Baking and dessert cookbooks

Perfect your cupcakes and pastries with the best baking cookbooks

Momofuku Milk Bar

Christina Tosi, Absolute Press, £25

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David Chang’s New York restaurants are some of the most over-subscribed in Manhattan, with some devotees queuing for up to four hours to eat at his Noodle Bar. No such waits at the Momofuku Milk Bar, though, which serves sweets only.

Christina Tosi, Chang’s pastry chef and the author of this book, makes unconventional desserts which have attracted a cult following of fans of sugar. They play on the nostalgia of Americans still hankering for the processed food of their childhoods: dishes such as ‘peanut butter & jelly pie,’ ‘saltine panna cotta’ and ‘fruity cereal milk ice cream’ are characteristic.

Like Chang, she is a talented chef and irreverent writer. Her quirky musings on ingredients, equipment and techniques are humorous and entertaining, and also explain her philosophy. The book is constructed using Tosi’s building blocks: ‘cereal milk’, crunchy toppings, crumbs, fudge sauce, liquid cheesecake, nut brittles and crunches, and mother dough. Not your typical cookery book layout, but these are her components for the towering cakes, retro pies and cookies she concocts.

My initial scan of the recipes was frustrating, as many of the kitsch ingredients, such as graham crackers or mini butterscotch chips, aren’t easily available in the UK. So I tried to make the compost cookies, which involved a leap of faith with ingredients such as coffee grounds, pretzels and crisps – like something Bart Simpson might throw together. The metric conversions and detailed instructions were sound, but a great deal of effort was required. We had to make a separate graham crust recipe to incorporate into the cookie dough. This meant referring to another part of the book with a separate list of ingredients. Despite this setback, the result was a crisp, chewy cookie with pops of salt, crunchy texture and sweet chocolate. It was well worth the extra trouble.

The cereal milk ice cream,Tosi’s signature dish, was just as good as the cookies, with a subtle infusion of nutty cornflakes. Considering it was a milk and gelatine base without eggs or cream, the texture was surprisingly rich and smooth. This dish did induce happy flashbacks of slurping milk from a childhood cereal bowl.

Tosi’s recipes are delicious, they work and manage to be sophisticated and fun. However, the layering of recipes within recipes will wear on even the most aspirational of cooks.

Jennifer Joyce, Time Out London Issue 2177: May 10-16 2012

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