Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

Published by Clarkson Potter, 2011

January 17th, 2012

This past summer, New York had a sweltering heat wave, the kind that leads the news day after day. Shortly thereafter, when the stench was still in the air, we headed to New York. Having followed David Chang’s meteoric rise since being whisked in a cab by a New Yorker to Momofuku Noodle Bar several years ago, we were thrilled to discover his Milk Bar smack in Midtown on a hot summer’s day. The recently released Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi reveals the secrets of the extremely popular dessert offerings at Chang’s empire. The Milk Bar does exactly what it says – it serves milk (as well as other treats), but this milk tastes like the kind at the bottom of your bowl of breakfast cereal. In other words, it tastes like childhood. The recipe for Cereal Milk, their best-known creation, leads this collection where head dessert guru Tosi has revealed the steps to make her unpretentious, home-style treats that make unabashed use of grade school favourites like Captain Crunch, Ritz crackers, pretzels, and rainbow sprinkles. Despite her use of retro ingredients, she knows as does any serious pastry chef, baking is a science where precise measurements and technique are required for a soufflé to rise rather than fall. She specifies a ten-minute creaming process for her cookies and provides instructions for quenelling and blooming gelatin demonstrating despite her use of quirky ingredients, she means business. Necessity is the mother of invention, and Tosi was required to create in cramped quarters, without much support, relying on kitchen staff who initially considered the sweets an afterthought, rather than a priority. Thus, she created ten mother recipes which could be relied on as the base of the dessert program to be served at various Momofuku-affliated outposts. The ten mother recipes are reported here, as well as their variations, which produce a wide range of delectable results like Pretzel Ice Cream Pie, Cornflake-Chocolate-Chip-Marshmallow Cookies and Apple Pie Layer Cake.

Momofuku Milk Bar is more than a cookbook – it’s part memoir. In her self-revelatory style, Tosi narrates her life and work candidly, freely admitting an addiction to cookie dough and Cool Ranch Doritos. She chronicles her gig with Chang, who despite his surly reputation, seems to have seen a spark, nurtured it, and had it pay off. Momofuku Milk Bar opened 6 days after her 27th birthday; she was 29 when the book was published and it shows. Her unbridled enthusiasm leaps off the page and it’s refreshing to read about food as written by someone who is uninhibited and creative, rather than a jaded critic’s deconstruction of the last assignment they had at a posh eatery, or a saccharine PR plug. As a preamble to her recipe for ‘Volcanos’, she describes a trip to France where she had a “food moment”, one of those instants where “it’s like tasting food for the first time…and what you are eating at that very moment is what will shape all future food opinions you will ever have.” The book explodes with this fervour throughout.

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