Chocolate Chip Cookie Bake-Off: NYT vs. Levain Copycat

The chocolate chip cookie. It has to be the ultimate cookie in the minds of a lot of people, and there are enough recipes to match. At last count, I have >50 recipes saved for different chocolate chip cookies, and that doesn’t count the couple family recipes that I have sitting in my arsenal. So what’s a girl to do? Compare them side by side! 

Since comparing 50+ recipes at one time is not feasible (unless we want to eat chocolate chip cookies and only chocolate chip cookies for the next month!), I have decided that I want to compare the recipes, side by side, tournament style, two at a time and work our way through to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe for us. This is probably going to take me awhile since I like to mix things up, but as I pair up the recipes, I’ll send them your way. I have told you before that the hubs and I have a different take on the perfect cookie (he’s a crunchy fan, I’m a chewy fan). Given this, I fully realize that I may end this quest with 2 perfect recipes, but 2 has to be better than 50 🙂

So which 2 are up first? I started my quest with 2 of the most contended recipes floating around the blogsphere – the New York Times recipe and a Levain bakery copycat recipe. While I have never had an authentic Levain bakery cookie, it is certainly in my bucket list as it seems to be quite the experience. The New York Times recipe speaks for itself. I don’t know how many blog posts I have read declaring this the best recipe ever.  Some ground rules to start:

1) I will try to follow recipes as written.
2) That said, I want to use the same kinds of chocolate chips in each so that my tastes aren’t swayed by the chocolate.
3) My other exception to following the recipes. Nuts. I will always leave them out.
4) One has to be declared a winner. One by me and one by the hubs.

So, here’s my take on the cookies:

The New York Times recipe calls for chocolate disks. I looked really hard for these but all that I could find was unsweetened chocolate disks from Trader Joe’s which weren’t going to work. I ended up using a mix of bittersweet chips and milk chocolate chips in here to match the chips called for in the Levain recipe. If you’ve heard of this recipe, you know that it calls for a significant chill time (24 hours) in the refrigerator. This is torture for anyone who loves cookie dough 🙂 I didn’t try baking cookies at different chill times, but I have heard from other bloggers who have tried this that the chill time really does make a difference  in developing depth in the flavors. The resulting cookies were large and did develop the texture difference referred to in the recipe – crunchy around the edges and chewy in the middle. One definite plus, they stayed soft for a couple of days as we ate through the batch.

(Printable Recipe)

The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The New York Times July 8, 2008

2 cups, minus 2 Tbsp. (8-1/2 oz) cake flour
1-2/3 cups (8-1/2 oz) bread flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. coarse salt
2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups (10 oz) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. natural vanilla extract
1-1/4 lbs. bittersweet & milk chocolate chips, mixed
sea salt (optional)

Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined, 5-10 seconds. Drop in chocolate chips and incorporate. Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Set aside. Scoop 3-1/2 ounce mounds of dough (size of generous golf balls) onto the baking sheet, making sure to turn any chocolate pieces that are poking up to make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

The Levain copycat recipe is also one that makes huge cookies. I used the same mix of bittersweet and milk chocolate chips in these to eliminate the chocolate as a variable. The cookies get definite points for being a quick recipe. There are some times where you just want a chocolate cookie recipe right now. The cookies were notably thicker that the New York Times recipe and were softer throughout with the outer edge being less crunchy. I loved the use of dark brown sugar in these as I loved the depth of the flavor that it added. Of note, there is not vanilla. Lisa, the creator of this copycat recipe states that these are best the day that they are made, and I agree. They tended to get drier than the NYT recipe after storing for a couple of days.

(Printable Recipe)

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2-3/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups bittersweet & milk chocolate chips, mixed
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (I omitted these)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

In the bowl of a electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until well blended and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Transfer dough to a clean work surface and gently mix by hand to ensure even distribution of the ingredients. Divide into 12 equal portions of about 4 oz each. Place each on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silpat and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until very lightly browned, taking care not to overbake. Let cool on a wire rack.

Well, so which one was our choice. I have to say that both recipes were phenomenal. I was expecting to make two recipes and have a clear favorite, but I can truly tell you that it was a hard choice. In the end, the NYT recipe won over both my hubs and I. Him for the crunchy edge. Me for many things including the depth of flavor and better storage. My biggest downside of these is the chill time required. It is certainly not a recipe that can fulfill a chocolate chip cookie craving but is great if you are planning ahead to make them.
I definitely wouldn’t turn down one of these Levain copycat cookies if someone offered me one, but I think for now, the NYT recipe is on to the next round 🙂 Enjoy!

8 thoughts on “Chocolate Chip Cookie Bake-Off: NYT vs. Levain Copycat

  1. I can't wait to see all of the recipes you try – your tournament style knock-out is a terrific idea! I haven't made the NYT recipe in ages, but it was a favorite here too. And I am so with you, no nuts in my CCC 🙂

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