Thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies are a classic, but their thin, crunchy, butterscotch-y cousins deserve a spot in the cookie jar, too. To make this possible, I went to the test kitchen and mixed together a bunch of ingredients—baking a lot of mishaps before I came to our Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. Keep reading to see exactly how I got here.
The good thing about the battle between thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies and thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies is that nobody loses—when done well, both styles are great. So I was excited when my editor handed me the assignment of developing a recipe for the thin and crispy variety.
A good thin and crispy cookie needs to live up to its name. Rather than having a range of textures, these cookies must keep a consistent snap. Just like a good potato chip, the best crispy cookie will be as crispy in the middle as it is at the edge.
In researching existing recipes, I found that there were two common tricks for creating thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies. One option was to simply increase the amount of butter in the recipe. This did make for thin and crispy cookies, as the extra butter melted and helped the cookies spread in the oven, but the cookies spread too much and were greasy from the extra fat. The other trick was to mix the batter entirely by hand—no creaming the butter and sugar using a mixer—so that the cookies held less air and thus had less structure, which also encouraged them to spread wide and thin. But again, these cookies spread too much and ran into each other on the baking sheet. That wouldn't do.
I needed to find a middle ground between domed cookies and superflat cookies. I started by combining a melted stick of butter with ⅔ cup of sugar; my tasters liked a combination of granulated and brown sugars for that signature butterscotch flavor. I worked with a baseline of 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and I knew the batter needed eggs for structure. Two seemed like the right number, but the eggs were making the cookies rise a little too high. Losing the egg whites and using just two yolks made for lower-profile, crispier cookies. Vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda rounded out the batter ingredients. Mini chocolate chips, rather than full-size ones, also helped these cookies ride low.
Left: The dough, divided, into 16 heaping tablespoon portioned on prepared sheets. Right: Use moistened fingers and press the dough portions into ½-inch thickness.
I was making good progress, but the cookies weren't quite as crispy as I wanted. I tried fiddling with the oven temperature and rack placement, but in the end the solution was adding just 1½ tablespoons of whole milk. The milk provided extra moisture so that the cookies didn't completely dry out with the extra baking time required to crisp them up; plus, the natural sugars in the milk aided in browning. These cookies were good, but overspreading was still an issue.
The batter needed a bit more flour to hold the cookies together and keep them from spreading too much. Just ¼ cup more did the trick, but the extra flour made the cookies a little too chewy. I was at my wit's end when a colleague suggested switching from all-purpose flour to lighter cake flour, which contains less protein and makes for more-tender baked goods. That solved the problem and was the finishing touch on my new favorite cookie: thin, crispy, studded with chocolate chips, and packed with flavor. Now that's the way these cookies crumble.