Years ago, before I even set foot in the famous NYC bakery, I tried making the famous Levain chocolate chip cookies at home. I must have made 100 batches of Levain copycats with some of the big fat cookies being better than others. After attempting to replicate something I'd never tasted, I went to NY to visit my friend Taneka and she and I did our own bakery tour which included Levain, Alice's Tea Cup and City Bakery. City Bakery (whose cookies I dream about) is gone, but Levain has expanded to other major cities and has their own line of frozen chocolate chip cookies. So you don't have to travel to New York or Chicago for the cookies!
Small Batch Levain Bakery Style Cookies
But you can still try making them yourself! If you haven't yet tried a big fat cookie recipe at home, there are a lot of them to choose from. I recommend starting with a small batch, and this is one I came up with early on. It calls for all baking soda, no baking powder powder and lots of walnuts. The dough must be refrigerated overnight for best results, and you pretty much have to use the walnuts to get the texture and shape right. The cornstarch is optional and soaks up extra moisture making the cookies rounder. I've found that if I use Plugra, which probably has less water to begin with, I do not need cornstarch.
In addition to the small batch version, I've added a normal size batch recipe. I've been making these for years with very good results.
Other Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes
If you don't like walnuts or have tried this version and aren't happy with it, here's another big fat cookie recipe people seem to like -- Roasted Flour Chocolate Chip. Roasting a small portion of the flour makes them tall and thick, and you don't even need to add the walnuts. I also really like this Milk Powder versions which I came up with while living in Chicago. It's a bit fluffier.
Some Levain Copycat Making Notes
- Butter: As mentioned above, Plugra works really well, though not all European butters improve the final cookie. The important thing is that it's cold.
- Sugar: The lower ratio of sugar to flour helps keep these cookies from spreading too much. Use less and you should get less spread, use more sugar for more spread.
- Flour: I'm always experimenting with flours, but it seems bleached all-purpose makes the cookies a little fatter and softer. For the small batch version you would use 83 grams bleached AP flour. That being said, half the time I just use unbleached because that's what we have. So bleached or unbleached are okay, but keep in mind bleached might give you a taller, fatter, cookie. Bread flour also works and gives the cookies a thicker shell, though some people swear by a mixture of bread flour with cake. At the end of the day, I think whatever mix of flours you use might also depend on the brands and their protein count.
- Eggs: Two tablespoons of beaten egg is equal to one half of an egg and should weigh somewhere around 25 grams. If your beaten egg mixture has a higher ratio of yolk to white, you'll get a slightly taller cookie. It doesn't really apply to the small batch version, but if you ever need to halve a recipe with one egg and one yolk, a good trick is to crack one egg into a cup and discard 17 grams of the white. That's the equivalent of half one egg plus one white!
- Note on Baking Soda & Powder -- If you are not using nuts, you'll need to incorporate some baking powder. To make Small Batch Levain Copycats without walnuts, use only ⅛ teaspoon of baking soda and ¼ teaspoon of baking powder.
Super Small Batch Levain Copycats
4 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into chunks (58 grams), Plugra gives best results
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (25 grams)
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (36 grams)
2 tablespoons lightly beaten egg (25 grams)
¼ teaspoon vanilla
83 grams all-purpose flour (or try your own variations using bread & AP etc.)
¼ teaspoon salt (scant)
¼ scant teaspoon baking soda (just a little under ¼)
½ teaspoon cornstarch (optional, really shouldn't need if you use Plugra)
Large handful chocolate chips (semisweet)
Large handful whole toasted walnuts (untoasted okay too)
In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cold butter and both sugars just until they come together. Don’t overbeat. Add the cold egg and vanilla and beat just until mixed. Don’t keep beating until smooth – you want it to be roughly creamed.
Stir together flour, salt, baking soda and cornstarch. When thoroughly mixed, add to creamed mixture and stir. The dough should seem kind of dry at this point.
Before the flour is fully mixed in, add the walnuts and chocolate chips and continue mixing (may need to use hands) allowing some of the walnuts to break.
Divide dough into 2 big balls or make 1 big ball (6 oz) and a "mini" ball (3 oz). Stack them in the bowl, then cover and chill the dough for an hour or so (or overnight if possible).
When ready to bake, bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 21 minutes. Let sit on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes to cool, them remove.
Makes 2 -- Alternatively, you can make 3 cookies. Bake time will be slightly shorter. If baking with convection, bake at 350 for about 18 minutes. If for some reason your cookies spread too much, carefully push the edges inward before the cookies are done baking.
Not So Small Batch Levain Copycats
- 1 cup cake flour 114 grams (or just use AP)
- 1 ¾ cup bread flour 220 grams (or just use equivalent AP)
- 1-2 teaspoon cornstarch not critical, but helps with thickness
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted Land o Lakes butter 230 grams, cold and cut into small chunks
- ¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar 145 grams
- ½ cup granulated cane sugar 100 grams
- 2 large eggs or use 1 extra large egg and 1 egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts see note if you omit
- 1 cup best quality semisweet chocolate chips you can use more or less
- This dough must be chilled thoroughly for best results, so no need to preheat the oven until ready to bake.
- Mix together the flours, cornstarch, salt and baking soda and set aside. It's always nice to get that part out of the way, plus it gives you time to properly measure and weigh your flour.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until it is creamy. Add both sugars and beat until blended, then reduce speed and add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Now add the flour mixture gradually, stirring or beating on low until it is fully blended, then stir in the walnuts and chips.
- Turn dough out onto a clean surface and bunch it up into a big ball. Divide into six equal lumps (or make six 6 oz cookies). Arrange on a tray or two large plates, cover, then chill overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375. Bake 3 at a time for about 18 minutes. Allow them to sit and thoroughly cool. They'll seem slightly doughy in the center, but once they cool and set they taste good. Alternatively, you can bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and bake at 350 for another 8 to 10 minutes. Starting at 400 usually results in taller cookies.