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More Levain Cookie Clones

by on January 17, 2012 · 30 comments

Having made many, many variations on this cookie over the years, the recipe that I’ve found comes closest is this one. Here’s a photo of the copy cat.

Levain Clone  Better

And here’s a photo of an actual Levain cookie, which is scraggly and quite brown.

Levain Cookie Close-Up

The copy cat version is a spin-off of Lisa’s original version from Art Culinaire, but I’ve made a few modifications to get the thick, brown, scraggly appearance of the original. I use cold bread flour, very cold European style butter, plus I bake the cookies in a convection oven. You can make the cookies with all-purpose flour and regular (American style) butter as well, and you can also use a regular oven as opposed to convection. In my personal experience comparing the two cookies side by side, using the bread flour, European butter and convection oven helped make the cookies more like their namesake, but those three things aren’t critical.

Levain Copy Cat Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Copy cat of the Levain cookies
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) European style butter, very cold, chopped up
  • 3/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons VERY TIGHTLY PACKED light or mixed light and dark brown sugar (or just weigh out 6 oz total)
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 cups bread flour (13 1/2 oz) (see note about flour types)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or fine Kosher salt or salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cold large eggs, lightly beaten in a separate bowl
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I can’t leave it out!!)
  • 1 1/2 cups extra dark chocolate chips such as Guittard extra dark (in the shiny red bag)
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the chopped up, cold butter until it comes together. It should be creamy and still cold.
  2. Add the sugar and continue to beat until it is mixed in. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating with the paddle on medium until mixed, scraping sides of bowl once or twice. The coolness from the eggs should make the butter seize up again so the creamy mixture will appear lumpy.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the cold flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. With the mixer on medium-low (or by hand with a heavy duty rubber scraper), gradually add the flour mixture stirring just until mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  4. Empty the batter onto a large flat surface and make sure all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Instead of lumping it all together, keep it kind of loose. Divide into 12 raggedy pieces. The dough should be cold before you even put it in the refrigerator, but chilling the dough will help make the cookies taller. I’ve also had good results freezing the dough and baking it from frozen.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If you are using convection, preheat to 350 F convection.
  6. Arrange cookies (I recommend baking 1 or 2 first to nail down your time) on a cool heavy duty cookie sheet. Bake on center rack for 18 minutes at 375 or 20 minutes at 350F convection. Let cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove and finish cooling on a rack. When cool, you can eat OR you can freeze the cookie and thaw them for a better texture.
Notes
I've been experimenting with different flours and butter. Bread flour, almost any brand, will give you a cookie with a thick shell. I also like the results of cookies made with White Lily all-purpose. White Lily weighs a little less cup for cup, so the best way to use it is to weigh out the 13.5 oz. If you don't have a scale, stir it well and use about 3 1/3 cup instead of 3 cups. Cookies made with White Lily won't have as thick a shell and will be slightly softer. For the butter, I've used European style (Central Market brand or Plugra) and have also experimented with regular unsalted butter. The best cookies were with the European style butter, but unsalted Land o Lakes also gave me big, fat cookies. When I used store brand (HEB) butter, the cookies spread a little bit more.

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Published on January 17, 2012

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

vanillasugarblog January 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

anna
this is our favorite way to make cc cookies.
and you know i’ve made several different types of cookies using this recipe.
love levain. wish they would send me some samples. lol

Anna January 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Dawn, I’m glad you like the recipe. I might play around with new versions this week. After I posted this I made some more with homemade (non-yellow) butter.

Free samples are always nice. I got mine from a friend whose husband picked some up in New York. He carried them home, then they were shipped to me. It’s amazing how fresh they tasted even after all that traveling.

Pam S January 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Your comment that maybe Connie and Pam will write a book caught my eye because my name is Pam, and I have an older sister named Connie. We both like to bake, but no plans to write a book. Of course, our last name isn’t (and never has been) Levain! These cookies look amazing.

Adam January 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm

That’s one meaty cookie… your cross section looks so good, it doesn’t help that I’ve been craving cookies like mad :).

Chewthefat January 17, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Anna, I saw that exact same post (and your comment) and started thinking about those cookies, too! I have to say that photo of the chocolate chocolate chip in the post is outrageous! Can’t wait to try your version–it looks decadent yet easy!

Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat January 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm

These are absolutely beautiful!! I want one right now!

Katrina January 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Don’t get me started! ;) My favorite cccs! I know way back when I used to “play along” with you in the quest to clone these, but when I see your recipe has bread flour, I don’t remember that. Must go back and look through my recipes.
Love the pictures!
A favorite Levain go-to that I often make is Lisa’s from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives.
Your photos look more like Levains, mine usually do, too–I always do the “loosely scooped” thing. See, you’ve got me started. And really–I just want to go to NYC again now! ;)

Lisa Ernst January 18, 2012 at 5:36 am

I remember quite fondly the Levain cookie clone days when it seemed like every blogger was making a go of it. Your current version looks very close and brings back fond memories of my cookie quest in NYC. For me the NY Times Cookie (I believe adapted from Jacques Torres) beats out Levain as my favorite, but I’ll gladly take a Levain.

Rodzilla January 18, 2012 at 6:05 am

Thanks for the link Anna! My friend Matt is going to be very excited. I wouldn’t be able to tell your cookies from the originals on looks alone, and maybe not even taste :D

bakingblonde January 18, 2012 at 7:04 am

I made a copycat years ago and really should try another, they were great and I do love big, thick chewy cookies!

Louise January 18, 2012 at 7:19 am

I expect to have more Levain’s when I’m in NYC in a couple of weeks. I prefer Levain’s Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip. Have you tried cloning it? I was thinking about the “freshness” thing. Maybe they use some glucose or nonfat dried milk.

Ryan January 18, 2012 at 7:57 am

I’ve never had Levain cookies, but I need to try a clone recipe, they look so good!

Anna January 18, 2012 at 7:58 am

Louise, I don’t think they use glucose because they are all about “fresh” and glucose just doesn’t seem like something Connie and Pam would use.

Rodzilla, I actually made Matt’s version right before I made these. They were delicious! As I made his recipe I noticed his was pretty much the same as Lisa’s (the one Katrina mentioned) which I’ve tried and which is not the same as Levain’s either.

Sue January 18, 2012 at 8:06 am

I must make these cookies. Do you think they might use a bleached flour and that might account for the color difference. I think if you’ve got the flavor and texture I wouldn’t worry about the color. Even eggs could account for a difference in color. The eggs my brother gets in Iowa have much more colorful yolks than the eggs I buy here.

Anna January 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

Sue, they might. Someone told me that bleached flour was less expensive and certain bakers recommend it for cakes and softer cookies. I’m pretty sure the yellow in my cookies came from the yellow European style butter. When I made the cookies again with homemade butter, the only yellow in the cookie was from the egg yolk, so they were closer in color to Levain’s. In the You Tube video made by Levain, the butter looks fairly pale.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61Zba8jh5Wg

Anyway, making butter was a lot of fun and I’m not sure why I never thought to use fresh homemade butter in cookies before. All you do is put about 2 cups of heavy cream in a stand mixer, run it on high with the whisk attachment until it separates, pour off the buttermilk, then pat dry the solids (the butter). I’m still playing around with the homemade butter making. The first batch I made using a smaller bowl and a hand-held mixer. I used only 1/2 cup (4 oz) of cream and ended up with only about 1.6 oz (weight) of solid butter and a good deal of liquid (buttermilk). If you’re interested, I recommend searching for a You Tube video or a tutorial by a chef.

Therese B. January 18, 2012 at 9:39 am

Oh Anna…
I remember trying all those cookie recipes! I am going to make these…oh, the memories. Still is a dream for me to visit all the NYC bakeries. Until then…this will do!

Kristin January 18, 2012 at 9:50 am

Hi Anna,

Thanks for giving this clone another attempt! I am going to follow your tips and make the Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip this weekend :)

~Kristin

nancy k January 18, 2012 at 10:25 am

I have read that the freezing process somehow changes the structure of sugar crystals. If you freeze cookies and then just thaw them prior to eating, the texture will be different. If you warm them after freezing, the sugar crystals will revert back to the pre-freezing structure as will the texture. I am not a chemist but I think I read this somehwre in all of the Cook’s Illustrated literature that is ot there.I always put cookies in the refrigerator for at least an hour prior to baking. I think I really makes both a flavor difference.

Sue January 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I’m glad you talked more about your home made butter. When I was a little girl my parents bought our milk directly from a farmer. My Mom would scrape the cream from the top and put it into jars then send us out to the porch to shake it until we got butter. Looking back on it I’m sure it was just a ploy to keep a bunch of bored kids busy, but I think it’s really interesting to read about making it in a mixer! And fascinating that you would go to the effort for perfecting these cookies. You’re really amazing!

Rosalie January 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I remember my second grade teacher passed around a small container of cream and each student took a turn at shaking it. By the time the last student had a go at it, it was solid. She brought in crackers so that we could sample our delicious creation.

Anna January 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm

We made butter in Kindergarten. The teacher put cream in a jar and we passed it around, taking turns shaking it until it turned to butter. When it was finished, we ate it on Saltines.

I never got around to making more today, but I bought the cream!

Cookie Sleuth January 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I’ve tried to make a copycat as well, but mine were a little too buttery.

Sheri January 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Ohhh…. I love Levain cookies. Must make.

Anna January 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm

One more thing — here’s a link to Dawn’s version. Dawn used some baking powder and hers are very thick. I wanted to leave it out for various reasons (thought I might get more browning, density) and it worked, but maybe the baking powder is necessary if you’re not using a high gluten bread flour like KA?

http://vanillakitchen.blogspot.com/2010/03/levain-bakery-cc-cookie.html

michele January 21, 2012 at 9:28 am
Anna January 21, 2012 at 9:33 am

Michele, that’s the original. I’ve mentioned it several times and yes, it does work. My goal was to take out the baking powder because in my experience, I didn’t need it when using bread flour.

If anyone wants to go with the baking powder version (and a lot of people have), I still recommend using the bread flour.

Anna January 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

Louise, sorry I missed your comment. Yes, the dark chocolate chip has been cloned — or at least the dark chocolate with peanut butter chips. This isn’t the greatest photo, but here’s the post where I made it. The large size Ghirardelli bittersweet chips detract from the appearance, but that recipe made with regular peanut butter chips (or just dark chocolate chips) is really close to Levain’s. And it should be since it’s based on a recipe from the bakery.

http://www.cookiemadness.net/2008/04/giant-dark-chocolate-cookies/

Jessica posted it 6 years ago.

http://www.sugoodsweets.com/blog/2006/04/levain/

Sue January 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Oh my goodnes!. I just baked two of these and they are as close to divine as a cookie can get! I used Lurpak butter and the aroma of the butter while baking is indescribeable. I made the Levain Copy Cats Version 2 listed above, with the baking soda and baking powder. Used weights for measurements. My only variation is that I didn’t have walnuts and I only had 1/2 c. of pecans so I used those and I used a 10 ounce package of 60% Bittwersweet Ghiradelli chips. I chilled the dough in twelve loose balls. Really, really, excellent cookies. Thank you Anna!

Anna January 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hi Sue,

I’m glad you finally tried the cookies!

Katherine March 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

After having (and loving) Levain cookies recently I couldn’t wait to make them. This recipe is an excellent clone. I followed your technique and ingredients except for omitting walnuts and using regular unsalted butter. I found refrigerating the dough over 24 hours then freezing them solid gave me the best results. I think refrigerating the dough for awhile let the flavors meld and freezing them before baking is best. I used convection at 350 for 22 mins. I did try freezing a couple after baking but found it sort of lost that crisp exterior after defrosting. To me the closest to original texture is to bake and cool about and hour, then enjoy! This way the chocolate chips are melty and soft and exterior is sort of crumbly. Now I’m onto the chocolate peanut butter chip. Can’t wait!!! Thanks for sharing Anna.

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