Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies are the most decadent peanut butter and chocolate lover’s treat ever. Almost 1/2 lb of gooey, dark chocolate and peanut butter chips combined in to a cookie makes this one of the most sought after recipes on A Bountiful Kitchen!
If you have been following A Bountiful Kitchen for the past few months on Instagram, you have seen the flood of photos and comments on my posts and Insta Stories about ABK’s Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (below)! Everyone loves this recipe. It’s a massive glob of a cookie, stuffed full of chocolate chips and walnuts. The full story about how Levain Bakery got its start in New York City, along with bits of information about the the owners and the what, why and how history of the bakery and their amazing cookies is in my Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Once I posted the Chocolate Chip Walnut recipe, I started receiving requests for the other cookie flavors: oatmeal raisin, chocolate chocolate chip and the Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies. I remembered eating the dark chocolate peanut butter cookie, but in all honesty, we purchased one each of the four flavors, and after sharing parts of each one, I was on sugar overload and didn’t finish any of the cookies except the original chocolate chip walnut. It still is my favorite!
When my readers speak, I listen. So here, by popular demand is the cookie you’ve all been waiting for 🙂 If you want to read the break down of this recipe, stay with me, and I’ll give you the full story on how I developed the Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies. If you just want the recipe, and want to skip all of the science behind the recipe development, scroll to the bottom of the post! As with the original chocolate chip walnut recipe, if there are modifications, I will date and add those to the bottom of this post, as well as to the recipe notes!
In the beginning…
A few important factors came into development of the Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies. Comparison (actually experiencing eating the cookie again for a side by side taste and vision test), testing out different types of chocolate, peanut butter chips (what brand and how many to use), fat (traditional amount or more), logic and my big Aha! moment. Let’s get started…
Comparing apples with apples and very nice friends…
As much as I would like to jump on a plane and go to Levain myself for research purposes (next time I’m going to start a GoFundMe account hahaha) , it wasn’t happening for me this spring. I contemplated ordering some cookies online, but really wanted a fresh cookie. I was scrolling thru Insta Stories and saw my friend Kristen was biking around Central Park, and posting stories of her husband running along side her (totally something Grant would do). I knew Levain was really close by, so I asked her to bring me a cookie if she happened to stop by the bakery. It was my lucky day, she was headed there and brought me two fresh cookies! The cookies were a little different than I remembered. They were more dense, even so than the chocolate chip walnut Levain cookies. The Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies were filled with pb chips, and after they set up, seemed more similar to a partially baked brownie than a cookie! The peanut butter chip variety also stayed remarkably fresh for days after Kristen made her delivery to me. When I make the traditional chocolate chip walnut recipe, those also stay fresh for days, which I attribute to the cookies being extremely under baked.
Chocolate – powdered vs solid, light vs dark
I decided to use unsweetened chocolate in a powdered form because I believe this is most likely what Levain Bakery uses. If you go back and read my first post, I reference a video of the owners making cookies (without divulging their secret recipe). They repeat a few times, they like to “keep it simple”. My guess is, even thought the cookies resemble brownies I love (that are made with melted solid unsweetened chocolate), I don’t believe Levain Bakery makes this cookie with melted chocolate. I considered, but did not try (yet) melting the butter and then whisking in the unsweetened cocoa powder to the dough. This would absolutely require the dough be refrigerated before baking. I may still try this at a later date…
I tested out 4 different types of unsweetened cocoa powder. Traditional Hershey’s cocoa powder, Callebaut (Belgian) cocoa powder, an organic brand of unsweetened cocoa powder, and Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa. The chocolate that was most similar in color and flavor to the Levain Bakery cookie was Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa, which you can find at most grocery stores. It has more of a dark brown instead of a red color, which produces a cookie most like Levain bakes. I experimented with 1/2, 3/4 and 1/3 cups of cocoa powder, and felt that 1/3 was the perfect amount.
As tradition would have it, most cookies of this type are made with a blend of brown and white sugar. I experimented with all types of combinations. But nothing seemed right. I noticed the bottom of the Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies had a hard surface. Hard, as in, you can take your knuckle and knock on it. Seriously. They are that hard. Not crispy, but hard. Here’s my theory- the sugar caramelizes on the bottom of the cookie because it’s melted at a high temperature, and combines with the peanut butter chips to create a hard bottom. This only work when the sugar is all granulated sugar. It never quite turns out the same when the sugar is part brown and part white sugar. For the record, I tried dark and light brown sugar along with white, granulated sugar. This is how the bottom of your cookie should look…
Unfortunately, when cooking with Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, baked goods dry out faster. I tried making this cookie with the usual amount of butter (1 cup) in a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, but the cookies never seemed to be moist enough. No matter how long I baked (or underbred in this case) the cookies, they always seemed dry. I tried adding less flour, a third of a cup of peanut butter into the dough thinking this might solve the problem, but the cookies aren’t made with peanut butter in the dough, so that was a failure. At this point I was ready to give up…I ended up using 1 1/4 cups of butter, read the AHA! moment section to find how I came up with this amount. I need emojis to make this post complete. Insert the frustrated and thinking emoji here.
Cake Flour vs All Purpose
Cake flour is essential in this recipe. Cake flour will create a more tender cookie than a cookie made with straight all purpose flour. If you can’t find cake flour at your grocery ( I highly recommend King Arthur Cake Flour, be a careful to buy KA Cake Flour, not a “Cake Flour Blend”) you can make your own at home by using this simple method: Measure out 1 cup of all purpose flour into a medium size mixing bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and place back in the flour container. Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the flour in mixing bowl. Sift the flour and cornstarch mixture. Sift again about 3-4 more times. You now have cake flour! Place in a bag or container and use as needed. Very helpful to double or triple this and have it on hand, ready to use.
I sincerely dislike cookie recipes that ask the baker to refrigerate the dough before baking! Why? I am way too impatient to refrigerate my dough. I want my cookie NOW, not an hour and a half from now. This cookie does not require refrigeration, unless you make the mini version (3.0-3.5 oz size) in this case, please refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking to insure the cookie will hold its shape.
One of the most frequent questions/complaints I have received about the Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie is “my cookies are not as big as yours”, or “they fell flat”. It took me a few back and forth exchanges to find out that the readers with complaints were not adding the walnuts. Big problem! The walnuts took up TWO CUPS of volume in the cookie. If the walnuts are not added (in the other recipe), the cookie needs something else to help stabilize the dough and help the cookies hold their thick shape. Same with this cookie. This cookie requires two packages of peanut butter chips. It won’t work to add 2 additional cups of flour to stabilize the dough(to substitute for one of the packages of pb chips). The cookies will taste very cake-like, and the flavor of the cookie will be lost in the flour. My advice? Bite the bullet and use two packages of peanut butter chips. You won’t be sorry! The cookies measure 2.5-3 inches tall when they are stacked on the cookie sheet before baking. The cookie dough will look ridiculously tall and thin (maybe about 2 inches wide) before baking. They will spread a bit while baking and also while cooling.
convect vs regular bake
If you have a convection oven, use it. I like to bake these at 425 regular bake or 400 convection bake. The high temperature insures the cookie will bake quickly on the outside but stay moist on the inside. Creating the hard crust on the bottom of the cookie requires the temperature is set to 400-425. Since the cocoa powder dries the cookies out a bit, the cookie only bakes for 5-6 minutes, or until the top the cookie barely forms a crust. In all of the test batches, I found no more than 6 minutes is best. Turn the oven on before you start making the cookies so it is nice and hot when you place the pan inside of the oven. This is extremely important to forming the caramelized bottom crust.
important step- keep your cool
If you have a cookie craving and you want to immediately dig into your fresh out of the oven cookies, wait a few minutes for best eating results. Because the Levain Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies are barely baked, they are really difficult to eat until they are allowed to set up for a few minutes, they also taste best when they are allowed to cool a while. To speed up this process, you may carefully transfer the cookies to a cool baking sheet with a spatula and set the cooled cookie sheet in the fridge. Do the dishes and the cookies will probably be ready to eat. Make sure to completely let the cookies cool before stacking them on a serving plate.
My big AHA! moment
After all weeks of experimenting, I felt like I still did not have the cookie right. And you know how committed I am to getting my copycat recipes right! I obsess over the most ridiculous details. Like the bottom of the cookie. I knew I couldn’t declare this recipe a legitimate copycat recipe unless that bottom was hard. I knew it had something to do with temperature and sugar, but felt like my version still wasn’t right. I was tired of making batches of cookies only to have them turn out beneath my expectations. By this time, my comparison sample had run out. I put the cookie recipe on the shelf for a while until I had the enthusiasm to work on it again…then, this happened. I fired up the oven and decided I’d give it another try. I pulled two more bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips (the only brand I recommend, btw) out of the pantry. There it was plain as day, staring me in the face. The recipe on the back of the bag of chips. Two cups of granulated sugar (the standard is 1 3/4 in most recipes of this type), and not 1, but 1 1/4 cups of butter. This was it. The perfect combination of sugar and butter to make the cookies just like Levain’s cookie. I knew it before I baked it up. And sure enough, when I combined their sugar and butter amounts with my already tested amounts of chocolate, flour combination and other dry ingredients, it was a match made in cookie heaven.
Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies- End of story
So that’s my story. The recipe on the back of the bag was enough to seal the deal for me. I’ve made this recipe several times now with great success. I hope you, and all of your chocolate and peanut butter obsessed loved ones enjoy!
Levain Bakery Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
Yield 8 -10 cookies
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, microwave for 10 seconds or set on counter for 30 minutes
- 2 cups granulated (white) sugar
- 2 eggs, cold
- 1/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark Unsweetened Cocoa powder
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2- 10 oz bags Reese's peanut Butter Chips
- Place rack in center of oven with no other rack on the shelf directly above the center rack. Preheat oven to 400 convection bake or 425 regular bake.
- Cut the butter into tablespoons size pieces.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat butter, and sugar for about 1 minute until butter is broken up and starts to blend with the sugar.
- Add eggs, one at a time until mixed well. Keep the mixer speed on medium. Turn mixer off and add cocoa, mix until cocoa is blended well.
- Turn mixer off. Add all purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to bowl all at once. Pulse the mixer until the wet and dry ingredients are combined using low speed.
- Fold in the peanut butter chips.
- Scoop the cookies with hands onto a kitchen scale, the cookies should weigh 6 oz each. There will be approximately 9-10 pieces of dough. If you are making minis, measure out to 3 - 3.5 ox size and refrigerate before baking.
- The large 6 oz cookies do not require refrigeration before baking. Bake the cookie sheets one at a time, 4-5 cookies per sheet at least 3 inches apart.
- Bake when oven is hot for 5-6 minutes on convection or regular bake. The cookies are done when a top crust is formed and the cookies no longer look wet. Do not over bake!
- Let the cookies cool for 30 minutes before eating.