First Jemma and her gang went to New York City and raved over the Levain cookie. Here is the November 7, 2019, video. Then once back at the Crumbs and Doilies Bakery (C&D) in the UK, Sally & Dane (Jemma was sick) got to work trying to duplicate the recipe. Here is the November 21, 2019, video.
A few days after the Cupcake Jemma video, on November 26, 2019, another video on the same Levain Cookie popped up. This video was by Delish.
What in the heck is going on????
A quick search of YouTube found a video by the real Levain owners/bakers making their famous cookies. This one from July 17, 2008. More searching found countless other videos claiming to have broken the Levain code to the perfect chunky chocolate chip cookie. Ally Bakes on November 2, 2019, Daram Table on Sept 6, 2019, William's Kitchen on Aug 6, 2019, Serious Eats on April 23, 2019, Maverick Baking on November 4, 2018, etc, etc. The more you look, the more you find.
All this hype convinced me to give the copycat recipes a try. First up I tried the Cupcake Jemma recipe, because Jemma, Sally, and Dane are my heroes. Here is their version straight out of the oven.
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Mixing up a batch of Jemma's cookie dough was a breeze. The C&D gang repeatedly stressed not to over mix the dough, and the end result was a magnificent looking batch of cookies. But I'm sad to admit that I wasn't impressed with the taste. Something was missing. I much preferred the taste of my goto Mock Mrs. Fields Cookie recipe which contains pulverized oatmeal (I use Quaker Quick 1 Minute Oats). But I have to admit that while my MMF cookies taste great they look a little flat when compared to the Cupcake Jemma cookie. In an Aha moment I decided to use Cupcake Jemma's mixing technique on the MMF Cookie and got what I think is an awesome chunky cookie.
What do you think? Crispy on the outside, soft, gooey, and oozing chocolate on the inside. Chunky, chocolate chip cookie nirvana.
I put all thoughts of Levain cookies aside until Joshua Weissman's video on Feb 27, 2020 hit my notifications list. His recipe intrigued me because it used melted butter instead of cold butter. His recipe isn't truly in the Levain style, but because it WAS a little different I decided to give it a try. And because his recipe uses melted butter I decided to kick it up a notch and use melted browned butter instead. Yummm...
After baking each recipe individually I decided to make them all at once and taste them in a head-to-head comparison. Here is the dough going into the oven. Cupcake Jemma on the left, Josh (melted butter recipe) in the center, and the Mock Mrs. Field (oatmeal flour) on the right. Look at the shadows the cookies are throwing. That shows that they are really tall. (Note: for all the cookies I used Callebaut Chocolate Callets 54.5% Cacao, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste, and Gold Medal Flour. The flour and chocolate you use will greatly impact the taste and texture of the cookies.)
Same cookies right out of the oven. Cupcake Jemma (left), Joshua W (center), and Mock Mrs. Fields (right). The cookie dough balls all weigh approximately 110g, and I baked them in a 350 degree convection oven for 18 minutes. As per the Cupcake Jemma instructions, I also pre-heated the pan which stops the cookie dough from spreading as it bakes and gives them a brown, crispy bottom. Here they are after baking - there was very little spreading.
All the cookies baked up nice and tall, but the Cupcake Jemma (A) is the tallest, and the Mock Mrs. Fields (C) is the flattest.
Here are the cookies after about 30 minutes of cooling.
And here they are showing their soft, gooey centers. Cupcake Jemma on the left, Joshus W. in the center, and Mock Mrs Field on the left.
Taste-wise my favorites were the Mock Mrs Fields and the Joshua Weismann melted butter recipe.
Here are my observations:
Cupcake Jemma Recipe - I liked the chunky look of the cookie. It had lots of deep nooks and crannies that made it look very appetizing. It was the tallest of the three cookie recipes, and it had the lightest bottom. The interior texture looked slightly more cake-like than the other two cookies - it had a noticeable crumb. The inside of the cookie was nice and soft, and the outside had just a little crunch. But sadly I found the Cupcake Jemma cookie a little lacking in flavor. It just tasted a little flat. Maybe it needed some salt and vanilla added to the mix. After letting the cookie sit for 24 hours the inside was still soft and moist, and surprisingly the flavor of the cookie had improved noticeably. Letting it rest deepened the chocolate flavor and gave it a wonderful taste.
Joshua Weismann Recipe - This cookie, which was made with melted butter, had a much creamier texture than the other two cookies. Both the exterior and interior looked smooth and velvety. When the cookie was broken open, some 30 minutes after coming out of the over, the interior looked almost gooey. There was no "crumb" to this cookie, it almost looked like fudge. The bottom of the cookie was a little hard and over caramelized, but the top was a beautiful golden brown. And the taste - the taste was amazing. It was bold and unique. I was blown away. I've always loved the Mock Mrs. Field recipe, but this cookie might become my new favorite. After 24 hours of resting, the gooey interior of the cookie had solidified, but it was still soft and moist.
Mock Mrs. Field (MMF) Recipe - The outside of this cookie is super crunchy, and the inside is very soft and moist. The cookie's texture has a little hint of a crumb but not much. The oatmeal powder and the grated chocolate also give the cookie a different look. After baking you can still see flecks of the white oatmeal, and the grated chocolate gives the cookie an overall browner look. It doesn't look like a Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, but the MMF doesn't look as golden brown as the other two cookies. Taste-wise the MMF is a winner. It is super moist and the grated chocolate give it an extra kick of flavor. 24 hours later this cookie is still super moist. The pulverized oatmeal absorbs moisture and helps the cookie stay fresher longer.
So which is my favorite? It is a toss-up between the Mock Mrs. Field and the Joshua Weismann (with the browned butter). Both are really, really good but in different ways. And to further complicate things - I really liked the Cupcake Jemma cookie after it had set for a while. Straight from the oven the other two were better, but after 24 hours all three were awesome.
With the Covid-19 "stay-at-home" orders still in place I can't have a big gathering to get a bunch of different opinions on the cookies, but I'm going to drop a few of the samples off to my family to see which cookie is their favorite. Stay tuned for the results....
Well the results are in and (sadly) there is still no clear winner. The Joshua Weismann (JW) recipe was neck-in-neck with the Cupcake Jemma (CCJ) , and the Mock Mrs. Fields (MMF) was not far behind. The level of sweetness seemed to be the deciding factor. The people that like the Cupcake Jemma liked it because it wasn't as sweet, they favored the JW recipe next, and they didn't like the MMF because it was too sweet and had too much chocolate. For the people that like the MMF, they liked it because it was sweet and had lots of chocolate, and they didn't like the CCJ (as much) because it wasn't sweet enough. The people that preferred the Joshua cookie said it had unique flavor and thought the CCJ was "missing something".
So I'm not sure where to go next with this experiment. I might try making browned butter, getting it cold again, and using that in the CupCake Jemma recipe. I also saw yesterday that the DoubleTree / Hilton Hotel chain published it's chocolate chip cookie recipe. Their recipe has oats like the MMF, but it also has lemon juice and a pinch of cinnamon. I might have to give that recipe a try....
Find the Cupcake Jemma recipe on this November 21, 2019, video.
Find Joshua Weissman's recipe on this video from Feb 27, 2020, but I used browned butter instead of plain melted butter.
Here you will find the Mock Mrs. Fields Cookie recipe, but use the mixing directions from Cupcake Jemma's recipe video.
Each cookie was 110-125g of dough, and I baked them in a 350 degree convection oven for 17-18 minutes on a pre-heated baking sheet. After removing the cookies from the oven I let them rest for 3 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.
If you try them all, let me know which one you liked best.