Once upon a time, I endeavored to bake the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. To this end, I used a beloved recipe: Jacques Torres’ 36-hour labor of love, made famous by The New York Times. While the end result was delicious, my curiousity wasn’t sated; I had to know if my rendition did the original justice. Obviously, then, when I found myself in NYC, a trip to Jacques Torres Chocolate found its way into my agenda.
However, I’d also heard whispers in the streets about a competing cookie. From the sound of it, Levain Bakery made a pretty penultimate CCC. In the name of science (and future holiday cookie bake-offs), I also scheduled a stop by their storefront. I scuttled from Manhattan to Brooklyn in the interest of testing out these two different sweets… and how did they compare?
One thing was certain. Even if there’s not a single “best” recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, there does appear to be a formula. That, my friends, is as follows:
Big + buttery = success.
Whereas Jacques Torres’ are broad, pliant discs marbled with oblong dark chocolate fevres, Levain’s are craggy heaps of tender dough and melted chocolate. Torres caramelizes his cookies until they achieve a rich mahogany color, with thin crispy edges and a chewy center. Levain’s cookies, on the other hand, are clearly underbaked, resulting in a lightly browned exterior and nearly custard-like center. We requested the Torres cookie warmed (highly recommended); the Levain cookie magically retained its gooeyness straight off the shelf.
Because we can’t control ourselves, we also tried an extra treat at each store. At Jacques Torres, Jay ordered the “frozen hot chocolate” smoothie – a delicious treat for a hot day. The drink was a bit bittersweet to pair with such a sweet cookie, however, and was nearly too rich for even three people to share. Speaking of rich, Jay bought another cookie after tasting our first at Levain; the dark chocolate chip flavor delivered dreamy cocoa-based fulfillment after only a few bites.
At the end of the day, both Jacques Torres and Levain produced top-tier chocolate chip cookies, with personal preference being the deciding factor. Levain’s chunky, rich cookie won Jay over, while I leaned towards Torres’ golden-brown, chewy version. We acknowledged each other’s choices and respectfully agreed to disagree. Emotions often run high when discussing things like politics, religion, and classic chocolate chip cookies. Unlike debates over the former two, however, discussions over baked goods typically end well. After all, they involve sugar.
167 West 74th St.
New York, NY 10023
Jacques Torres Chocolate
66 Water Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201