Friday, March 31, 2017

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #5 from Knewton

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #5, made dough on March 18, 2017, adapted from Knewton
This is my 5th attempt to try and replicate Levain Bakery’s double chocolate chip cookies. And after tasting it, it may be my last because I don’t think I need to keep trying. This one is so close and got the texture I was aiming for. Exciting, right?
I’m not sure why this appears to be the magic combo as I’m not enough of a scientist to be able to tell you how the different ingredients worked together. A few things can explain it: use of baking soda and no baking powder. Baking soda is triggered when it comes into contact with liquid and can aerate the dough upon activation. But once it’s triggered, i.e. in mixing into the dough, it doesn’t keep aerating the cookie during baking. It’s spent its gunpowder, so to speak. Baking powder is activated by both liquid AND heat during baking and that would make for a lighter cookie. I didn’t want a lighter, aerated cookie, I wanted a baked fudge texture so baking soda only works for me.
You don’t want to beat this dough too much either as beating it aerates the batter and adds more air pockets which again, would give you a lighter texture. No, no air, want fudgy, no.
This was also a relatively stiff dough so it didn’t spread very much, especially since I baked it from frozen dough like I almost always do with cookie dough. The high heat called for in the baking temp contributes to “setting” the outside of the cookie faster before the inside can fully bake. Remember, you don’t want to fully bake a chocolate cookie if you want a fudgy interior.
Baking at high heat is always tricky when you’re using chocolate chips or chunks though. They will burn at anything above 360 degrees or so. Double chocolate cookies are one of the cookies that uses chocolate chips/chunks where I don’t advocate having a lot of the chips or chunks on the outside of the cookie. Tuck them inside the cookie dough ball to prevent burning of the chocolate. I compromise by preheating my oven to 400 degrees and when it’s hot enough to reach 350, I pop the cookie sheet in, let it continue heating to 400, drop the temp down to 375 and take it out 10-11 minutes after I put it in. The oven loses heat whenever you open the oven door so when you open it to put the cookie sheet in, you still want the oven to keep on heating, hence why you want to put it in while it’s still “preheating”. I know that goes against the grain of most recipes who warn about fully preheating the oven before using. But that’s the best technique I’ve found with double chocolate cookies. The oven is still on its way to heating itself up to the full 400 degrees so it’s hot enough to start setting the outside of the cookie but it doesn’t stay at 400 long enough to burn the chocolate chips too much or hardly at all before you bring the oven temp down.
I don’t bring it all the way back down to 350 because that’s not hot enough to bake the outside in a short enough time to prevent the inside from fully baking. It might seem like a bother since you can’t just pop the cookies into the oven and walk away but trust me, it’s worth it. Let the cookies cool and set completely (this is important if you want the right texture). When you try it several hours later, the outside still has a little crispness to the outer shell but the inside is baked-fudge texture perfection. 
The outside does soften later but the interior was so close to Levain Bakery that I’ve given up on perfecting that outside shell. That’s one battle I’m fine losing because this wins the war of the inside texture.
I collaged the original Levain cookie with the cookie from this recipe and although the lighting makes it difficult to get a good comparison between the two cookies, hopefully you can see the dense, fudgy textures are close. Copycat job done!
Levain original on top, copycat on the bottom
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
5/8 cup cocoa powder
5/8 teaspoon baking soda
5/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into tablespoons
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 cups chocolate chunks
  1. Sift flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.
  2. Beat cold butter until creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add sugars and beat until combined. Add vanilla, egg and egg yolk until just combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks.
  3. Portion the dough into 4-ounce dough balls. Separate each ball into halves and combine the smooth halves together, leaving the "ripped" edges on the outside. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space dough balls. Bake for 17-18 minutes or until middles are set.  Cool completely on wire racks.

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