Inside the white paper bag was a battlescape of chocolate. Rich ganache snuggled between two slender planks of firm yet yielding brioche had melted out of its neat sandwhich during my sweaty trek across Central Park and seeped into various crevices of the bag, making it impossible to extract the other half of my purchase–the famous chocolate chip cookie–unscathed. But I withdrew the craggy monster of a cookie–hand accumulating chocolate smears–and broke it apart.
People were passing by: a German-looking family, a French couple, a middle-aged Asian woman who decided to sit on the other end of my bench. If they noticed me inspecting my cookie–the golden, ridged edges, the moist interior rich with butter and silky chocolate, the center so gooey and underdone like warm cookie dough that it should be illegal–I only hope they knew where to get their own.
And that place, of course, is Levain Bakery in New York. I went in mid-July to visit a friend before she left for a whirlwind tour of the world as a digital nomad, and during a lunch break walked across Central Park to procure the cookie I’d been dreaming about since the lovely Kayle first guided me there during a trip in 2013.
My only regret: at the last minute, I switched my order from a chocolate chip and a dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie to a chocolate chip and the chocolate chip brioche. The brioche was incredibly chocolatey and a really nice dense but still sufficiently fluffy and rich dough, but where Levain really excels is the cookies and I should have just gone all in. Anyway, the cookie experience was just as otherworldly as I remembered, so when my lovely and very talented personal chef friend, Morgan, asked if I wanted to help her test out the Levain recipe when I got back, the answer was a giant YASSSSSS.*
We tried two recipes, a few alterations and a BUNCH of different baking temperatures and times. While we didn’t do anything earth-shattering to the excellent copycat recipes that already exist on the interwebs, I thought the research that we did in oven temperatures was worth sharing, so here are our results!
Chocolate Chip Cookie: we used Modern Honey’s recipe as our base.
At 375 degrees, with 5 cookies per sheet baked on the middle rack, we found:
15 min: too gooey in the center. I didn’t think this could exist, but it was like eating straight up cookie dough with a slightly crispy shell. Delicious, but lacking the structural integrity of the Levain cookies.
17 min: definite goo factor, just right in our opinion. However, the cookies were a bit on the pale side, lacking the golden-brown highlights of the Levain originals.
At 410 degrees for 9 min, we found the cookies were too gooey but held together. Our ultimate favorite would be 11 min at 410 degrees!
For the chocolate peanut butter cookies, we baked them all at 410 degrees:
10 min: Pretty gooey, a little under cooked.
11 min: Great but a little too molten gooey- another cookie in the same batch was almost thoroughly baked with no goo factor. This could be an issue due to uneven oven heating; would try rotating the pan next time.
13 min: Gooey and soft in the center, yet holds together perfectly. Ideal batch!
I’m posting the recipe for the classic Levain chocolate chip copycat below exactly as we made them, but here’s a high level summary of the changes/specific details for both recipes:
- Added 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to both cookies. You can skip the paste if you don’t have it and just add some extra vanilla. We also used the pre-packaged, chopped walnuts, which I think worked slightly better in our slightly smaller sized cookies–even halved walnuts might have been too chunky for the small mounds of dough.
- We used a 2.66oz scoop to scoop each cookie, which yielded about 15 cookies per recipe instead of the 8 that Modern Honey recommends. So I can only guarantee that our oven experimentations will work based on a 15-cookie yield!
- For the chocolate peanut butter cookies, we tried using invert sugar instead of regular granulated sugar. Invert sugar tends to make cookies more chewy, but I found that the day after, I preferred the texture of the chocolate chip cookies to the chocolate peanut butter ones. Perhaps this is also due to the cocoa in the chocolate peanut butter cookies, but they turned slightly cakey the day after being baked. I’d stick with regular granulated next time.
Levain Cookie Experimentations
- 1 cup Kerrygold butter cold and cut into cubes
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1½ cups cake flour
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups 70% Guittard chocolate chips
- 2 cups walnuts roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 410 degrees.
- In large mixing bowl, cream together cold cubed butter, brown sugar, and sugar for 4 minutes or until creamy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one, then the vanillas.
- Stir in flours, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Use a 2.66oz cookie scoop to scoop dough into large balls and place on lightly colored cookie sheet. You should be able to get 15 cookies, and I recommend baking them 5 to a cookie sheet.
- Bake for 11 minutes or until golden brown on the top. Let cookies rest for at least 10 minutes before eating.
Steven J Berkowitz
Did you try chilling the dough in the frig before baking them? I’ve seen that recommended in several recipes. I wonder if that would make a difference?
Hi, would it be possible to use measurements in grams too please? Us in Europe hardly use cups as measurements
Regarding the butter for this recipe, should it be salted or unsalted?
Hi Heather, sorry for the delay–I always use unsalted butter! If you use salted, I would reduce the salt by 1/4 tsp.
Can you freeze dough?
Yes definitely! I recommend portioning the dough into balls, freezing them on a parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheet, and once frozen into balls, putting them into a plastic bag for storage.
This is an awesome recipe! I live at 6,000 ft. 99% of the cookie recipes that I try (even high altitude recipes) come out like flattened pancakes, or too dense. I always first try a recipe as written. Then make changes to my preferences. I made this as written, taking a chance that it too could become a flattened mess. To my surprise this was the most wonderful, high with chewy crisp edges and a gooey center. So happy! I have not had a cookie this good in over twenty years! Thank you so much for your wonderful bake offs. I appreciate your willingness to be so thorough and do the extra work. You are a truly passionate baker! Thank so much for this recipe and others. I am hooked!
Great job on the cookies! Absolutely delish! But now for your next challenge: how about coming up with that chocolate brioche recipe?!?
OMG. These photographs are absolute torture (I’m currently eating sriracha-laced hummus and carrot sticks at my work desk, dreaming of hamburgers AND NOW COOKIES). I just want to live in that Levain cookie shop like an overgrown, chocolate-smeared rat. I may die of obesity and/or diabeetus, but it’d be with a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing the recipe trials with us so that those who live too far from NYC (aka me) can also gorge on gooey-centred cookie deliciousness this weekend. Yum xx
Laura!!! Hahaha you are hilarious. Omg PLEASE try these cookies!!! YOU WILL LOVE THEM. And it’ll be kind of like we’re hanging out?! Aka MY DREAM. OMG PS. I NEED TO EMAIL YOU TO TELL YOU SOMETHING GONNA DO SO NOW!
YES. DO EEEET. And total virtual cookie hangouts, that’s the plan (even if it means eating cookies in the middle of the night because of, you know, time differences and friendship and NOT because of midnight chocolate snack cravings). Checking email like, NOW.
Hehehe virtual cookie hangouts YAS!!!!!!!
Natasha @ The Cake Merchant
I love this post, because I am totally obsessed with Levain Bakery cookies. I have tried some failed recreations, but I’m so so so excited to try this one! They look amazing!
Natasha, SAME! The one time I tried making them before, they were SO underwhelming. I think the difference this time was 1) using high-quality ingredients but mostly 2) making gigantic cookies. The gooey part is just totally missing without all that dough volume!! Wishing you all the luck and let me know if you find success!!!
Kayle (The Cooking Actress)
YAYYYYYY-I still love levain. And I love your experimentation!
Thank you for taking me for my inaugural visit!!!!!! Best tour guide everrrr <33333333333
Aaaaaahhh this makes me want cookies so so badly! I love all those gooey cross-sections (even the underdone ones!) SO amazing.
Thanks Cynthia!!! Gotta be real, we DEFINITELY ate those gooey cross-sections indiscriminately.
Aaaaaahhh this makes me want a dozen cookies so so badly! I love all those gooey cross-sections (even the underdone ones!) So amazing, Erika!
Nancy @ gottagetbaked
A huge hell yaaaaaaaaaaaaaas to decadent buttery chocolatey artery-clogging recipes! This is a fantastic post, Erika – I bow down to all the time and effort it took to experiment with these recipes. I am kicking myself in the ass for not making it to Levain when I was in NYC back in April. At least I can recreate their cookies by using your recipe and technique. I want to freaking make them right now – your photos are making me drool!
Haha Nancy you are the best!!! You need to go ASAP and try them!!! Or just make them at home because I KNOW they’ll be equally beautiful and tasty, given your baking talents 😉 <3333
Courtney | fork to belly
I’ve recently been playing with cookie experiments myself and THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN!!! I want these cookies. Need these cookies. ASAP. It’s so crazy how a few extra minutes in the oven or oven temp in general can totally change the outcome. I just realized that the color of baking trays makes a huge difference too :O
Yes!!!!! I realized that my dark cheapo aluminum baking sheet were causing the bottom of some of my cookies to come out looking burnt and it was such an epiphany!! What did you find with your baking trays?!
michelle @ hummingbird high
um, this is pretty amazing.
YOU’RE pretty amazing 😉
YES THIS IS ALL I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR! A little excited to try this recipe myself.
Omgosh please do and let me know your results!!!!! (And then feed me.)
Nora (A Clean Bake)
OMG YES! I love your kitchen experiments!!
I love YOU!!! Heh but actually, thanks for still reading my barely-alive blog <3333333
I love the experimentation! This is exactly what I LOVE to do it every single day. Playtime in the kitchen is the best. You are right….there is something about 410 degrees. I did originally try 425 degrees which is good for getting the tops golden but they did have a tendency to get a little too brown on the bottoms. I think letting them sit for a few minutes to let the dough set up helps a lot as well. If you bite into them straight out of the oven, the cookies will be gooey.
Thanks for trying out my recipe and for the shout-out! Have a fabulous day!
Melissa, Modern Honey
Oh my gosh, thank YOU Melissa for your stunning recipe!!! They were seriously so so good. Leaving NYC is always sad, but like pretty much tragic when you think about the fact that you’re leaving Levain behind. But thanks to your fantastic recipe, one less reason to be sad about not living in NYC…and that’s totally a great point about letting them sit.
Thanks for the lovely comment and again for the FABULOUS recipe!! I can’t believe how close you got to the original!!