I chilled the dough for 2 hours before baking, but they "melted" when they hit the heat. In the first attempt, shown below, they hardly rose at all before melting and spreading. The taste of the first batch was like a typical chocolate chip cookie, no great shakes. Texture is what matters here, and the texture is affected by the height of the cookie, or how it rises. In the second batch, since I'm tired of the typical vanilla-flavored chocolate chip cookies, I used instant coffee granules dissolved in coffee brandy for the flavoring, instead of vanilla; and I have to say the flavor is definitely improved. I can only think of 3 things that would have worked against me on the rising of the cookie: 1. the sugar substitute I'm using has very little volume; 2. I used a higher ratio of brown sugar, which is more liquid than white; 3. the original sugar amounts were reduced because the Levain cookie is overly sweet. Other than that, I followed instructions carefully. One of these days I will make this cookie again using all the sugar, no substitutes, and using the proper ratio of brown and white sugars. Since I need to move on to other things, I'm going to let this recipe go for now.

Copykat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies, Adapted
NOTE: See my 3/20/08 updated successful copycat version.

INGREDIENTS: 1 stick butter, unsalted, cold, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. Stevia)
1 cup brown sugar (recipe actually calls for 1 cup of white and 1 cup of brown sugar)
1 large egg, cold
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used 2 tsp. coffee granules dissolved in 1-1/2 tsp. coffee brandy)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Pillsbury unbleached)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
6 oz. chocolate (I used a 5-oz. bar of chopped Hershey's Milk Chocolate with Almonds and 1/4
cup of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips)
1/2 cup toasted whole walnuts

DIRECTIONS: In medium bowl of electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on a medium-low speed till well blended but not fluffy. Add the egg and flavoring and beat again on medium-low till well combined. Do not overbeat, as overbeating creates air bubbles which then deflate the cookie. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix on slowest speed till just combined. Dough should not be too sticky nor too dry. It should be a stiff dough. Add the whole nuts and chocolate to the dough and let the mixer blend them in, at the same time crunching the walnuts. This will leave some nice big pieces of walnuts, giving the cookie that rustic, lumpy look. Chill the dough thoroughly, at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F with oven rack in center position. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Levain measures each lump of dough for a perfect 6 oz. I made myself a note, again, to order a kitchen scale, which I've been meaning to do for about a year now and keep forgetting. Cookie Madness measured out 4 oz. lumps. I used my ice cream scoop for nice rounded scoops of dough and I have no idea what they weighed, but I'm guessing they were 2 oz. Personally, I don't want cookies any bigger than that, but if you have a scale and you like huge monster cookies, go for the 4 or 6 oz. I got 12 cookies out of this batch of dough. Probably the first batch was under 2 oz. and the second batch was over 2 oz. because I had no scale and I was just guessing. (The 2nd batch had some dough left over which I divided among the remaining 6 cookies.) There is much wisdom in owning and using kitchen scales.

Bake the cookies about 8 minutes, then without opening oven door, turn the heat down to 350F and bake for another 7-10 minutes, or till almost set. The cookies will continue to cook after they are removed from the oven. Better to underbake than overbake. You can also bake them at 350F for the whole time (15-20 minutes). Remove cookie sheet to rack to cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Here are the cookies nice and mounded, cold from the fridge, just in the oven:
I really thought they would puff up and be huge. But to my dismay, they melted when the heat hit them, and here they are 15 minutes later, nicely puffed, and quite deliciously crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, but not like the Levain cookie:


Anonymous said...

Judy, try the one I posted but make sure to use both sugars. Also, err on the high side with the flour. I used 3 cups, but Michelle made these with 3 cups and hers weren't as go with 3 1/4 cups.

Also, this recipe halves easily so you might want to start with half batch.

Big Fat Copy Cat Cookies

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold – cut into chunks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces (2 cups) good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts)

If using dough right away, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars just until creamy (not fluffy!) Don’t overbeat. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just until incorporated.

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. When thoroughly mixed, add to batter and stir just until blended. Dough should be neither too sticky, nor too dry.

Divide dough into 12 big 4 oz lumps. Bake on ungreased cookies sheets (one sheet at a time).
Bake times:

Put the cookies in a 375 degree oven and set timer for 8 minutes. When timer rings, without opening oven or removing cookies, reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until cookies appear set.

Judy said...

Anna, thanks. I did use your recipe -- I halved it and changed the flavor. I used more brown than white sugar thinking that would give a richer flavor and I used a sugar substitute for the white sugar. I agree, since it didn't work, that next time I need to stick to the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I think brown sugar might spread a little. Maybe with the bulk of regular granulated sugar and only part brown sugar, you'll get a little more rise.

Oh, thanks for clueing us in on that "third" sugar. Glad it was Bobby Flay's. Now I don't have to worry about it. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hi... I just pulled my first batch of these cookies out of the oven. I followed the full recipe amounts with exception of the chocolate. I added about 2 c of semi sweet cc and a hand full of each of mini cc and white cc. The only difference I can see between yours and mine is that I just threw it all in a bowl and mixed all together... no separation of dry and add to wet or anything. I made big handfuls of dough on the pizza stone at 375 for about 18 minutes and the cookies didn't fall. They stayed nice and tall and didn't spread much. I hope they taste as good as they smell!

Judy said...

Debbie: Thanks for your input. Right now I have so many chocolate chip cookies in my freezer, I can't bake any more. But when I do get back to these, I'll try it your way.

Anonymous said...

Judy, I think Debbie's method isn't too different than mine. I did cream mine butter and sugar, but only to the point that they stuck together. That is, I didn't beat them until the sugar dissolved or until fluffy. I'd be scared to just throw everything into the bowl and mix because of the baking powder. I suppose you could pre-mix the dry ingredients to distribute the baking powder and THEN lump it all together.

Judy said...

Anna -- your mixing method was different from mine -- I creamed the butter and sugar. Interestingly, the Levain girls showed their creamed butter and sugar and it looked creamed, not lumpy, and they didn't chill their dough. I agree with you about the baking powder. Next time I'll just barely combine the butter and sugar before adding the other ingredients. The Levain girls didn't chop their nuts either, they just put them in the mixer with the flour mixture and let the mixer do it.

Anonymous said...

Good luck on your cookies once you decide to make some more. I had an exchange student from Iceland stay with me for a year and she is the one that taught me to just mix it all together all at once. I've been doing it that way ever since... 12 years I think! Wow time flies! I have never had any issues with the baking powder... I think you'll be surprised how easy it goes if you decide to give it a try. Thanks for all the tips. I'll definitely make these cookies again and again.

Judy said...

Debbie: I appreciate your input. The thing that's interesting about your method is that you didn't chill the dough either. The mixing method really matters is what I'm finding out. But the Levain girls DID cream their butter and sugar first -- they said to cream till fluffy, and they didn't chill their dough, so I can't figure out why their cookies are so high! They're keeping something a secret. Darn these cookies have me obsessing. I must get rid of what's in my freezer so I can bake more. The landscaper and 3 men are coming tomorrow.....

Anonymous said...

Hello Judy!

I want to share with your readers my input on attempting to break the code of Levain's CC Cookies. I followed your recipe using a few variations. My husband, who is difficult to please, gave me a thumbs up! He also mentioned that the taste of the cookie "was consistent and well blended!" Here is what I did.........
I used TWO STICKS of PARKAY MARGERINE at room temperature.The sugars were used as you suggested. Instead of Large eggs I used two Extra-large eggs, 1 tsp of butter nut vanilla flavoring, 3 1/8 C unsifted flour, 12 ounce bag of mini CC store brand along with a banged up 6 ounce bar of bar of dark chocolate. I did not use nuts. The final ingredient which I think made a huge difference was adding a small box of INSTANT VANILLA PUDDING (3.4 OUNCE SIZE)I did not do any special mixing, threw all ingredients in at once (except CC)into a large mixing bowl and turned my electric mixer on low (to keep the flour dust from flying)just until the ingredients were incorporated and the dough formed into a big ball like bread dough does. Then I turned the mixer up to its highest point just until the majority of the dough flung off the beater. I did not refrigerate. This dough was easy to handle. I folded the CC's by hand. Oven was preset to 375 degrees. Using my large ice cream scoop which weighed in at 2 ounces I placed each scoop onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment. The ideal baking time was 13 min. allowing the cookies an additional 2-3 mins to set before removing off cookie sheet. The cookie at 2 ounces was adequate, had weight to them, soft on the inside with a delicately crispy outer side. I used a disposable pan with lid as the vessel to keep the cookies fresh. That was two days ago and the cookies has maintain its flavor and softness. I can imagine that using other flavors of puddings, i.e. butterscotch for example, would be a good substitute for the vanilla instant pudding. Now what I would like to do is order a couple of cookies from Levain to see how close this variation of your recipe comes to play. I will keep you all posted. Also note that I did not change the temperature of the oven. I baked my batch at 375 the entire time. The batch yield 24 cookies.
Benita j Lewis, OH

Judy said...

Bonita, Thanks so much for giving us this input. I will try making these again using all the comments I've received.

Anonymous said...

In my haste to send this memo out I think I should mention that I did not OMIT anything out of your recipe, that I used the same amount of salt, baking powder and soda.

Anonymous said...

Hey i felt a sudden need to make ridiculously large cookies with my friend and we decided to try to look up the recipe from the Levain bakery. We were looking at the recipe you gave and we thought there was oatmeal in it. of course we could be insane. hahaa

doemora said...


Thanks for the recipe! Just wanted to comment that at higher altitudes you use MORE flour (and usually a little more liquid and less sweetener-- all chemistry :-) )- I live at 6500ft in AZ on the navajo reservation.

look forward to more of your food!!