Milk Bar Bake the Book Class

Milk Bar offers weekend classes at their Williamsburg, Brooklyn shop and I had the opportunity to go last year.  I have made some of their cakes at home, but it was a real treat to make them at Milk Bar.  Actually, it is more like assemble, because they pre-bake the cake and the crumbles and pre-made the frosting.  It was still fun, because the instructors were great, very helpful, friendly, and full of Milk Bar trivia.  After assembling the cake, we also made cake truffles.  Finally, after the class our instructor took a few super-fans on a tour of the Milk Bar bakery.  So fun!  Classes are $95 as of 2016, and you get a cake and truffles to take home.

Link to Milk Bar class schedule here.

Link to Milk Bar cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Corn Cookies

It’s been a while since I made something new from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  The recipes I have made multiple times are the Ritz Crunch, the Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow-Cornflake cookies, and the Crack Pie.  Recently I finally made the corn cookies, and they are delicious, with a buttery, rich, salty-sweet corn flavor.   The recipe is really easy, but there are two specialty items to track down, which is what took me so long to make these cookies.  The first is freeze-dried corn.  Not available in Bay Area grocery stores as far as I can tell.  I had to order online through Amazon.  One 8 oz bottle was enough for two batches of cookies.  The freeze-dried corn is easily pulverized to a powder in a blender.  To this is added corn flour, which I found at an Asian grocery, Ranch 99.  Corn flour is a finely ground corn meal, ground from the whole corn kernel.  The remainder of ingredients are common.  I would love to try these cookies with corn ice cream in the summer.

Cost: about $15 for two batches (12-13 cookies each batch)

Deliciousness: 4 out of 5 stars

Health: are you kidding?  this is a Christina Tosi recipe.  About 1.3 Tbsp butter per cookie

Make again?  yes (already did)

Link to recipe here.  Link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Chocolate Malt Layer Cake

This is my third Momofuku Milk Bar layer cake (the others being Carrot Layer Cake and Chocolate Chip Layer Cake), and this one was a little complicated.  There were sub-sub-recipes that had to be made before sub-recipes.  Some Charred Marshmallows caught on fire underneath the broiler, setting off the smoke detector.  However, the payoff is a moist, intensely chocolate cake with a hint of malt flavor, layered with gooey marshmallows, crunchy malted milk crumbs, and malted chocolate fudge sauce.  As a bonus, two of the components (Fudge Sauce and Chocolate Cake scraps) are then ready to make the Momofuku Red Velvet Ice Cream, plus you have a 1/4 recipe of Fudge Sauce left over to serve over ice cream or with Brownie Pie.

The Malted Milk Crumb recipe as written in the cookbook is a bit confusing.  It says to take Milk Crumbs and toss them with ovaltine malt powder and white chocolate.  However, the Milk Crumb recipe also has a step at the end where the baked milk crumbs are tossed with milk powder and white chocolate.  I think what the Malted Milk Crumb recipe should have said was to make the milk crumb through step 4, then toss with the ovaltine malt powder and white chocolate.  Indeed, this is how it was written when this recipe was published in Bon Appetit.  This recipe is scalable, and I only made a half recipe, because that is all that is necessary for the Chocolate Malt Cake.  However, the Malted Milk Crumb is brilliant, good enough to snack on its own, and I regret not making the full recipe!

For the Charred Marshmallows, the book recommends using a kitchen blowtorch.  I used the broiler, and like I mentioned before had a sheet pan of marshmallows engulfed in flames in only a couple of minutes.  During the re-do, I paid more attention to the marshmallows.  I definitely should have separated the marshmallows more on the sheet pan before charring, because they melted and stuck together, making it difficult to layer them on the cake.

The Red Velvet Ice Cream was the only disappointment so far for me from the book.  It just tasted a little off for me.

Link to recipe here.

Link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

Making Ice Cream at Home: A Primer

The summer months make me think of making home-made ice cream, which can be a real treat.  I will highlight several styles of ice cream that can be made at home, ranging from simple to more complex.  The great thing is that even the simple ones are really good, made with fresh ingredients, and so much better than store-bought.

Typically, a flavored ice cream base is made and then chilled and then churned in a pre-frozen ice cream maker.  The churning allows for the formation of tiny ice crystals and pockets of air surrounded by thick, concentrated cream, leading to the smooth and creamy texture associated with ice cream.  There are many types of ice cream makers out there.  I own an ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer.  The bowl is pre-chilled in the freezer overnight and then a plastic dasher attaches to the mixer to churn the ice cream.  I have also used stand-alone ice cream makers, such as the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.  With the Cuisinart there is a bowl that is placed in the freezer, and then the bowl is rotated within the machine to churn the ice cream.  After churning, the ice cream is then placed in the freezer to harden for a couple hours.

There are many types of ice cream bases.  The traditional French custard ice cream base is made with egg yolks and heavy cream that are whisked together over low heat to make a thickened custard.  However, this is a bit of a pain, because you end up with a lot of leftover egg whites (which can be used in a meringue or in an egg-white omelette), and heating the custard so that the eggs don’t cook quickly and become scrambled requires a lot of attention.  A great example of a French vanilla ice cream made with this type of base can be found in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook.  This goes great with tangerine or tangelo juice to make a creamsicle with candied orange sugar cookies.  (You can cheat and buy vanilla ice cream, but where’s the fun in that?)

However, a super-easy ice cream to start out with is No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream, from Gourmet magazine.  As the name implies, there is no cooking of a traditional custard ice cream base.  Instead, mashed strawberries, a little bit of lemon juice, sugar, salt, and heavy cream form the base, half of which is pureed in a blender to smoothen, and the entire mix is then spun in the ice cream maker.  Really easy and really delicious fresh strawberry flavor.

A bit more difficult is Sour Cream Ice Cream, also from Gourmet magazine.  It might sound strange, but the tartness of the sour cream works really well as an ice cream flavor.  This one does require making a cream and egg yolk custard.  The Sour Cream Ice Cream goes wonderfully with Honey Caramel Peach Pie.

A little bit more complex ice cream, but one that does not require egg yolks is Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream.  I first saw this published in The New York Times as an excerpt from the book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, from Jeni Britton Bauer’s famous shop in Columbus, OH.  Her base is non-traditional and includes corn syrup, cornstarch, and cream cheese.  Milk, heavy cream, and sugar are heated together with freshly shucked corn kernels as well as the spent corn cob.  The base is thickened with cornstarch slurry, then strained, mixed with cream cheese, chilled, and spun in the ice cream maker.  The ice cream is layered with a black raspberry syrup cooked down from fresh berries and sugar.  Black raspberries are hard to source, and I substituted 1/2 blackberries and 1/2 raspberries instead.  This is a really great and unexpected flavor combination and perfect to make in the summertime with fresh corn and berries.



Christina Tosi at Momofuku Milk Bar uses sheet gelatin to stabilize her ice cream base, and again no eggs are needed.  I have made the Graham Ice Cream, and there are many other unique recipes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook like Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Red Velvet Ice Cream.  A little more complicated but worth doing for the unique flavors.

Finally, Joanne Chang’s Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream, from her Flour cookbook, is really rich and sophisticated.  It is made with a traditional custard ice cream base (heavy cream, egg yolks), with the delicious combination of honey and cinnamon.  Really good paired with a fall dessert like her Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata.

Try an easy recipe or try a harder recipe, but hopefully you will be convinced to go out and make your own ice cream!

Link to No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream recipe here.

Link to Sour Cream Ice Cream recipe here.

Link to Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream recipe here.

Link to Honey Cinnamon Ice Cream recipe here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

This cake from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is another of Christina Tosi’s delicious multi-component layer cakes, made from a chocolate chip vanilla cake, passion fruit curd, chocolate crumbs, and coffee frosting.  In the book she tells the story of how this was a birthday cake for David Chang, and it was a huge hit in the Momofuku kitchens.  This cake was easier to make than the Carrot Layer Cake, probably because I had been through the madness of making that cake and knew what to expect.  It takes some advance planning, because the cake, chocolate crumbs, and passion fruit curd need to be cooked and cooled before final assembly, but is doable for the home baker.

The vanilla cake batter is made from sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs, buttermilk, grapeseed oil, vanilla, cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  The batter needs to be whipped for a long time in a stand mixer to homogenize all of the liquid and fat components, longer than the suggested times in the book.

The chocolate crumb is pretty easy and is made from Valrhona cocoa powder, sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and butter that are mixed together into a crumble and baked.

The passion fruit curd is made from passion fruit puree, sugar, and eggs that are blended together and then heated over low heat to thicken.  This mixture must be stirred constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking, so the constant monitoring and low heat make it a bit of a pain.  Once the mixture boils, it is poured back in the blender and blended with gelatin and butter to make a rich, tart filling for the cake.

The coffee frosting is made from butter, powdered sugar, Nescafe instant coffee, salt, and milk and is pretty straightforward.


To assemble, I used a 6″ x 20″ strip of acetate to line the sides of a 6″ cake pan. The chocolate chip cake is cut into two 6″ rounds, and the rest of the scraps are smushed together to form the bottom layer of the cake.  The cake is soaked with some passion fruit puree, then topped with passion fruit curd, chocolate crumb, coffee frosting.  This is then repeated with the second cake round.  The final cake round goes on top, which is then topped with coffee frosting.  Finally, the entire assembly is frozen overnight and thawed a few hours before serving.

Verdict: the chocolate chip cake was really good, and its sweetness was balanced by the tartness of the passionfruit curd.  The chocolate crumb added bits of intense chocolate crunch, and the coffee frosting was really buttery with a subtle coffee flavor.  A delicious, impressive cake for guests.

Link to recipe here.

Amazon link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Grasshopper Pie

Chef Christina Tosi’s Grasshopper Pie, from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, is is a delicious variation on the already-decadent Brownie Pie and a great St. Patrick’s Day dessert.  There are four separate components: Graham Crust, Brownie Pie, Mint Cheesecake Filling, and Mint Glaze.  First, Graham Crust is pressed into a pie tin.  Then a Mint Cheesecake Filling made of cream cheese, white chocolate, peppermint extract, and green food coloring is spread on the bottom of the pie.  Brownie Pie filling is added next, topped by mini chocolate chips and marshmallows that become toasted as the pie bakes for about 30 minutes.  Mint Glaze is made of white chocolate and peppermint extract.  The technique of melting white chocolate with neutral grapeseed oil, used in making both the Mint Cheesecake Filling and Mint Glaze, transforms the white chocolate into an easy to work with glossy liquid.  Once the Brownie Pie is cool, the Mint Glaze is dripped on the pie, Jackson Pollock-style.  This is one of the most visually dramatic presentations in a book filled with beautiful desserts, and as delicious as it looks.

One note: Make the Mint Cheesecake before the Brownie Pie filling.  Both require a stand mixer, and the Mint Cheesecake goes in the pie first.  I made the mistake of making the Brownie Pie filling first and had to transfer it to a new bowl while I cleaned out my mixer bowl and made the Mint Cheesecake.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Blondie Pie, Pumpkin Ganache

Christina Tosi writes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook that her favorite, favorite, favorite pie that they make at Momofuku Milk Bar is the Blondie Pie finished with Pumpkin Ganache.  With an endorsement like that, this pie was high on my to-do list, but the degree of difficulty was much higher than with previous recipes.  Graham Crust was easy – I had made it before with Brownie Pie, Carrot Layer Cake, Compost Cookies, and Graham Ice Cream.  The challenge was two of the Mother Recipes in the book: Nut Brittle and Ganache.

Cashew Nut Brittle requires only two ingredients: sugar and cashews.  The sugar is made into a dry caramel, the nuts are folded in, then the brittle hardens, and finally the brittle is broken into chunks with a rolling pin.  Sounds pretty easy, but caramels are often tricky to make and a lot can go wrong.  Initially, I made the caramel in a “non-stick” pot.  However, the heat of the caramel melted away the non-stick coating from the bottom of the pot, which got incorporated as little black streaks in the brittle that I had to throw out.  I tried again with a stainless steel pot, which worked much better.  The brittle hardens right away on a Silpat but lifts away easily after hardening, because nothing can stick to a Silpat!  Cleaning up the pot with stuck-on caramel required boiling some water in the pot to dissolve the caramel and using a knife to chip away the hardened caramel from the edges of the pot.

Half of the brittle is folded into the Blondie Pie Filling, which is white chocolate, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and egg yolks.  The filling is put into a Graham Crust-lined pie plate and baked for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, the other half of the cashew brittle is mixed with a little grapeseed oil and blended to make a powdery, crunchy praline that tops the pie.

The Pumpkin Ganache is a mix of butter, white chocolate, glucose, and heavy cream.  Then pumpkin puree, cinammon, and salt are mixed in.  The recipe calls for using a hand blender to mix the different components at each step, but I did not have one.  I tried to use a stand mixer and ended up with a mess of different liquids and solids that had not fully bonded together.  I saved it by pulsing the final mixture in a regular blender that yielded the smooth, glossy ganache described in the book.  Whew!

The final pie is really good.  The crunchy bits of Cashew Brittle in the Blondie Pie filling and the Cashew Praline on top make the pie decadently sweet, and the cinnamon-spiced Pumpkin Ganache elevates the pie even further.  One can definitely taste and see why this is Chef Tosi’s favorite.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Graham Ice Cream

Momofuku Noodle Bar and Milk Bar serve many creative flavors of soft serve.  I once had the delicious Olive Oil and Pickled Cherry Twist, which was served with crushed saltines, Ritz crackers, and chopped dried apricots on the bottom.  The Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook contains several of Christina Tosi’s interesting, non-traditional ice cream recipes, including Pretzel Ice Cream, Red Velvet Ice Cream, Cereal Milk Ice Cream, and Graham Ice Cream that are based on the Mother Recipes in the book.  I decided to tackle the Graham Ice Cream, which conveniently utilizes a 1/4 recipe of Graham Crust (I used the other 3/4 for Brownie Pie.)

Graham crackers are made with graham flour, a type of whole wheat flour that gives graham crackers their distinctive taste and texture.  The three components of the wheat grain (endosperm, bran, and germ) are ground separately.  The endosperm, from which white flour is made, is finely ground, the bran and germ are coarsely ground, and then all three are combined together.  The graham cracker was invented by a Presbyterian Minister named Sylvester Graham in 1829 to encourage healthy eating with whole grains.  However, modern supermarket graham crackers are typically made with a combination of refined wheat flour and graham flour.  Thanks Wikipedia!

The ice cream graham flavor is achieved by steeping baked Graham Crust in milk, similar to the technique for making Cereal Milk.  The graham-infused milk is mixed with liquid glucose, sugar, salt, heavy cream, milk powder, and bloomed gelatin.  The ice cream base is definitely non-traditional as there are no egg yolks.  Instead, gelatin is used as a thickener and stabilizer.  The thick liquid glucose makes it a little difficult to whisk the mixture into a smooth ice cream base.  Once mixed, the ice cream base is spun in an ice cream maker and frozen.

I liked the Graham Ice Cream, which has sweet graham flavor and goes well with the Momofuku Fudge Sauce and Chocolate Crumb.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Brownie Pie, Graham Crust, Fudge Sauce, Chocolate Crumb

Nice Brownie Pie recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  The soft brownie pie filling is intensely chocolate, with 72% chocolate and Valrhona cocoa powder.  Crunchy graham crust is great.  The book suggests using Fudge Sauce and Chocolate Crumb for a fancier presentation, but they are not absolutely necessary.  The Fudge Sauce is pretty easy and uses the same 72% chocolate and cocoa powder as in the Brownie Pie, and I had some left-over Chocolate Crumb, both of which provide a contrasting texture of chocolate.  All sub-recipes are pretty straightforward.  A stand mixer is the only required equipment, but a blender is also useful to make crumbs out of graham crackers for the crust.  So…much…delicious…chocolate…

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Grapefruit Pie

One of the great things about a well-written cookbook is the learning of new techniques and their application to new flavor combinations and dishes.  The humbly-named Grapefruit Pie recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is actually a fairly sophisticated recipe, with a Ritz Crunch crust, a passion-fruit sabayon with individual grapefruit threads as filling, all topped with a key lime pie-like layer of thickened grapefruit-sweetened condensed milk.  Chef Tosi writes that they tried many different flavor combinations in their test kitchen, and grapefruit was the winner, and so we readers get the benefit of the all of the chefs’ experimentation in the test kitchen.  All of the techniques are very well explained, making them doable in a home kitchen with no special equipment required except for a blender.

First there is the Ritz Crunch as pie crust.  Ritz Crunch uses one of Tosi’s signature techniques of transforming a store-bought ingredient into something uniquely hers.  It’s really simple: mix crushed Ritz crackers, sugar, salt, and milk powder, then bind together with butter and bake.  The ratios of ingredients just works, and the resulting Ritz Crunch is like a sweet, buttery, crunchy Ritz Cracker candy that is insanely delicious.  It’s used here as the pie crust, but it is good by itself just to snack on.

The passionfruit-grapefruit thread filling is really interesting.  Passionfruit puree is mixed with sugar and an egg is whisked in over low heat to incorporate air and thicken the mixture.  Then gelatin and cold butter is cut in using a blender.  This is, I think, an easier variation on the sabayon method where egg, sugar, and citrus is whisked over a double boiler and butter is then whisked in.  For the grapefruit threads, sections of grapefruit are cut away from all of the pith and membranes.  The individual threads are loosened over low heat and mixed in with the passionfruit mixture.

The topping is pretty easy, a mixture of grapefruit juice, sweetened condensed milk, salt, and citric acid.  The citric acid provides tartness and helps thicken the mixture, which is similar to key lime pie filling with the use of sweetened condensed milk.  Citric acid can be ordered online or can be found at specialty baking shops like Spun Sugar in Berkeley, CA.  Regular grocery stores such as Safeway or Trader Joe’s do not have citric acid.

In the finished pie there is nice contrast between the sweet Ritz Crunch crust and the tart layers of the pie.  The grapefruit threads are a really genius addition that provide little bursts of flavor and textural contrast.   The Grapefruit Pie recipe is a nice example of the creativity and deliciousness that is beautifully illustrated in this book.

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