Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie Clone

July 26, 2012

in Chocolate,Cookies,Desserts

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

Printer-friendly version

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Fran’s Notes

You can order Levain Bakery’s cookies online.  They charge $22.00 plus shipping for only four cookies!

18 comments on “Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie Clone

  1. Christina @ Sweet Pea's Kitchen on said:

    Mmmm..slightly underdone cookies are the best! These look amazing! :)

  2. That’s funny because I’ve been tiptoeing around this recipe forever, too! I think it’s the cake flour that has me pushing it off from making. I never keep that on hand but judging by the sheer size and beauty of your cookies, I’m going to have to bite the bullet and try them. Plus, I think I need to try the dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies immediately, too!

  3. Mm, chewy and crisp! How do you measure your flour? Do you have the ounce or gram weights for the all-purpose and cake flours?

  4. Sweet as Sugar Cookies on said:

    Mmm, those do look awesome! You’re right when you say I’m going to have to give them a try.

  5. Laurie@Foodslove on said:

    Just for accuracy sake, They say, they don’t use Vanilla in their recipe. They don’t think it adds anything to the recipe. Does it make a difference in yours? Have you ever left it out?

    • Laurie, I’ve always added the teaspoon of vanilla. To be honest, it probably doesn’t add a whole lot–just makes me feel better! With the volume of cookies, Levain’s makes, I imagine it’s a cost savings to the bakery to leave it out. Since people are swooning over the cookies–no harm, no foul! Since mine taste so darned good, I’m reluctant to mess with success.

  6. Sarah D. on said:

    I wanted you to know that I just made these and followed your recipe to a “T”, except I used Guittard giant chocolate chips…. they came out awesome!!! mine are a little underdone, but I feel they will set up, it doesn’t matter since it hasn’t stopped me from eating almost 2!!!!! Will definitely make them over and over!! Very much how I remember Levain!!!!

    • Sarah, thanks for the feedback–I’m happy to hear they came out awesome for you! Whenever I make them, people swoon and gush over them and immediately ask for the recipe. I have several chocolate chip cookie recipes that are really wonderful, but this one cannot be beat.

  7. cathy p on said:

    Tried this recipe and it is AMAZING. Closest i’ve found to the real thing, bravo! Just curious if you know or can suggest how long the dough will stay good if frozen?

    Thank You! :)

    • Cathy, if the dough is well wrapped, I see no reason why it can’t be frozen for several weeks and potentially up to 3 months. In order to keep the same wonderful layers of textures, I would thaw the dough enough so that I could form a ball as the recipe instructs. I am delighted to hear your comments! I have not had the opportunity to visit the bakery in NYC, but I have purchased their cookies online. While they were excellent, it was unfair to compare them to the ones I had freshly made (I did a taste test comparison) which were the hands down winner. No question about it, this is a cookie to make you weak in the knees. :-)

  8. Jenny Lou on said:

    Just wondering the reason for the butter and eggs being cold…Dough is refrigerated before baking…am I missing something?

    • Jenny, this is just an educated guess, but I believe that this allows very small “pockets” of butter to remain in the dough without being fully incorporated. It’s a fairly common technique similar to what’s done when making puff pastry or croissants. It makes for a little buttery hit when you bite into it.

  9. I want to make these NOW! A sweet treat is just what I need while studying.

  10. Theresa on said:

    I’ve tried your recipe and must say that they are fabulous! Best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had. My question is with the overnight refrigeration. I’ve done that,and on a second attempt did a quick in the freezer until dough was pretty frozen and then baked, and did not see a discernible difference. I’ve read on your other cookie postings, particularly the NY Times Cookie recipe that a 36 hour refrigeration increased the flavor, do you think that is the purpose of the overnight refrigeration or just so that the dough is good and hard and does not flatten as much? I guess I’m trying to figure out if I let these sit longer in the “fridge” if it would increase the flavor? What are your thoughts, and if so have you done so as well. Thanks for sharing the recipe….love, love, love it!!

    • Theresa, so happy to hear your cookies came out fabulous! Re the refrigeration, I do believe it primarily changes the texture of the cookie rather than the flavor per se. But I also believe that texture and flavor are inextricably intertwined, so by changing the texture the flavor also changes. I’m sure the refrigeration and/or freezing keeps the cookie from flattening which, of course, would change the texture. Re refrigeration vs. freezing–if a quick freeze gives you the same results, then I don’t see any problem with making the cookies that way.

  11. Paul on said:

    I stop at Levain bakery every summer when I visit my sister in the Hamptons and would love to make these cookies to bring in a few weeks and compare them side by side. Have you tried to make this recipe using 3 cups of cake flour ? or without the vanilla ?

    • Fran on said:

      Paul, I’ve never made them using all cake flour. I’ve made them many times, and they are so fabulous that I don’t feel the need to tweak them–and that’s saying something because I’m a major tweaker! Re the vanilla, from what I’ve read, Levain’s doesn’t use vanilla in their recipe which I imagine is a cost saving for them. While I always put vanilla in mine (just a teaspoon), I don’t think it would make a major impact on the flavor to leave it out.

  12. Dana on said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It has become my family’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (and we have tried quite a few!). Because my children do not like nuts, I just use three types of chocolate – semi-sweet chips, milk chocolate chunks, and bittersweet large chips. It makes for a pretty amazing, gooey cookie.

    Thanks again.

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