10 Days of Cookbooks | Momofuku Milk Bar

Gobs of new cookbooks have sent Team Eat Out away from restaurants and back into the kitchen. This is the first in a ten-day series of blog posts, each of which chronicles a standout fall cookbook release.

Let it never be said that food goes to waste in the Time Out Chicago office. Half of your kid's birthday cake with seafoam-green frosting? Leave it in the break room, and it'll be gone by lunchtime. Dunkin Donuts? There is no shame in that. And by no shame I mean, last week David took one from the break room and placed it on my desk to ensure they wouldn't all be gone before I stumbled into the office. I've never seen a baked good sit uneaten here. Never, until I brought in the confection pictured below.

[node:14946909 noterms imagecache=field_image:timeout_245x152:image:0; cck=field_caption; cck=field_credits;]

That's the Candy Bar Pie from Christina Tosi's cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar, a collection of recipes from the NYC bakery whose treats combine nostalgia (cereal milk–flavored ice cream), stoner snack foods (crack pie) and high-level technique. That last part brings me to the approach of this cookbook, which, like the Momofuku book it follows, is basically to transcribe the recipes used at the restaurant and let home cooks give it their best shots. And I promise, I did give the Candy Bar Pie my best shot. The recipe—which even Tosi describes "a little bit of a bitch"—calls for three other recipes: Salty Caramel, Chocolate Crust and Peanut Butter Nougat. Here's where things started to spiral. That Peanut Butter Nougat recipe calls for another recipe: Peanut Brittle. And the Chocolate Crust recipe calls for a Chocolate Crumb recipe. That's five recipes. To make one pie.

I started with the Chocolate Crumb, little cakelike crumbles versatile enough to become pie crusts or used as bonuses baked into cookies (as in the blueberry & cream cookies) and cakes (the pistachio layer cake). Using melted butter, the "crumb" comes together enough so that it's easily pressed into a tin and, there you have it, Chocolate Crust. On to the Peanut Brittle: Make caramel, coat the nuts in it, let it dry, then grind it in a food processor to the size of rice. Recipe Four—almost there!—Salty Caramel: This is when things really went down the tubes. You see, the recipe calls for one gelatin sheet, but since I couldn't find any gelatin sheets at the grocery store, I took the suggested powdered-gelatin substition, and I carefully read the "Techniques" section at the front of the book, which extolled me not to fuck up blooming the gelatin. (Okay, it actually says, "Get it right, or do it twice"). But when I whisked the gelatin—which I thought I had properly "bloomed"—into the caramel (for the record, that's the second caramel in this recipe), and when the caramel did not thicken, I knew I did not "get it right." And yet I did not "do it twice." Instead, I poured the caramel into the Chocolate Crust anyway, hoping that an overnight chill in the fridge would allow it to set. I brought it to work the next day and stuck it in the freezer, sure that—if nothing else—the freezer would get this thing to hold together. But there is no happy ending to the tale of the Candy Bar Pie that couldn't, a mess of a thing that spewed thin brown liquid at any who attempted to taste it and whose destiny was to be the only food product ever discarded into the large trash bin in the TOC break room.

[node:14946913 noterms imagecache=field_image:timeout_245x152:image:0; cck=field_caption; cck=field_credits;] But thankfully, there are recipes in this book that call for only one other recipe, and of those recipes, I made the Cornflake-Chocolate-Chip-Marshmallow Cookies and the Compost Cookies. The cornflake cookies call for three-quarters of a recipe of Cornflake Crunch (pictured left), and the Compost Cookies call for a quarter of a recipe of Graham Crust. This at first seems incredibly annoying—what in the world are you going to do with the remaining quarters?—but...well...what ever did happen to the remaining quarters? The "Crunches" and "Crusts" in this books are like crunchy drugs you will want to pour down your throat: If you are even left with three-quarters of the Conflake Crunch recipe by the time you need to incorporate it into the cookies, you are a stronger person than I. (Two warnings to anyone who's actually going to make these cookies: [1] When you are spacing them on the baking sheet, think about the size of a Momofuku Milk Bar cookie—i.e., huge—and space accordingly. [2] Watch the cookies carefully; because they spread so much, they become pretty thin and can burn easily.) Fact: these Compost Cookies were so good, they never made their way to the TOC break room at all.

Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter, $35) comes out October 25, 2011. For nine more cookbooks to look forward to this fall, see the Fall Cookbook Preview.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)