I Recreated The Famous Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
Almost everyone in New York City knows of the iconic Levain Bakery and can instantly picture their delicious chocolate chip cookies the moment "Levain" is uttered. The famous bakery has recently expanded to a Lower Manhattan outpost, but before this exciting grand opening, downtown New Yorkers had to trek up to the Upper West or East Side to get their hands on New York's best chocolate chip cookie. Levain is often (rightfully and deservedly so) crowned the winner of many a chocolate chip cookie competition in the city, and I for one am in total agreement.
This past year, I've cultivated a love for baking chocolate chip cookies and developed my own recipe to bake some of the best chocolate chip cookies I've personally made after watching YouTube videos by the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, Tasty, and more. With the recent unprecedented coronavirus-related events that have led me to spend all my time at home, I decided that this was the time for me to bake the famous Levain cookies for myself since I'm unable to go out and buy them. I happened to have all of the ingredients in my kitchen because I had been planning on baking chocolate chip cookies anyways, and thus started my research to find the best copycat recipe.
A majority of the recipes that I found all had cornstarch as one of the main ingredients for the cookies alongside with cake flour in order to make the cookies more dense without making them dry or too glutinous. Unfortunately, I did not have either of these ingredients, but there are always substitutions for everything and I ended up following this recipe that didn't require cornstarch or cake flour.
I watched numerous videos on how these cookies were actually made in the bakery and one thing I noticed that set these cookies apart from others was Levain's use of cold butter! I for one am an avid fan of brown butter because it adds an extra caramel-like flavor but Pamela Weekes and Constance McDonald, the founders of Levain Bakery, just chucked in cold butter and sugar into their giant stand mixer. I think the cold butter may be one of the main reasons why this cookie is so fluffy yet dense at the same time since there is so much air being incorporated into the mixture from the start as the butter is being whipped rather than mixed with the rest of the ingredients right away. Also, these cookies are 6 oz each which is almost double the amount of a medium 100g cookie, but they were still baked in the same amount of time as regular chocolate chip cookies since the inside of these cookies need to basically be raw.
Making The Heaviest Chocolate Chip Cookies
I took out all of my ingredients and started my adventure by whipping up the cold butter. This was when I realized that I needed my stand mixer back, as my trusty hand mixer, which also serves as an immersion blender, could not do the job quickly in this case. I had to move my mixing bowl into my sink because the butter started flying around everywhere since the butter was cold, and it took me almost 15 minutes just to get it to start whipping. It felt like I was fighting the butter mixture as I added the sugars in as well since they would leave the bowl even when they were poured in gradually.
I felt like my arms were about to fall off after finally whipping the butter up and switched to using the good old spatula which made the cookie dough making process significantly easier. Instead of using chocolate chips, I decided to cut my own chocolate chunks from the pound of chocolate that I bought from Trader Joes since the size of the chocolate had to match the size of the cookies themselves. After making the dough, I weighed them out to be exactly 6 oz each and froze them overnight in order to let the gluten develop. (Tip: Always freeze your cookie dough for at least two hours before baking because they'll just taste better!).
The next morning, I was ready to bake these bad boys and see how comparable they were to the original. I preheated my oven, lined my chocolate chip cookies, and baked them off for 15 minutes which is four minutes longer than the original recipe, given that I froze mine overnight. Five minutes in, I could smell the chocolate chip cookies and got giddy over the fact that I would be eating these cookies at 10 in the morning.
My oven timer went off and I rushed to see the final product. Boy oh boy were they HUGE! I was surprised by how large they were and I felt like I could knock someone out with the cookies if I threw one. However, I needed to be patient before eating one right away because they needed to cool for another 15 minutes.
Those 15 minutes could not go by any slower and I was so tempted to just eat one right away. However, I waited it out and found out that I had succeeded (*a single tear streamed down my face*).
The cookie was crispy on the outside but so chewy and gooey on the inside. It was everything that I had imagined and I was so surprised at the result because the beginning was so rough that I assumed that I had failed. These ended up browning slightly more than the Levain cookies and those in the copycat recipes but I feel like there is a greater contrast between the texture of the cookies, which made me enjoy my take more than the Levain original.
I would definitely make these again because they tasted so good that I ended up eating an entire 6 oz cookie in under five minutes and they weren't that hard to bake all in all. The only thing is that the next time I bake them, I better have a proper stand mixer because I don't know if I can beat cold butter for 15 minutes. To those of you who are reading this, I strongly recommend you bake these especially when we are spending so much time at home! I feel like this recipe is a really good introduction to baking and I know that so many of my friends have already baked these after I posted the photos on Instagram! Happy baking :)