Thursday, October 6, 2011

Levain Lookalike: Copycat Levain Chocolate Chip Cookie (12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies)

If it's Thursday, it must be the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies! I promised I'd go easy on the 'Christmas' for a couple of weeks (because who can think about snowmen when it's still 80 degrees outside?), so instead of red-and-green food coloring and decorated gingerbread men, I'm giving you possibly the Best. Cookie. Recipe. Ever. How's that for an early Christmas present?

A few weeks ago, I shared my experience of the famous Levain Bakery in New York City. The bakery is best known for its cookies that come in four varieties (Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip) and one massive size - a full half-pound of doughy goodness. I've seen a lot of cookies in my day, but nothing prepared me for the hefty, molten deliciousness that is a Levain cookie. Their Chocolate Chip Walnut and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip varieties even made it onto my list of top sweet spots - around the world.

In the face of such brilliance, I did what any sane baker (read: crazy, sugar-addicted cookie craver) would do - I set out to make a copy. I tried to remember every detail of the process I'd observed during my visit to Levain (yes, I was snooping) and studied my photos of their finished product, but this only got me so far. Sure, I worked out that their cookies seemed brown-sugar rich and likely contained more flour than your average CCC (that's Chocolate Chip Cookie, to the uninitiated). I also surmised that they rested, refrigerated, and possibly froze their dough before baking (how else would their cookies get crispy on the inside while remaining molten in the middle?), but I still wasn't sure that these modifications would yield a Levain-alike recipe.

Enter a little lifesaver named Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. It seems that Lisa was lightyears ahead of me in terms of taking on the Levain legacy - she published her first copycat attempt back in May of 2008, and has continued to make modifications and discoveries since then. Her current version seemed so well researched that I decided to use it as the starting point for my own Levain-like cookies (it seems almost every other Levain-lover has followed suit since her recipe can be found all over the place and is even featured on the official Levain website!).

To be honest, the recipe is pretty great as-is. It reminds me of an old favorite Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I used to make as a teenager, and for this reason, I subbed milk chocolate chips in for semi-sweet - making it less Levain-like, I know, but equally delicious. I also added a dash of vanilla extract - an ingredient apparently missing from the official Levain cookies (though you could have fooled me since I definitely thought I'd detected that flavor during my visit in NYC!) - but otherwise left the recipe unchanged.

Strictly speaking, these aren't the most festive of Christmas cookies, but if you make no other cookie recipe this holiday season (or this lifetime) you should make this one. Trust me. Better yet, trust Levain!

Copycat Levain Chocolate Chip Cookie
adapted from Lisa's wonderfully researched recipe here
makes 6, 4-ounce cookies

1 stick cold, unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (I recommend using a blend of dark and light brown sugar)
1 large egg
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks (semi-sweet are more authentic, but milk chocolate is equally tasty!)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and (optional) vanilla and stir until well combined.

Add flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir until just combined, taking care not to overmix. Mixture may be somewhat dry and crumbly (this isn't you average cookie dough - but then, these aren't your average cookies!). Add the chocolate chips and walnuts, working them in gently with your hands to ensure they're evenly distributed.

Divide dough into 6, roughly portioned 4-ounce chunks (you can make 6-ouncers like Levain, but you'll only get four out of this small batch!). Wrap each chunk in a small square of plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or until ready to bake.

Prior to baking, transfer wrapped dough balls to the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Then transfer chilled dough balls to the parchment-covered baking sheet and bake in the center of a pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until cookie is browned on top but still doughy inside (6-ounce dough balls will require more baking time). Baking time depends on how molten you like your cookies, but take care not to overbake - if it's not half-raw inside, it's not Levain!

Allow to cool slightly before eating - but don't wait too long because these guys are best eaten fresh out of the oven!

A few notes: These cookies really do look and taste a lot like the original Levain cookie (the resemblance is actually pretty amazing) and they're a more than worthy substitute for those of us not within Metro-distance of the Upper West Side. Of course, there's still something magical about the real thing, and if I could suggest any changes, it would be to somehow make this recipe a little more buttery and, perhaps, a little more salty. The consistency is just about perfect and I actually preferred my version sans walnuts.

These cookies really are best eaten oven-hot, since they tend to firm up a lot upon cooling (a bit like the originals, actually). For this reason, I recommend baking the cookies 'as needed' and storing unbaked, wrapped dough balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator, rather than baking all at once. If you do happen to have a few leftover baked cookies, store them in an airtight container and warm them with a few seconds in the microwave (or a few minutes in a preheated oven) before eating.

This post is linked at:
Marvelously Messy: A Marvelous Mess Monday - Dittle Dattle: Amaze Me MondayMaking the World Cuter: Making the World Cuter Monday - C.R.A.F.T: Making Monday Marvellous - Keeping It Simple: Motivate Me Monday - A Southern Fairytale: Mouthwatering Monday - Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: Melt In Your Mouth MondaySkip To My Lou: Made By You Monday -Delightfully Dowling: Mangia Mondays -  Permanent Posies: Tuesdays Tasty Tidbits - 33 Shades of Green: Tasty Tuesday - At The Well: Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - Mandy's Recipe Box: Totally Tasty Tuesdays - Nap Time Creations: Tasty Tuesday - Not Just a Housewife: Show Me What Ya Got - New Nostalgia: Anti-Procrastination Tuesday - Sweetology: Tea Party Tuesday - I'm Topsy Turvy: Topsy Turvy Tuesday - Chef-in-Training: Tuesday Talent Show - Far Above Rubies: Domestically Divine Tuesday - Sugar Bee Crafts: Take A Look Tuesday - At Home With K: Terrific Under Ten Tuesday - Premeditated Leftovers: Hearth and Soul Hop - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday - Southern Lovely: Show & Share - This Chick Cooks: These Chicks Cooked - Someday Crafts: Whatever Goes Wednesday - Sugar and Dots: What I Whipped Up Wednesday - At Home With Haley: Recipes I Can't Wait To Try - Lady Behind the Curtain: Cast Party Wednesday - Blue Cricket Design: Show and Tell Wednesday - It's a Keeper: It's a Keeper Thursday - Miz Helen's Country Cottage: Full Plate Thursday - Feeding Four: What's Cooking Thursdays - What Allie's Making Now: Making it With Allie - Bizzy Bakes: Bake With Bizzy - Delightful Order: Delightfully Inspiring Thursday - The 36th Avenue: Share Your Awesomeness Thursday - The Shabby Creek Cottage: Transformation Thursday - Somewhat Simple: Strut Your Stuff - Simply Sweet Home: Friday Favorites - EKat's Kitchen: Friday Potluck - Creation Corner: Friday Link Party - Fingerprints on the Fridge: Feature Yourself Friday - Sugar Bananas: Sweets This Week


  1. omg yum.

    found you via TT.

    hope you'll visit me and my giveaway!


  2. Those are some huge cookies! What a treat for true life cookie monsters :-)

  3. You sold me....I will definetly try these! Onto Pinterest they go!

  4. Wow, now THAT is a cookie. I love how thick and chunky and big it is.

  5. I haven't tried the Levain bakery cookies yet even though I live in NYC...mostly cause I'm scared that once I start eating them I won't be able to stop! These look SO GOOD.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipes with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week end and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  7. Stopping over from Tasty Tuesday Party and these cookies look ridiculously good. I love how thick they are. Pinned!

  8. Every time I see a chocolate chip cookie recipe I pin it. It is easily one of my favorite desserts so I'm always looking for new ones to try. Can't wait to taste these! Yum!

  9. Delicious look and yummy chocolates . awesome posting
    B&B Brugge

  10. Do you know I made a trip to NYC just to taste the cookies at Levain Bakery after seeing them on Throwdown? They. Are. Amazing. Can't wait to try to make these :)

    Lisa @ Allergy Free Vintage Cookery

  11. I LOVED that post and wish I could travel back to NY to try the original. But....down in Texas....I may just try your version. Tell this place anywhere near Rockefeller Center because my husband is staying one night there on business this week?

  12. What a delicious cookie! Thank you for sharing your recipes with the Hearth and Soul Hop.

  13. ...never...ever...met a cookie I didn't like :)

  14. This looks like a possible recipe to give my fav stand by a run for it's money! Can't wait to put it to the test! ;) Your newest follower,
    Carrie @

    *Oh, and you had me @ 'have spoon, will travel'

  15. Oh my goodness, a quarter pound cookie! Sounds amazing! Your version of the Levain cookies look wonderful, and the recipe sounds great too. Thank you for sharing them with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  16. Oh my, this looks SO good! I have got to bookmark this! Thanks for sharing @ Show & Share! I am so happy you did!

  17. Hi there, thanks for the recipe for these delicious looking cookies. I will certainly make these. I recently found your blog and am now following. Please pop over and visit mine and maybe you would like to follow me also. I would like that. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  18. This really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Alcohol Training.

  19. I thought I had found all the Levain copycat recipes but just found yours. Great photos--they make me want to take a bite out of the screen. My recipe calls for cake flour and a little corn starch which is supposed to duplicate pastry flour which some people think is the secret to Levain Bakery's cookies. I've made copycat recipes for all four of their offerings--just wonderful. Here's the link to the chocolate chip walnut cookie if you're interested.