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.