Recipe: The Best Choc-Walnut Cookies

Copycat Levain Cookies: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Copycat Levain Cookies: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

I had the address saved on my iPhone: 167 West 74th Street, New York.
But I had been forewarned that it was a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ kind of place…
I needn’t have worried.

The first clue that gave it away was the long line – lawyers and doctors from the posh precinct braving the biting cold, literally rubbing shoulders with tourists like me.

The second clue: the decadent aroma of silky rich melting chocolate wafting up from the bakery basement, teasing and tempting me of what was to come – if I were patient.

You see, by the time I reached the legendary Levain Bakery in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the queue was at least 35 people deep. I queued for half and hour. And it was well worth the wait.

I was there to taste from the Holy Grail of cookies at Levain Bakery with their (un)holy trinity of Chocolate Chip Walnut, Oatmeal Raisin and Dark Chocolate Choc Chip.

While the bakery is minuscule, these cookies are monster-sized!
Think over 150 grams each.
Think as big as my five-year-old’s face.
Think enough butter and chocolate to feed a famished army.
Chocoholic that I am, I still could not finish an entire one!

And once I got back to reality here in Sydney, their taste and texture fuelled my sweet dreams. So here is my attempt – in the name of food science and all that – to replicate Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie.

Ingredients:
3 ¼ cups plain flour (plus 1 tsp for mixing with chocolate chips and walnuts)
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
½ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped

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Method:
Set your oven to 170°C.
Line three baking sheets with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.
Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars well until light and creamy in another bowl.
Next add your eggs and vanilla.
Mix the choc chips and walnuts in the extra spoon of flour and then add this to the flour mixture.
Then gradually add all these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until incorporated. It will take some time and trouble as the dough will be sticky!
Use a spatula to scrape the sides and then use your hands to bring this stiff dough together to form a large ball. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

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Divide cookie dough into 15 portions and form into rough balls with your hands. Each will weigh approx. 100g (pretty big – but still smaller than the Levain cookies!).
Place on baking sheets (5 cookies per sheet), leaving enough space between. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
Bake these cookie balls for 15-20 minutes, until cookies are golden and just cooked in the middle.

My tips:
* Use the best quality chocolate you can get your hands on. I used Ghirardelli’s semi-sweet baking choc chips.
* Do not flatten the cookie dough. Instead, leave them in balls.
* Keeping the unbaked cookie balls in the fridge before baking will help them keep their shape.
* Err on the side of under-baking! You want the cookie centres to be soft and fluffy (almost cake-like) but the edges to be crunchy and crispy. The chocolate should ooze out when you bite into them.
* The cookies will stay fresh for about a week if kept in an air-tight container. But you know they’re not gonna last that long!

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P.S.: While in queue, I chatted with a man behind me – a lawyer who lived two blocks away. He suggested I try their pizza as well. I did. The artichoke pizza was sooooo good, I inhaled it even before I could get to Central Park. I didn’t even click a photo of it. Well, there’s always next time!

So tell me, do you like to bake? What sweet treats are on your Christmas cooking list? Do you try healthy versions of baked goods or do you believe that more butter is always better? 😉

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