Thursday, March 20, 2008

COPYCAT LEVAIN BAKERY CHOCOLATE CHIP WALNUT COOKIES

My kitchen scale arrived this week, so I had what I needed to try the Levain Bakery CC cookies again. And this time, I succeeded. These cookies are the bomb! When they came out of the oven, they felt heavy and I was worried that they would be heavy tasting. They're not. They're light as a feather, crispy outside and soft and delicate inside. They stayed as high as when they went in -- maybe even went up a bit -- and never came down -- there was no problem with spreading. They were scone-like in looks. I've had time to do some research and read other baker comments. What I learned while waiting for my scale to arrive was:
1. Don't beat the dough above low speed because it creates air and air collapses, causing a flatter cookie. It also heats up the dough when you mix on a higher speed.
2. Don't overmix the ingredients because that creates a tough cookie.
3. In the south, it usually is necessary to add extra flour to recipes.
4. Blonde Ambition (bakingblonde.blogspot.com put it well: make a stiff and thick dough.)
5. Definitely underbake these cookies a little for best taste and texture.
6. Have all your ingredients cold.

There's been quite a discussion going on about the lack of vanilla in the Levain cookie. I personally agree that vanilla doesn't do much for a CCC. I much prefer a coffee flavor, which doesn't taste like coffee at all in a cookie, it somehow just enhances everything in it. So I made a coffee "syrup," by adding instant coffee granules to coffee brandy. After stirring it well, I extracted 1 tsp. for the dough, which turned out to be the perfect flavoring for a half batch.

Some have wondered about the flour. I was also thinking that the Levain girls may have used at least some bread flour since they started their bakery with artisan breads, and since Jacques Torres uses a mix of bread and pastry flours for his CCC. I haven't experimented with it, and probably won't, because the cookies I made today are just about the most perfect little confections I have tasted -- no need to search further. For me, this is the ultimate CCC. Oh, one more thing: I will never make a 6 oz. cookie. I will leave that to Levain. For me, 2 oz. was enough. And my lovely new scale helped me form uniform 2 oz. portions, so that the cookies baked evenly. One batch was baked at 375F and one batch at 350F. I prefer the lower baking temp. The cookies were not as browned, but I liked them just a tad better. These are also, at least for me, better when slightly underbaked. Problem is, I could eat all of them easily, they're so good. My little camera did not take such great photos, but hopefully you will get the idea --


If you want to get in on the blog discussion at other sites, sugoodsweets.com, bakingblonde.blogspot.com and cookiemadness.net all have some version of this recipe with blogger comments. sugoodsweets has the most comments; it's almost like reading a book. One of the bloggers, Lisa, came up with the recipe I used, except for the flavoring which is mine. I used pecans with the walnuts because it's what I had. The cookies on the top shelf were baked at 350F. The ones on the bottom were baked at 375F. They are both great, but I like the ones baked at 350F just a tad better, maybe because they are just a tad more underbaked. One of the keys to this cookie is underbaking; the other key is using enough flour to make a somewhat stiff dough.
Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (half recipe)
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup sugar (half brown, half white)I used about 1/3 cup brown and about 2 tsp. Stevia
1 large egg, cold
1 tsp. coffee syrup (see note above)
1-3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept (Note: this is just a guide.   You will need to find the correct amount of flour for your particular locale.  Flour amounts are affected by altitude and humidity and probably some other variables.  Humidity and pressure can change from day to day, so that the correct amount today may be the wrong amount tomorrow.) 
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder (double acting)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used half Hershey's Special Dark, half Ghirdadelli Milk)
1/2 cup toasted whole nuts (I used 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup pecans) If you don't like nuts in your CC cookies, leave them out; these are YOUR cookies, make them the way you like them.

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars on low speed and mix just till somewhat combined, not creamed, and not fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and flavoring and continue to mix on low for about another minute, till they are incorporated. Fold in the dry ingredients and the nuts which you have first measured and mixed together. Continue mixing on low speed for about 1-2 minutes, or till flour is incorporated and  you have a stiff and thick dough. Add chips and mix another 30 seconds. Measure out 2 oz. dough for each cookie (or more if you want them bigger). Bake for 11-13 minutes, or till toothpick inserted near center returns with a few crumbs. Transfer immediately to wire rack to cool. Yield: 11(2-oz.) melt-in-your mouth cookies. These are not what I call chewy. They are soft and delicate inside with a crispy outside. Absolutely wonderful. The coffee flavoring is perfect. Please let me know if you like them. Leave a comment rather than an email. An email will not show up on the blog, but a comment will.

64 comments:

Anna said...

I like the cookie, but that is one sleek looking scale!

Lisa said...

Judy,

Love the addition of coffee, and the scaling down. It's great how you can this recipe your own with a few tweaks and subs. I'm so glad I was able to figure out what could be the recipe, but even if it isn't exact, ingredient wise, it sure looks and tastes like them! :)

Anonymous said...

i have no idea what i did wrong but my cookies spread!!! gosh darned it i just want a big thick cookie! no more flat ones!!! they are great if you put white choc chips in w/ the chocolate, ps.

Judy said...

Jil - I'm sorry your cookies spread. Don't give up. You either need more flour or less mixing, or possibly both. The dough should be stiff and thick. This type of baking can be trial and error. Let me know if you succeed.

Anonymous said...

I followed the recipe except I used vanilla. Mine were huge but spread and weren't as thick as the pics. I didn't have parchment paper either. Oddly they came out hollow in the center and collapsed, so they were also pretty crispy.

Judy said...

Anonymous - If your cookies collapsed, it's because you overbeat the dough. The best way to ensure that you don't do that is to make the cookies by hand -- no electric mixing. I'm not kidding when I say you just barely combine the ingredients. You also might not have had enough flour, but that's touchy because if you put in too much, they'll be tough and dry. The dough should be somewhat sticky but firm. Don't give up because when you get it right, it's nirvana! Let me know how they turn out.

Anonymous said...

I followed the recipe, with a few substitutions. I used all pecans, and I used Kahlua liqueur instead of the coffee syrup. The cookies were fantastic.

Thanks for decoding the Levain recipe.

-Jeff

Judy said...

Jeff - Thanks so much for the feedback. I'm glad you liked them.

Simone said...

Hi! I made these cookies today after reading that whole thread about them on Su Good Sweets. I almost followed the recipe to a T but felt like experimenting a tiny bit. I used 1/4 cup Bisquick in place of a 1/4 of flour. I also grated about an ounce of Hershey's Special Dark for baking and threw that in too. I would say the cookies definately came out more as a cakey type than a gooey/chewy type. The family liked them and I guess that is what matters. :D Thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried baking these from a frozen state? I like to make up a bunch of dough and then freeze it and bake off on small batches. Just wondering how these would work out.

Judy said...

Anonymous -- I don't see why you can't bake these from a frozen state. You would have to adjust your baking time to allow for thawing in the oven. Or you can let the dough thaw on the cookie sheet before you bake. LOL

Andrea said...

Judy, you are my new hero. I have been telling everyone about this bakery since I saw the Throwdown (more like a smackdown). Cannot wait to try your version.

OAJ from NYC said...

Hi Judy,

I just pulled these out of the oven. They look like the real McCoy!!! And they smell good too! I used an extra large egg, so I upped the flour to a scant 2 cups scooped from the container with a spoon. Also, I used a pinch of salt and about 1 tsp vanilla and about 1/2 oz old morning coffee. The cookies didn't spread. They look pretty darn large and round and puffy--just like Levain's. I live a few blocks from Levain, so I know the real thing. The cookies are cooling right now, but we are dying to try them. I'll post the taste results later. We want to make coffee and tea to go with these beautiful HUGE cookies. By the way, I yielded 10 big cookies. You recipe really does "look" right. Now...on to the tasting...more later! Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

OAJ in NYC said...

The cookies were very good. This recipe is a keeper. I think Levain's are sweeter than these. I think Levain's are a tad too sweet. So I actually prefer the sweetness level of this recipe more. I am now convinced that they are bread flour, not just all AP flour. Levain's are a but chewy and has slightly different crumb. Nonetheless, these were very close and I'll making them again. Now I need to find their an oatmeal raisin and scone copy cat. People don't realize that Levain Bakery also makes EXCELLENT scones.

Judy said...

OAJ in NYC -- Thanks for the feedback. I am going to make them again with bread flour. Also, I did try their oatmeal scones (recipe is on my site)but was underwhelmed with the results.

melissa said...

I recently had a levain cookie. I am obsessed! This is a must try recipe!

Ashley said...

Judy,

Thanks so much for the recipe. I'm a huge sweets lover and I was determined to find this recipe and bake the cookies. I also usually have the problem of my cookies spreading. Hopefully this won't be the case this time after reading your advice on this issue. I love the coffee syrup idea. I used to make CCC with esspresso and they always tasted great.

-Ashley

Anonymous said...

I love these cookies, no way they are ever going to spread....just gave away about 150 of them at my wifes resturant in about 5 minutes ...the people were going crazy for them ...I used a 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffe granuals and a tesspoon of Frangelica liquor in the mix...it worked great! Thanks again for this super keeper recipe

Anonymous said...

Hi Judy.

thanks for the recipe.. It looks really easy so I decided to give it a try.. I just finished baking the cookies and took them out from the oven.. They look great. Can't wait to take a bite!!
thanks once again..

Anonymous said...

HI Judy!!
What fantastic cookies!! Thank you thank you thank you. I added coconut and oh boy, are they lovely!
You're amazing.
Kelsey

Judy said...

Anonymous, You're very welcome! So glad you liked them. They are definitely my fave.

Denise said...

Judy,
I found your blog when I did a search for the Levain copy cat recipe. I just made them, and they are WONDERFUL! I'm in Utah, so I followed your advice to add less flour. They aren't quite as fluffy as yours, but they're close. Net time I'll add a little more flour. Thanks for the recipe!

Susan's Snippets said...

Judy -

I started selling cookies at my local farmer's market and only TWICE was I able to get my "Chocolate chipped and dot dot dotted w/Pecans" cookie to turn out consistently the same thickness/chewiness/size.

So I turned to the internet and came across your blog. My question is do I have to use coffee syrup or flavoring of coffee at all? If I don't what should I use instead?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

need to make the same cookie more than twice
:^)

S

Judy said...

Susan - You do not need to use coffee flavoring, but I promise you it is wonderful in these cookies. You don't taste the coffee, but if you are coffee averse, leave it out. You don't have to sub anything. Levain Bakery doesn't even use vanilla.

Martha :) said...

Judy,

I made these cookies by hand the first time using just bread flour and they came out great, but was curious if it was right using the same measurement of 1-3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp of AP flour for the bread flour?

Judy said...

Martha, If they turned out great, you used the right amount. The flour measuring thing is very subjective and depends on moisture in the air, altitude, etc. I've been wanting to try these again with bread flour, thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

I used a lot of flour, more walnuts, and more chocolate chips. Mine didn't spread at all. I also used Khalua with espresso powder mixed in for the coffee syrup. They were very yummy and thick. They were basically the exact shape as when I put them in the oven.

Judy said...

Anonymous, Thanks so much for the feedback. There can never be too many chocolate chips in a cookie, or nuts for that matter. I need to make these cookies again soon.

Lorrie said...

Thank You Judy! These are amazing. The slight hint of coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor. This is a KEEPER! I've tried another copy cat recipe after watching the Throw Down w/ Bobby Flay, here were good, but these are better.
Thanks so much for sharing. I actually already owned the exact scale (which I LOVE), so scaling out the cookies was a breeze and I agree, 2oz is plenty. The hard part is not eating the entire batch. Thanks again!

Judy said...

Lorrie, Thanks so much for the feedback. I'm so glad you like the coffee addition. I still can't believe that Levain and others prefer baking CCC w/o vanilla or other flavors.

Laura said...

I'm baking these cookies now!!! I followed the recipe exactly, but since I didn't have coffee, I used almond extract rather than vanilla. They smell fantastic!! I'm sure they'll taste even better! Right now they've been baking for about 4 minutes, and they're spreading a bit, but not too much. Lookin good! I'll report back how they are once I've had a taste test. Thanks for the recipe!!! =)

Anonymous said...

I didn't read ALL of the comments, but I made these cookies, and I am surprised no one mentioned that they are not sweet enough. I LOVE Levain cookies, but I just moved to LA, and had a craving. My boyfriend and I tried them, but they tasted more like scones to me than cookies...very floury, not sugary enough like the lovely Levain cookies. Thanks for trying!

Judy said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your feedback. I'm at a disadvantage because I've never tasted a Levain. Based on objective tasting, these tasted wonderful to me, just sweet enough. But then, as I said, I've never tasted a Levain.

Jean-Pierre said...

Hi,
Thank for the recipe.
I was in NYC, last week and I test the Levain Bakery cookies, and I like it !!!

I live in Belgium and I'd like to do but can you tell me what's matches:
- Baking soda
- Kosher salt
- Coffee syrup
and the weight of "one stick Unsalted butter cold"?

Thank you in advance for your help.

Judy said...

Jean-Pierre, Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate; kosher salt is a coarse ground salt (any coarse-ground salt will work).
Coffee syrup is not in the Levain cookie. It's my addition and you can feel free to leave it out. You won't taste it, it just makes the cookie taste better. If you decide to use it, just mix equal parts of instant coffee granules with liqueur (like chocolate or coffee liqueur). Refrigerate leftovers and use in cookies, cakes, muffins, etc., as flavoring. One stick of butter is 4 oz. Hope this helps. And remember, this recipe is a copy-cat version, it's not the real Levain recipe. They won't give it out. And, by the way, I've never tasted it. Good luck.

Karen said...

Anyone have any idea how many calories might be in the Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies? I received a shipment today and they are huge. Would love to know how "bad" they are. Thanks for any ideas.

Judy said...

Karen,Well, let's see, there's chocolate chips, walnuts, butter, sugar and flour. I don't see anything in there that's not fattening. Just figure that they're really really bad, because they're bigger than traditional ccc.

erin said...

Thank you so much for the recipe. I did about half and half bread flour and AP flour and increased the sugar a wee bit on account of the bittersweet chocolate I used. I followed all the other directions exactly and they came out fat and puffy like I wanted. They are cakey with little bit of chewy. Delicious.

Judy said...

Erin, You are so welcome and thank you for the feedback. When I made these, I wasn't into bittersweet chocolate, but now it's my chip of choice for CCC. I found these cookies to have a scone-like texture, but the underbaking is what makes them special. The NY Times called Levain Bakery CCC "borderline raw."

Michelle said...

Judy,
I live in Wisconsin and used the same amount of flour that you used and it turned out just perfect. I did use 1/2 bread flour and 1/2 AP flour and they rose into little mounds of perfection! I also used 1/2 bittersweet choco and 1/2 milk choco chips as well. I did measure out 3oz cookies because I wanted them to be a bit larger and I did need to cook them about 20 mins. They were still perfectly gooey in the middle! Thanks so much for this recipe, I will definitely make this again and again!
Michelle

Michelle said...

Judy,
I live in Wisconsin and used the same amount of flour that you used and it turned out just perfect. I did use 1/2 bread flour and 1/2 AP flour and they rose into little mounds of perfection! I also used 1/2 bittersweet choco and 1/2 milk choco chips as well. I did measure out 3oz cookies because I wanted them to be a bit larger and I did need to cook them about 20 mins. They were still perfectly gooey in the middle! Thanks so much for this recipe, I will definitely make this again and again!
Michelle

Judy said...

Michelle, thanks so much for the feedback. The whole flour thing is tricky. Could be you used the same amt. because it's summer. Who knows? You have to get a feel for the dough to know how much is enough. So glad they turned out and I love your changes.

Tara said...

Thanks for the great recipe! I first used your recipe at the beginning of the summer while I was visiting family. These cookies were requested and re-requested throughout the summer. I used my own homemade vanilla (made in a rum base instead of vodka) and that was my only alteration.

Judy said...

Tara, thanks for your feedback, so glad the recipe worked for you. I love homemade vanilla -- so much better than store bought. Levain Bakery doesn't use ANY vanilla in their cookie, though -- someday I'll try making the cookies w/o vanilla to see what they taste like.

JiaJia said...

Hi Judy,

I just tested your recipe and yes! They look like mini Levain cookies. Outside is crispy and inside is soft with a bit of chewy texture.

I only had salted butter so I didn't add in any more salt in the recipe. Also I didn't have any coffee liquor, so I just added 1tsp of granulated coffee.

I live in South East Asia, so it's pretty humid thus I also added an extra tsp of flour. It helps!

My mom and brother are both mad about the first batch that I've made. Mom even requested for another batch!

Anonymous said...

Hi Judy,

Any ideas about how to keep the cookies fresh longer? Lot of people are saying to keep a slice of bread with the cookies. But do you know of anything, as far as substituting certain ingredients such as the sugar, to keep the cookies fresher for longer?

Thanks

Judy said...

Anonymous, I always freeze leftover cookies right away, so I have no problems keeping them fresh. When I want a cookie, I just take one out about 1/2 hour before I want to eat it, or on the spur of the moment just pop one in the MW for about 12 seconds, then let sit for 5 minutes. Works like a charm.

Thyra said...

Judy, thanks for your help, my daughter and I discovered Levain Bakery around the corner from our hotel two weekends ago, it became our breakfast spot and afternoon snack spot for the next three days, the cookies, muffins, scones just right. I made your cookies tonight, to send her in a college care package, my husband and I split one as a taste test, it was delicious. So glad to have this recipe.

Judy said...

Thyra, thanks so much for that feedback. I'm now drooling for a Levain-clone CC cookie.

Bella said...

Judy, I recently made these cookies and decided to share a link to your blog on my blog post. I hope this meets with your approval! If you'd like, you can have a look. My blog address is: http://gypsyroxylee.wordpress.com/

Thanks for such a wonderful interpretation of the Levain chocolate chip cookie! :)

Judy said...

Bella, thanks for the shout-out and I'm so glad you enjoyed my "interpretation."

Anonymous said...

Hello Judy,
May want to revise the amount of flour in your second recipe. I believe you should have 3/4 of a cup since the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups. I went to make the cookies following the second recipe and will probably have to throw away. Thanks anyways...

Judy said...

Anonymous, Don't understand your comment. I increased the flour from 1-1/2 cups in the orig. recipe to
1-3/4 cups + 1 Tbsp. It was specifically for our low altitude here in coastal North Carolina. Others have tried this successfully, so I'm confused as to why you think the flour should be 3/4 cup. That would definitely not work. Sorry you had trouble though and wish I could be of more help to you.

Karen said...

These cookies came out delicious with a tender center, but they did not brown at all. I tried turning the temperature up to 375 for the second pan, but they still did not brown. Any idea why? Thanks!

Judy said...

Anonymous, It's hard to diagnose problems long distance. Baked at 350F, these cookies don't brown much. Baked at 375F, you get better browning, but I like the texture better at 350F. Have you tested your oven's true temperature with an oven thermometer? It may be that you set it at 375F, but it's actually baking at a lower temp.

Judy said...

Karen, the comment to Anonymouse is for you, sorry, I guess it's too early.

Anonymous said...

Hi Judy,

Can you please explain how many grams a "stick of butter is?" I am from Australia but I recently visited New York and stumbled across Levain's cookies and would love to try your recipe. Do you have a recipe for their chocolate peanut butter cookies?

Many thanks,
Susan

Judy said...

Hi Susan, A stick of butter is 113 grams.
Here is Lisa's copycat version of the chocolate PB cookie:

***Lisa's Levain Copycat Dark Chocolate Peanut butter Chip Cookies (**Yields 1 dozen cookies)

Ingredients
2 sticks cold and cubed unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality Dutch cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups peanut butter chips

Directions
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 sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in the preheated oven 16-20 minutes depending on how gooey and raw'ish you like the middles (I bake mine at 375 for 18 minutes, as I prefer a less raw'ish' interior), taking care not to overbake. . 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.

** - The Levain Bakery uses 6 oz of cookie dough per cookie.. If you want 12 cookies out of the above recipes, a little over 4 oz per cookie (4.1 to 4.2 oz. Use a kitchen scale) will get you that. If you want to use 6 oz of cookie dough per cookie, you'll probably get only 6-8 cookies. However, a little over 4 oz makes a cookie just as thick and huge, so you don't even notice the difference.

*** - Regarding the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies. I used Dutch-process cocoa. If you use basic, natural unsweetened cocoa (you know, your basic Hershey's in the brown can or whatever), add 1/4 tsp baking soda to the dry ingredients. Also, if they're too 'chocolatey' and rich for you, use only 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and add 1/4 cup extra flour.

Note1 - 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 tsp if desired. Just add it after each egg is incorporated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much Judy, I am hoping to try both recipies this weekend. Supermarkets in Australoia dont sell peanut butter chips, but I have just found an American supermarket that does.
Thanks again
Susan

Jennie said...

Like Karen, who posted on 4/21/11, my cookies turned out great except that they did not brown at all at 350 degrees - even with an extra 4 minutes in the oven. I will try a higher temperature next time, but I wonder if cooking them on a higher rack in the oven would also help?

Judy said...

Jennie, Buy an oven thermometer. They're cheap (under $10) and then you'll know if your oven is truly baking at 350F when it's set at 350F. Otherwise, you're just stabbing in the dark. If you experiment, do so with one or two cookies so you don't waste a whole batch if the experiment goes awry. PS, I didn't get good browning at 350F, but I could have if I left the cookies in longer. But then the centers would be ruined. Here's one more trick to try: Underbake the cookies by several minutes. Cool them, then rebake. The edges will be crispier, you'll get more browning, and the cookies will still be soft in the centers. I've tried it for other cookies and it works.

Anonymous said...

Hi Judy,
Thank you for the recipe. I made these today and they are delicious. I forgot to add the salt, but I do not notice any difference from the ones I have purchased at Levain. I used 1/2 tea of espresso powder and baked the cookies at 350 for 12 minutes.

Judy said...

Anonymous, you are welcome and so glad they turned out for you.

Anonymous said...

very good!