I’ve made many variations on the Levain cookie recipe copycat, and the big fat cookie recipe that comes closest is this one. The cookie in the first photo below is the copycat.
And the cookie in this second photo is an actual Levain cookie. As you can see, this big fat cookie is scraggly and quite brown. Sometimes my copycats do turn out as scraggly and sometimes they don’t. It depends on how I bake them and how long the dough has been chilled.
The Levain cookie recipe copycat 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 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 helps make the cookies more like their namesake, but those three things aren’t critical.
Recently, I discovered a new secret ingredient (dry milk powder), so there’s yet another version in the works.
Update: I’ve gone back to making them without the milk powder. It does add a little softness to the center, but I hardly ever have it around and the cookies are fine without it. I’m on the fence about the cornstarch. The cookies seem a little better without it, yet it does absorb some moisture hence if you don’t have time to let the dough sit, cornstarch will help prevent the cookies from spreading. Or so it seems!
- 2 sticks (8 oz) European style butter, very cold, chopped up (232 grams) -- Plugra
- 3/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons very tightly packed brown sugar (168 grams)
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 cups bread flour (376 grams) (see note about flour types)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt (increase to 1 1/4 teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons dry milk powder (optional) or try 2 teaspoons cornstarch**
- 2 cold extra-large eggs, lightly beaten in a separate bowl (112 grams)**
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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 (important for texture)
- 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.
- 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.
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and dry milk 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.
- 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 8 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.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If you are using convection, preheat to 350 F convection.
- 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.
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 (378 grams). 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. You can also make the cookies with all-purpose such as King Arthur.
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.
Cornstarch is a new addition. I think helps absorb moisture so that the dough doesn't have to be chilled quite as long to bake up puffy. That being said, I think the cookies are better without it. You just have to chill them longer.
For the eggs, I crack 3 eggs into a bowl, beat them with a mixer, then weigh out 112 grams.