I did it. I finally did it! I have been tiptoeing around this knock-off recipe for Levain Bakery’s famous chocolate chip walnut cookie for way too long. Levain’s signature chocolate chip cookie has been featured on Oprah, who says it’s her favorite chocolate chip cookie, the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” and written up in the New York Times to name just a few sources of accolades for this cookie.
A major reason I put off making them was I feared that this would be the one to top every other chocolate chip cookie on the planet. That should be a good thing, right? Well, I guess not in my world! What would I do with all those other chocolate chip recipes I have yet to try which are languishing in my voluminous files? I’ve previously made the Levain’s knock-off for their dark chocolate chocolate chip cookie, and that cookie certainly qualifies for the top 10 list of all-time favorites. So, what was I waiting for?
I sat down and had a good talk with myself—and, no, I don’t have multiple personalities. After my discussion, I decided why should anyone be limited to just one No. 1 favorite chocolate chip cookie in their universe?
Cookies can share the same name and contain for the most part all the same ingredients yet have very different characteristics. Some chocolate chip cookies are thick and chewy; some are flat and crisp; some are thick, chewy and crisp; some have nuts, and on and on. So, chocolate chip cookies can be the same but different at the same time. Well, that little talking to sure took the pressure off—phew!
Bloggers have been trying to recreate the Levain’s chocolate chip walnut cookie for a long while. From what I have read, the bakery appears to use pastry flour (the elusive secret ingredient that makes the texture so wonderful) and a little bit of corn starch. Some bloggers believe that Levain’s freezes their cookie dough balls for a short time and then immediately bakes them. I experimented with freezing the dough balls for 30 minutes (after having been refrigerated overnight and then formed into balls). I found that I had to bake them longer and the tops started to get overly brown while the centers were still underdone. End of experiment with freezing the dough! Simply using refrigerated dough is the way to go. Refrigerate overnight, form 4-oz. dough balls (do not flatten), and bake at 375 for 14 minutes. Perfect! My cookies looked just like the one on the Levain Bakery home page with its craggy top and golden brown peaks.
All it took was one bite of this Levain’s clone to recognize it was seriously one of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten. It is a substantial cookie—as sold by Levain Bakery, it weighs six ounces! Certainly enough to share—but, trust me, you won’t want to. As you take a bite of this A-MAZ-ING chocolate chip cookie, your teeth at first meet with a tiny crisp resistance. Then, when your teeth actually sink into the beginning of the middle of the cookie (I say “beginning of the middle” because it’s a BIG cookie), you will experience an explosion of chocolate chip cookie deliciousness. The middle is cakey, gooey, and oh so wonderful! You will wonder, as I did, where this cookie has been all your life.
I now have four of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes ever on my site—Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies; Best, Big, Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie; Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie; and now the Levain’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie clone. In my opinion, they are all deserving of the No. 1 chocolate chip cookie designation, so it’s a 4-way tie. When I get around to making the much acclaimed New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe, it may be a 5-way tie. At that point, I may just end my search for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie—it’s been a 50-year odyssey!
Without further ado, here is the recipe. Be prepared for lots of wide eyes when people take their first bite of this cookie!!
One year ago: Almond Tart
Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie Clone
- 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 large cold eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cake flour (do not substitute)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tbl. corn starch
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
- 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
In a medium-sized bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and corn starch. Whisk for 1 to 2 minutes until all dry ingredients are well mixed and there are no lumps in the flour mixture.
Cube 1 cup (2 sticks) of chilled butter into 1” pieces. Put white and brown sugars in a stand mixer bowl and mix until well combined and almost all lumps have disappeared. Add cold cubed butter and continue to mix at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, continuing mixing until well incorporated. Add vanilla and mix in.
Add flour mixture to sugar/egg mixture in increments until fully incorporated. Remove bowl from stand mixer and mix in chocolate chips and walnuts by hand.
Refrigerate cookie dough overnight.
Preheat oven to 375o F. Line large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, form cookie dough balls weighing approximately 4 ounces each. A kitchen scale makes weighing dough a breeze. (I can’t do without mine!) If you don’t have a kitchen scale, form 14 cookie dough balls trying to keep them all around the same size so that they will bake uniformly.
Place on prepared cookies sheets. Do not flatten! My large 17×12 cookie sheet fit 6 of these rather large balls of cookie dough perfectly with room for them to spread (although they don’t spread as much as you might expect).
Bake for 14 to 15 minutes. In my oven which is perfectly calibrated, I baked the cookies for exactly 14 minutes on the middle shelf (I prefer not to stagger these). They were perfect. I let them cool on the cookie sheet for approximately 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.
The original clone recipe states that “As is the Levain style, the cookies should be removed from the oven when they look slightly underdone. They will continue to cook as they cool.” To me, my cookies didn’t look especially underdone. I could see some little browned spots on the top of the cookies, yet the centers were gloriously gooey when eaten warm. They do firm up a little bit as they cool but still remain quite soft and moist with a terrific mouth feel. When I compared my cookies to the photos on the Levain Bakery website, they looked identical in size, texture, and appearance.
Levain’s cookies are 6 ounces each, but I thought 4 ounces, a quarter of a pound(!) was quite large enough. I got 14 4-oz. cookies out of the recipe. If you make your cookies smaller, you will obviously have to adjust the baking time.
Source: Adapted from the version on Blue Bonnets and Brownie
You can order Levain Bakery’s cookies online. They charge $22.00 plus shipping for only four cookies!