I live just a few steps away from a very famous bakery. (No, it’s not my own kitchen, weird right?! Funny how word hasn’t caught on about my mad kitchen skills yet…) People come in droves to buy their cookies; I’ve counted lines of 70+ people on more than one occasion. They make a lot of excellent items—a perfectly domed blueberry muffin, squares of thin-crust pizza shingled with rosemary-flecked potato slices, a dense banana bread packed with chocolate chunks—but most customers only have eyes for their cookies. Granted, the cookies are worth the wait.
Each one weighs about a full quarter of a pound and looks like a craggy British scone. They just barely toe the line between baked and underbaked, so the center is like eating a spoonful of gooey, warm cookie dough. They come in four varieties: chocolate chip walnut, chocolate peanut butter, double chocolate, and oatmeal raisin.
Some days I begrudge the crowds. Look, I’m all for cookie consumption! But, sometimes I think meanly that I wish people could do it elsewhere, rather than on my stoop. I don’t like when people block my steps and leave their chocolate-smudged cookie trash on the street. And sometimes I want to dash in for a crusty sourdough roll stuffed with a piece of dark chocolate, and I can’t, because there are about 40 French tourists in line.
But that’s not very kind of me. And it’s only the occasional frustration, I promise. Usually I find it endearing and nice to be famous by proximity. I can always tell people exactly where I live by mentioning the bakery and their eyes always light up. And sometimes something cute happens, like two days ago.
I was trudging home from the grocery store, laden with bags. As I neared my apartment, I looked up to see a lone figure sitting on the stoop. Ugh, I thought. A cookie eater in my way!
As I got closer, I saw that it was a guy in his early 30s. He looked nice: attractive and preppy and on the slightly nerdy side of clean-cut. He was wearing tidy-looking chinos, nice socks, and a Patagonia jacket over a button-down shirt. Upon reaching him, I saw that he had purchased a double chocolate cookie and had just spread out a napkin neatly over his lap, holding the cookie in both hands.
Next to him was…get this…a paper cup of milk. Milk! It was so absolutely adorable imagining him ordering the milk (“Excuse me, could I also please have a small cup of whole milk to go?”) that I just melted.
I gave him my nicest smile and swept past to go inside.
It made me feel nicely happy all morning, thinking of him treating himself to that cookie, and doing it in such a deliberate, thoughtful way. I think I’ll channel him next time I need a little light in my life.
But until then, why don’t we all have some outrageously good cookies?
These are not copycat versions of the famous bakery cookies, although you can find those if you search Levain Bakery cookie recipes. Good luck though—it’s not the same as the real thing.
But these are insanely good in their own right. One taste tester said that they would be overjoyed to eat the entire pan if they were an 8-year-old kid, so take that as you will. I brought an entire box to the drop-in lunch for the homeless, which is a program run twice a week out of a church a few blocks from me, and people freaked out over these. “Damn girl! Is this cheesecake inside a cookie?!” someone shrieked. Why yes, yes it is.
There’s a cookie dough layer, then a thin layer of cheesecake, then more cookie dough crumbled on top. If you want to, feel free to sprinkle a little flaky sea salt over the top before baking.
Note: The amount of corn starch seems totally wacky and wrong, but roll with it! It makes a really good consistency of dough for pressing into bar form.
Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars
Makes one 9” x 13” pan; adapted from SugarSaltMagic.com
For the cookie layers
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (90g) corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
For the cheesecake layer
227g (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9” x 13” pan with parchment paper.
To make the cookie dough, cream together the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, salt, milk, and vanilla. Mix carefully—it’ll look very dry at first, but keep mixing and it will come together.
Stir in the chocolate chunks.
Press a little over half of the dough into the prepared pan in an even layer.
Make the cheesecake layer: Beat together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour over the cookie dough layer.
Crumble the remaining cookie dough over the top of the cheesecake layer. Bake for about 30-40 minutes—start checking at 30 minutes. The bars are ready when the cheesecake is set and still soft but not jiggly. Remove from the oven and let cool fully before slicing (it’s even better to let them chill overnight in the fridge before slicing, if you can wait!).