Recipe Review: Momofuku Cinnamon Bun Pie

I had a 1/2 recipe of “Mother Dough”, Christina Tosi’s versatile bread dough, left over from making Momofuku Bagel Bombs, so I decided to use the rest on the Cinnamon Bun Pie recipe in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  In this recipe, the “Mother Dough” is used as the crust of a pie.  There are two additional sub-recipes, Liquid Cheesecake and Cinammon Streusel.  Liquid Cheesecake is a pliable version of cheesecake filling that is made of cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg, and milk.  The book calls for baking the liquid cheesecake in plastic wrap, but in my previous experience making Liquid Cheesecake for the Carrot Layer Cake, the plastic wrap melted at 300 F, so I baked it in parchment paper instead. Cinnamon Streusel is really easy: mix together dry ingredients (flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon) and then mix in melted butter to make a crumble.

To assemble, the dough is rolled out and placed in a pie pan.  Brown butter is spooned on top, then liquid cheesecake, then more brown butter, brown sugar, cinammon, and salt, then more liquid cheesecake, and finally a topping of cinnamon streusel.  The whole pie is baked at 350 for about 40-45 minutes.

I thought the final Cinnamon Bun Pie was good.  Each individual component is tasty, but the final product with the layers of brown butter, brown sugar, cheesecake, and cinnamon streusel is a little over the top in sweetness and richness for my taste (shocking, I know).  Good recipe for someone with a (really) sweet tooth.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Bagel Bombs

Momofuku Milk Bar Bagel Bombs are based on the book’s “Mother Dough” recipe, which is simply flour, salt, active dry yeast, and water, kneaded in a stand mixer and proofed for 45 minutes.  The first time I tried to make a 1/2 recipe, because that was all that was required for the Bagel Bombs, but the dough ended up being too wet.  I remade the dough using the full recipe and it came out appropriately.

The Bagel Bombs contain a surprise inside, a plug of cream cheese, bacon, and scallions.  These are frozen and then wrapped in the dough.  An egg wash is applied, followed with a sprinkling of Everything Mix (garlic powder, onion powder, dried onions, salt, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds).  Then into the oven, although at the recommended temp of 325 mine didn’t brown.  For my second batch I used 350; your oven temp/time may vary.  As you can see, some of the cream cheese explodes out of the bagel, but Christina Tosi says that is to be expected.

Fresh out of the oven, these Bagel Bombs are delicious.  The Everything Mix on top is nicely balanced, the dough is reminiscent of a bagel, and how could you go wrong with a warm, gooey center of bacon-scallion cream cheese?

Link to recipe here.

Roadmap to Momofuku Carrot Layer Cake (with cookies along the way!)

Okay, this might be a little crazy.  Making the Momofuku Carrot Layer Cake has been an epic journey that has taken four weeks.  It started with Milk Crumbs, which I used to make the Blueberries and Cream Cookies.  I only used half of the Crumbs and so I needed to use them in something else.  I also wanted to make the Compost Cookies, which required 1/4 recipe of the Graham Crust.  Having both Milk Crumbs and Graham Crust, I thought, I’ve come this far, I can make the Carrot Layer Cake. This would then require Carrot Cake + Liquid Cheesecake + Graham Frosting + obtain acetate strips from TAP Plastics and a 6″ cake ring from Sur la Table. I have baked cakes before, but nothing like this. To date, the only recipes that have topped this in terms of effort and time are the Momofuku Ramen Noodles and the Tartine Croissants.

Onward. I started with the carrot cake, using organic carrots from the farmer’s market. The carrot cake wasn’t overly complicated, and actually none of the components are technically difficult, but they do require a blender and stand mixer. A kitchen scale is helpful but not absolutely required.

The most rewarding part was the assembly. I love it when a plan comes together. The carrot cake, topped with liquid cheesecake, sprinkled with milk crumbs, then topped with graham frosting. Set in the freezer overnight, and thaw in the refrigerator the next day for Thanksgiving dinner.

Some tips I learned along the way:

1. The book calls for a 10″ x 13″ pan, which I couldn’t find at Sur la Table or Target. A standard sized 9″ x 13″ pan was a little small for stamping out two 6″ cake layers. This can be corrected by using some cake trimmings.

2. When making the liquid cheesecake, regular grocery store plastic wrap will melt when baked at 300 F.  Next time I would try using parchment paper or foil or maybe nothing at all.

3. If you prepare the graham frosting ahead of time and refrigerate it, wait for it to return to room temperature before spreading it on the cake.

The verdict?  The carrot cake is really moist and flavorful.  Liquid cheesecake is delicious.  The milk crumb provides pops of flavor and texture.  Graham frosting is buttery and creamy and delicious.

Was it worth it? Totally.

Momofuku Milk Bar in San Francisco: Christina Tosi at Omnivore Books

Christina Tosi, pastry chef of Momofuku Milk Bar stopped by San Francisco’s Omnivore Books on her book tour bringing conversation, cookies, birthday crumb, and cornflake crunch.  She told the story about conceptualizing Momofuku Milk Bar with David Chang as a modernized Dairy Queen, updating classic American flavors with a new voice.  She described the process behind coming up with new recipes and how it was part conceptual, part serendipity, and part practicality in working with what is available, whether on an island (compost cookies) or from your refrigerator (crack pie).  She described the development of crumbs and crunches, little “pops” of flavors and textures that could be deployed in cookies, cakes, and plated desserts.  She said the Momofuku way was to not put something on a menu unless it was absolutely delicious and the chef would stand behind it 100%.  It was inspiring to hear this philosophy, which has probably played a big role in how fast the Milk Bar concept has spread in the past three years, from Chef Tosi fighting for open prep space at Ssam Bar to an operation with fifty employees, four locations in New York, and now a new cookbook. It was interesting to hear how they had to balance their menu to meet space and operational constraints, satisfy their returning customers, while also trying to add new or seasonal items.  She said they are always innovating – she described a Thanksgiving croissant that sounded delicious – layering the dough with a compound butter made with stuffing spices, then stuffing the croissant with dark and white meat turkey and cranberry sauce.  She was quite generous in bringing samples of birthday crumb, milk crumb, and cornflake crunch, as well as the famous cookies and stayed quite a while to sign books and talk with people.  A very nice event.

Cookbook Review: Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar is the new cookbook from New York-based Momofuku pastry chef Christina Tosi.  The cookbook delivers recipes for many famous items from Milk Bar bakery including Compost Cookies and Crack Pie, as well as plated desserts served at the Momofuku restaurants.  The cookbook is divided intro ten “mother recipes” like cereal milk, crunch, flavored crumbs, and liquid cheesecake that serve as the basis for many intriguing recipes.

Chef Tosi’s recipes update flavors that recall childhood, most famously cereal milk, and also successfully combine salty and sweet.  Some of the recipes have been published elsewhere, but the majority are revealed in this book for the first time.  Others are updated – for example, the cereal milk panna cotta recipe is substantially different from the one that appeared in the original Momofuku cookbook.  There are gorgeous photos.

Chef Tosi explains a lot of technique, including her method for creaming butter, sugar, and eggs to give Milk Bar cookies such great texture.  A stand mixer is essential as you have to mix for 6-8 minutes at a high speed.  She introduces some new ingredients for baking, at least to me, including liquid glucose and milk powder.   Measurements are given in grams as well as typical American measurements.  I bought a digital scale on Amazon that measures up to 1000 grams with an accuracy of 0.1 grams for around $10 that works great (as an aside, the recent popularity of small digital scales has probably not been driven by cooks alone).

I started by making the cornflake crunch, where cornflakes are tossed with milk powder, sugar, salt, and melted butter and then toasted in the oven.  Super easy, and the sweet-salty cornflake crunch clusters are really addicting and dangerous to have lying around. These can then be used as a garnish for Cereal Milk Panna Cotta or for the crust for Cereal Milk Ice Cream Pie.

I used the cornflake crunch for the Cornflake, Chocolate Chip, Marshmallow Cookies, which came out incredibly good.  Just as Chef Tosi described, the edges have a rich buttery sticky crispiness while the center of the cookies are soft.  Really impressive.

I will be making my way through the book (Blueberry and Cream Cookies, Red Velvet Ice Cream, Carrot Layer Cake) and posting recipe reviews from this outstanding cookbook.  Highly recommended.

Link to Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie recipe here.

Note on sourcing ingredients for Momofuku Milk Bar recipes in the Bay Area:  Milk powder can be found in a regular grocery store.  Trader Joe’s carries grapeseed oil.  Spun Sugar in Berkeley has the following: Valrhona Dutch-process cocoa powder ($8 for 8 oz), E. Guittard 72% and 55% chocolate in little discs that make it easier to weigh ($7.75 for 1 lb; the book recommends Valrhona chocolate, but the store did not carry the recommended percentages), 5000-count mini chocolate chips ($4 for 1 lb), citric acid, clear vanilla extract (but not McCormick brand recommended in the book), glucose syrup ($8.50 for 18 oz), rainbow sprinkles in a wide range of colors, and gelatin sheets.  Passion fruit puree I found at Crossroads World Market in Palo Alto ($14 for 1 kg).  I checked many places, including Whole Foods, for freeze-dried corn but could not find it and will probably have to order on-line.

Update January 2012: Having now made several of the recipes in the book (five different cookies, Cinnamon Bun Pie, Brownie Pie, Grapefruit Pie, Bagel Bombs), I can’t emphasize enough how on point the recipes are in terms of measurements, directions, and expected baking times.  Follow the directions and you will get something delicious.  They must have tested the hell out of these recipes.  Outstanding.

Amazon link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

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