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.

Lucky Peach: Issue 1 review

David Chang makes delicious food.  That much I know having made a pilgrimage to NYC to eat at Momofuku Noodle Bar (twice), Momofuku Milk Bar, and Momofuku Ssam Bar.  He has given us many recipes in his Momofuku cookbook, so I was curious to see what he would bring to his new food quarterly, Lucky Peach.

The first issue of Lucky Peach is devoted to the topic of ramen and is a fascinating read with bonuses of new versions of recipes of the Momofuku ramen broth.  I made the original version published in the Momofuku cookbook, which took about ten hours and produced a rich and flavorful broth.  When I made the original version, I went to the Asian supermarket and was in the checkout line with the ingredients, including one pound of bacon, five pounds of pork bones, and three pounds of chicken.  My Spanish is not very good, but I heard the guys at the check-out line say “loco…”

Version 2.0 ramen recipe seems more streamlined.  Instead of steeping the shiitake mushrooms in the broth and then discarding them, he recommends pulverizing them into a powder and adding them to the broth.  Downside is no spent shiitake mushrooms to pickle, but the upside is a more intense mushroom flavor. Roasted pork bones have been eliminated from the recipe.  It still takes a long time, but makes over a gallon of good broth that can be frozen.

Some recipes are recycled from Momofuku cookbook, like Bacon Dashi, Alkaline Noodles, Pork Belly, and Pork Shoulder, but I guess they are there so that one can make a complete bowl of ramen from Lucky Peach rather than buy the cookbook.  New recipes that look interesting include Carrot Dashi, Tonkotsu-style Broth, and Arpege Egg.  There are other recipes that seem gimmicky like different ways to use instant ramen – ramen-crusted skate, oriental chip dip (mix the seasoning packet from a package of instant ramen into some sour cream and voila!).

The writing is quite good.  There is a nice travelogue piece by Peter Meehan that describes Peter and David’s visits to various ramen shops and the distinctive differences between them.  Harold McGee, scientist/author of On Food and Cooking, describes the alkaline part of alkaline noodles.  It is quite an education in the world of ramen.

Overall there is a nice mix of writing, food education, and recipes that is quite unique.  I am hoping for some more original Momofuku recipes and am looking forward to upcoming issues!

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