Testing the Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

homemade Levain chocolate chip cookies

Two years and 262+ comments later, I finally decided to try the recipe for Levain Bakery’s monstrous chocolate chip cookies. Weighing nearly half a pound, I lusted after them but never dared make them. When they were featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, a torrent of commenters asked me how the recipe was. I shrugged my shoulders but gave educated guesses.

Then, more commenters swooned over the tweaked recipe. With high expectations, I attempted this new version. Sadly, they tasted plain (even after I added 2 tsp vanilla) and had a sandy texture. Sure, there was a nice contrast between the crisp outside and doughy center, but if you piled any chocolate chip cookie dough into a 1/4-cup mound, you’d probably get the same result. My favorite recipe is still the one I’ve been using for nearly 15 years, and it has whole wheat flour. The whole wheat gives it extra flavor, and combined with the brown sugar, a good chew.

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  1. Nick said,

    That’s a shame, because they sure look appetizing. I was never a fan of fat cookies, those never impressed me as much as the ones that were as big as your face. But even those can turn out hard and unsatisfying at times. Your favorite recipe looks insane, I never would have though whole wheat flour would be preferred in a chocolate chip cookie, I’ll have to experiment. Thanks for sharin!

    The Peanut Butter Boy

    April 9, 2008 at 10:22 am

  2. Amanda said,

    Oooh I love cookie experiments. Gives you a nice excuse to nibble at freshly baked cookies. I saw that Throwdown and it made me want to bake some cookies as well, but those things are monsterous and didn’t have a recipe for it either. At least you have a standby favorite. Wouldn’t it be funny if the famed Levain cookies were actually nestle recipes? haha

    April 13, 2008 at 6:59 pm

  3. Cakespy said,

    These are definitely cookies that are ready for their closeup. Before I read your writeup I looked at the picture and thought “Those look like Levain Cookies!”. I am not one to enjoy sharing a cookie, but theirs are sharable even by my greedy standards! I love the idea of wheat flour–I love it in just about everything else! I have to say, I know that some people feel Levain is over-rated, but just walking down that block makes me a believer, every time! 🙂

    April 22, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  4. Lisa Michelle said,

    Dang..I’m sorry you didn’t like them, Jess. You see, most chocolate chip cookies are made up of pretty much the same ingredients, give or take ingredient amounts, add yolks and eggs or just yolks, different flours..some even add pudding mixes (umm..not so sure about powdered processed pudding in a CC cookie) so after viewing Throwdown, unless they were hiding something, I saw a basic chocolate chip cookie dough that was, as you said, piled up into huge cookie mounds with lots of nuts and chips.

    That said, this is why I’ve been trying to (and trying to get others to) experiment with different flours, to see how they come out as I felt it could be better. Also, as of late, I’ve been upping the brown sugar while decreasing the white sugar, which has definitely added more flavor and (in my opinion) brought it even closer to Levain’s.

    Regardless, I still think they taste just like Levain’s and never got that ‘sandy’ texture or plain flavor you mentioned, but we all have different palates, so it’s only natural that some will like it, and some won’t.

    Anyway..thank you for letting me hog up your comment section with all of my ideas 🙂 I’m glad you have a cookie recipe that works for well for you, and I’m looking forward to trying it, as I’ve never used WW flour in a CC recipe.

    May 4, 2008 at 5:24 am

  5. Cole said,

    I noticed you mentioned above that ..” if you piled any chocolate chip cookie dough into a 1/4-cup mound, you’d probably get the same result”

    In my experience as a pastry chef for almost 20 years, this is simply not the case. If you pile just “any” chocolate chip cookie dough, or any cookie dough for that matter, into several large mounds, there’s more than a good chance that the cookies will spread out into a sheet of flat, conjoined cookies. In order to get a cookie that maintains it’s shape with such a large amount of dough, you need the proper balance of leavens and flour, in conjunction with the right amount of creaming, mixing and all around handling and temperature of the dough. As you very well know, baking is a science, and science isn’t as simple as “any cookie will puff up if you use a larger amount of dough than usual”.

    I tried the aforementioned recipe, and got good results. I really couldn’t tell the difference between the tweaked recipe and the actual Levain cookie. Have you ever tried the actual Levain cookie? If so, did you like it?

    As for the sandy texture, maybe it was due to overbaking them? Flavor wise, if you have been using whole wheat flour in your chocolate chip cookies for years, a chocolate chip cookie without whole wheat, may be bland to you, but this is all speculation and assumption. Naturally, a good chocolate chip cookie also depends on the quality of the ingredients, especially the chocolate. Hershey’s – Nestle’s or Valrhona – Cocoa Barry? Good quality vanilla? It’s all relative.

    Having said what I had to say, I must compliment you on your wonderful site. You have some great recipes, and your writing is flowing and flawless, as is the photography.

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    May 8, 2008 at 6:11 pm

  6. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Cole, I admit I haven’t tried the actual Levain cookie, and I probably over-baked my cookies. But the flavor just seemed flat. I’ve enjoyed plenty of white-flour chocolate chip cookies, and I regularly use Whole Foods’ chocolate chips. So I’m not sure if using different chocolate or flour would make me like these cookies more. Thanks for your input though. 20 years as a pastry chef is impressive.

    May 26, 2008 at 9:37 pm

  7. April said,

    I tried the recipe for the Levain cookies, after watching the throwdown -I wanted to see if they were really as good as they looked. First time, I made it as written (with the changes for regular chocolate chip cookies), and I wasn’t impressed either (I also made them “snack size”). A few days later, I decided to give it another try… This time, I tried it with imported butter, muscavado brown sugar (instead of extra white sugar and molasses) and made them large (about half the Levain size – 24 cookies) and they were AMAZING! The last time, I didn’t have the fancy butter, but used muscovado sugar and they were good, but not as amazing… but I did get rave reviews on them from others! Since they’re such a simple cookie, the quality of ingredients really matter… and if you want the gooey inside – make them large & don’t over cook them.

    June 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm

  8. Elizabeth said,

    You can never beat your tried and true recipes!

    December 28, 2011 at 9:48 am