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Have You Met My Friend, Chocolate Chip Cookie?

It’s here! It’s finally here! What, you ask? The one year anniversary (or birthday?) of Cookie Talk. Yes, folks, I’ve survived one year of blogging. I’ve learned so much, particularly about photography, and it’s been great hearing all the comments and suggestions. Blogs are such a wonderful way to share and connect with others. So thank you for sticking with me!

And what to do for the 1st Anniversary? Cookies, of course. Not just one cookie, but three cookies. To be fair, I’ve done one before, it was one of my very first posts, the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever, which is a copycat of the Levain Bakery from Lisa Michele. I’ve been making this cookie for about two years, feeling as though no other chocolate chip cookie could ever take it’s place. But all over the food world I see two other popular recipes: The New York Times recipe from Jacques Torres, and the Neiman Marcus “$250,000” cookie, or however much the rumor goes.

I was curious, and thus, came the challenge. I’d make all three chocolate chip cookies and the hubby and I, as well as a few of our more-than-willing friends and co-workers (“Hey, want to taste some cookies?” is a great way to win some friends), would do a blind taste test. It’s a rough job blogging. Really, tasting all these cookies was such hard work! Fine, don’t believe me.

The blind tasting for hubby and I was actually challenging, but probably not in a way that will garner any sympathy. We knew what went into each cookie and what each one looked like. But we tried to make it as objective as possible and even went so far as to blindfold one while the other took notes. But it was still pretty easy to guess which cookie we were tasting.

I learned a lot from this experiment, and was a bit surprised as well. I’m also working on my own chocolate chip cookie recipe, combining our favorites from each. But that’s a post for another day. Making the perfect cookie doesn’t happen overnight.

And the winner is (drum roll)…… The New York Times Jacques Torres, with Levain as a very close second. In fact, my initial favorite was Levain, barely, because I just couldn’t accept that my favorite cookie was being replaced. The more I ate the NYT cookie (yes, I’ve had several, which is not good for the waist line. See the sacrifices I make?) the more I liked it and the more I realized the Levain wasn’t as special as I thought it was. It was like learning you and your best friend have grown apart and now you have a new best friend who is much cooler and more compatible. It hurts a little. Until you have another cookie.

Now, I must point out that I have never had a true Levain cookie, or a Jacques Torres cookie, or a Neiman Marcus cookie. The Levain is a copycat recipe, which could completely change the results. So it isn’t a completely true competition, but hey, we’re doing the best we can. Someday I hope to go to New York and have Jacques Torres and Levain all in the same day. Probably with a tummy ache on the side.

Now, let’s talk about the differences in these cookies. All three are basic chocolate chip cookies: flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, butter, chocolate.  But they are all very different cookies, as you can see in the picture above. I used the same scoop, 3 TB, for each cookie and they baked very differently. The first is the Torres cookie, the second Levain, and the third Neiman Marcus.

Let’s talk first about the least favorite: The Neiman Marcus. Really, this cookie had no business attempting to compete against the other two. It’s not even in the same category. Two people did say it was their favorite, but most didn’t even like it all that much. The only redeeming factor was the chocolate-y-ness of it (and also that was by far the fastest to make), which came from the insane amount of instant coffee. It almost tasted like a Coffee Chocolate Chip cookie. But it was kind of dry, almost crunchy, and really not that special. It had the least amount of butter, only 1 egg, and was mostly brown sugar, which should have been a good thing. But it just didn’t measure up. Sorry, Neiman Marcus, your cookie isn’t even worth $2.50.

Next, the runner up, the Levain Copycat. After I made this recipe for the umpteenth time, I noticed Lisa Michele had updated her recipe to include less flour and more brown sugar, which is exactly what we thought it needed after tasting the NYT recipe. I had always used less flour than she suggested, and I always add vanilla. I feel it is necessary in a chocolate chip cookie. This is a great overall cookie. It is cakey and well balanced between dough and chocolate. If you were forced to eat this cookie for the rest of your life, you’d still be darned happy. It does dry out quite a bit the next day, which is one of the reasons it was forced into second place, but a few seconds in the microwave can help fix that.

And finally, the star of the Cookie World, the New York Times recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres. This cookie is a real show stopper. It is everything you want in a chocolate chip cookie and then some. And I didn’t even use the chocolate “discs” as the recipe suggests, which I can only imagine would make it even more delightful. This cookie had a lower brown sugar to granulated sugar ratio than the Neiman Marcus, but for some reason the brown sugar really stood out in the Jacques Torres cookie.  I don’t know why it stood out more in this cookie. I’m baffled. I’m also completely baffled at how it baked. I fully expected a bigger rise on this cookie due to the cold butter and the extra baking powder. But it didn’t. It spread and wasn’t cakey at all like the Levain. Have I mentioned I’m baffled? This goes against my basic knowledge of baking. Anyone care to help me out here? It must have something to do with the ratio of butter to flour to leavening agents. Or maybe it is because it is made with bread flour and cake flour? Help. Where is Alton Brown when I need him? I need to watch his Chocolate Chip Cookie episode again!

And back to the cookie. It’s crunchy on the outside. Gooey on the inside. A rich chocolate flavor with a caramel tasting dough. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, how about sprinkling some sea salt on top to take you right over the edge into Chocolate Chip Cookie Heaven? Yup, that’s a winning cookie.

Let’s take another look at the cookies:

New York Times/Jacques Torres

Levain Copycat

Neiman Marcus

This was a fun experiment. It’s interesting to see how slightly different measurements can create a completely different cookie.  So what’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie and why?

Tips and Pointers: For each recipe I used Guittard chocolate chips, light brown sugar, unsalted butter, fine sea salt, King Arthur Flour, and a 3 TB scoop. I also could not bake and eat all these cookies at the same time, nor do I have enough friends to share all this dough. I recommend scooping each dough out, freezing the dough balls, and then baking when you are ready. If you freeze the dough and then try to scoop, you are likely to hurt your shoulder. Trust me, I learned the hard way. This also ensures that you can always have fresh baked cookies on a moments notice…which might not be a good thing.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

Neiman Marcus

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (doesn’t sound like much, but it is!)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chip cookies

1) Preheat oven to 300F. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.

2) Beat in the egg and vanilla for another 30 seconds, or until combined.

3) In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in espresso and chocolate chips.

4) Using your desired cookie scoop, drop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (or silpat) about three inches apart. Gently press down to flatten. Bake about 20 minutes, or until brown. I think 20 minutes is too long and only baked for about 16 minutes.

Levain Copycat

  • 2 sticks ‘cold and cubed’ unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups AP flour – Spoon and Sweep method. I usually stick with 3 1/4 cup.
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon baking powder (just under 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2)  In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugars and vanilla until well blended and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.. and beat until well incorporated.
3)  Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chunks, or add to the mixer at the very end on very low speed.
4)  Using a scoop, place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat and bake in the preheated oven until very lightly browned, taking care not to over bake, about 14 – 16 minutes depending on your preference.

New York Times adapted from Jacques Torres

  • 2 cups minus 2 TB cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 TB granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups chocolate chips or discs
1)  Whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
2)  Cream together sugars and butter until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing completely and scraping bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low and very slowly add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Add chocolate very carefully.
3) Scoop cookies onto baking sheet and chill for 24 to 36 hours. Wrap tightly.
4)  Preheat oven to 350F. Bake cookies 14 to 18 minutes depending on the size, until golden but still gooey.
5) Eat immediately and have another.
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The Cookie that beats up other Cookies

Recently I was watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Chocolate on the Food Network (one of the few remaining good shows on that network – jus’ saying). And what do you know, there was the Levain Bakery showcasing one of their most amazing and I’m sure incredibly delicious cookies. I don’t know because I’ve never actually had one before. I just keep seeing them on TV and each time I have to refrain from buying a plane ticket to New York for that very same day. This time they were showcasing their Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie. Dear God, I think I may have died and gone to heaven! And, at this rate I am going to have to change the name of this blog to “Let’s Talk Chocolate”. I think that is one of those good problems.

My version of the Levain Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie.

If you know anything about the Levain Bakery, then you probably know they do not share their recipes. Guess their moms never told them sharing is caring. Or maybe they did, except when it involved a cookie that likely makes them plenty of money, in which case, go moms!  Thankfully we have many other talented bakers out there who are willing to share what they believe to be a very close copy cat recipe. I headed back to the blogger who first introduced me to her copy cat recipe, Lisa Michele. Turns out on the very same page as her Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever recipe she also has a Chocolate Peanut Butter cookie, which can easily be adjusted to make a Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie.

And as luck would have it, I had just ordered two new cocoa powders from King Arthur Flour, their Double Dutch Cocoa Powder and their Black Cocoa. I was very anxious to give these cocoa powders a try in the cookie. (If you don’t have these, I’m sure the cookies will still be amazing, but do try to stay away from not-so-great cocoa powder like Hershey’s and store brands. Those poor quality cocoas will have a detrimental effect on your cookie.)

These are cookies, which means they are very easy to make. I used Lisa Michele’s recipe almost exactly, using the max amount of cocoa she suggests but also adding 1 TB of coffee. In order make them incredibly gooey, you will need to underbake them. However, if you aren’t a big fan of underbaked cookies, they will still taste delightful baked longer.

Fair warning, these are probably some of the most intense chocolate flavored cookies I’ve ever had. They could easily be a brownie. And they do require a scoop of ice cream or a big glass of milk. My dear hubby went crazy for these. I’m sure you will too!

Gooey chocolate chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of coffee ice cream.

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Modified very slightly from Lisa Michele

  • 2 sticks cold butter, cubed (cold is very important!)
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TB coffee, cooled
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa** SIFTED
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cup AP Flour, spoon and sweep method
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups good quality chocolate (I use guittard)

**I used 1/4 cup + 2TB KAF Double Dutch and 2 TB black cocoa. The black cocoa is not meant to be used all by itself, so you don’t want to use too much. Don’t forget to sift your cocoa powder!

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line sheet trays with silpat or parchment.

2. Scale all your ingredients. Put the butter back in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

3. Cream the butter and the sugar, along with the coffee in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated. Then add the cocoa powder (turn the mixer to low or off before doing this to avoid a mess!).

5. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together. Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Add chocolate chips and mix briefly.

6. Using a scoop, scoop the dough onto a parchment. The size is up to you, but you will get a gooey cookie with a crisp crust if they are bigger.

The cookie before baking. Yes, the dough tastes good, I tried it.

7. Bake at 375 for 12 to 18 minutes depending on the size. Since they are chocolate, determining if they are done can be a bit challenging and may require a little experimentation. This experimentation will no doubt involve tasting the cookie. Baking can be such a rough job.

Hopefully someday I will be able to try the real thing. I know they ship, but it isn’t the same as getting it from the bakery. Until then, I will enjoy these fresh out of my oven!

Tip: I think I first read this on Lisa Michele’s blog, but I can’t recall for sure. If you are like me, you might just devour all of these cookies within 24 hours. Not a great idea! So to freeze them, scale them out on a sheet pan and freeze. Once frozen, place the dough in a plastic baggie. Then whenever you are ready for a cookie (which is always, right?) just place the frozen dough ball on a sheet pan a bake. No need to defrost!

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever.

If any of you watch Bobby Flay’s Throw Down show, you most likely have seen the Chocolate Chip cookie episode. And if you have, you were also drooling over the amazing Levain Chocolate Chip cookies! You could almost taste how decadent, gooey, and wonderful they were, not to mention going into a sugar coma by the mere size of these cookies. I was devasted after watching the episode to learn that Levain Bakery did not release their cookie recipe! Don’t they realize we can’t all just hop on a plane and head to New York for their cookies? Yes, I was heartbroken. Thankfully, another blogger Lisa Michele figured out the recipe, or at least close enough for my liking. I’ve never had the Levain cookies, so I can’t know for sure. But I do know I am addicted to these cookies. I crave them and make them several times a month. When people have them for the first time, they too become addicted!
I haven’t modified the recipe much, but have put a couple spins on it. One, I love to use turbinado sugar. It gives the cookies a slight crunch. Very slight, but oh so delicious. Second, I always use vanilla, which is suggested by Lisa Michele, but the Levain bakery insists that they do not need vanilla. And, when I’m feeling up to it, I like to add toasted pecans. The chocolate and pecans really go well together. As if we needed another reason to love these cookies! And cold butter is a must! The butter should be your very last step.
Good chocolate is absolutely essential here. Nestle and Hershey’s or any generic brand will do disservice to these cookies. I use Guittard (52%), but Callebaut or even Guiradelli’s will work. Just as long as it is good quality chocolate. A trick to knowing if it is decent chocolate: the first ingredient should be: (shocking!) cocoa! Not sugar or anything else, but cocoa. ‘Nuf said. I also add the vanilla during the creaming stage – you get more vanilla flavor that way!
I usually make them small, using a tablespoon scoop, but it is fun to make them big once in a while! It’s a great treat. I also bake them until they are slightly golden on top, which makes them crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside.
These cookies also freeze very well. I will sometimes make the dough and just bake a couple of cookies, then freeze the rest of the dough. That way I’m not eating too many cookies!

Thank you, Lisa Michele and Levain Bakery!

And now, the recipe

Ingredients
  • 2 sticks ‘cold and cubed’ unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar – not packed.
  • 1 tablespoon good vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups AP flour – Spoon and Sweep method.I usually stick with 3 1/4 cup.
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon baking powder (just under 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I use Guittard)
  • 1 cup pecans (Toast for more flavor)
DirectionsPreheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugars and vanilla until well blended and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.. and beat until well incorporated.
2. Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chunks and nuts, or add to the mixer at teh very end, careful not to overmix.
3. Finish mixing chocolate and nuts with a wooden spoon.
4. Using a scoop (size is your preference), place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat and bake in the preheated oven until very lightly browned, taking care not to overbake. Let cool on rack and store what you don’t immediately eat, in an airtight container. Microwave for a few seconds to make them warm and gooey again!

 

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