Earlier this week I told you about the whole gamut of emotions that I felt when I first received the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  I also said that it was one of the most unique (weird?) cookbooks I have come across but did not explain why.  And now after sharing a couple of recipes from the book with you,

(Compost Cookies)

(and this amazing Brownie Pie)

I will break it down for you and tell you my true opinion about the book.  I am almost hesitant to step on any toes because this cookbook is so popular right now, but we are all entitled to our own opinions and I have never been anything but honest with you.

So let’s start with the background.  What the heck is Momofuku Milk Bar and why would I/should I know about it?  Well, in the foreword of the book by David Chang, he tells us about the history of Momofuku Noodle Bar, a restaurant that opened in New York City in 2004.  The restaurant initially did not have a dessert menu and if patrons really wanted something sweet to follow their meal, Chang would run across the street to the market and return with some candy or ice cream sandwiches to please them.  Enter sweet genius Christina Tosi.  Tosi was hired by Chang at Momofuku to help with organization and office tasks.  She would bake in her spare time at home and bring in her goods for her coworkers.  Chang fell in love with her talent and flavor combinations and now Tosi is the mind behind Momofuku’s pastry department (aka Milk Bar) and has had a cult-like following.

We get to learn about Tosi’s background in the introduction to the book and that is one of the things that is so different about this book.  It almost reads like a chapter book with multiple pages of text throughout the book discussing equipment, techniques and the background to many of the “mother recipes”.  I have told you before that I appreciate this aspect of a cookbook.  I want to be told a story about the food and the person preparing and inventing it and this book leaves me wanting for nothing in the story-telling department.

Another example of the novelty of this cookbook’s recipes is one of the first recipes that Christina Tosi ever came up with during her adventures at Momofuku.  Cereal milk.  It is exactly what it sounds like it would be.  You know when you eat Frosted Flakes, for example, and there is that sweetened milk in the bottom of your bowl after all of the cereal has been eaten?  Well Tosi actually uses this sweetened milk as an ingredient for panna cotta, ice cream, etc.

Silly or ingenious?  You be the judge.

As far as amount and quality of photos in this book, there are many photos, while not of all finished products.  There are photos of Christina in action with her fellow bakers, pictures of ingredients and some photos of what the finished recipes might look like.  I am such a visual person that I love to see a photo of each recipe before I begin so I have something to aim for.  So in that case, the book is lacking slightly for me.

I know I touched on this a bit in my post with Momofuku Milk Bar’s Compost Cookie recipe, but the overwhelming majority of the recipes in this cookbook are not for the faint of heart.  If you were to follow the recipes exactly (which the author flat out tells you that if you do not, you will compromise the integrity of the final product), you would need to acquire several specialty ingredients such as glucose, freeze-dried corn and milk powder just to name a few.  This to me overall is a negative of the book.  For everyday baking, I don’t want to have to spend time and money hunting down specialty ingredients.  For a special occasion, sure, but again, a good majority of the recipes call for at least one uncommon ingredient.

The way that this book is organized is also something that is a bit unusual.  Again, there are 10 “mother recipes” and that is how the chapters are divided.  So, for example, “the crumb” chapter gives you base recipes for the crumb which is described as “clumpy, crunchy, yet sandy little bits of flavor” and then further recipes for which one of “the crumbs” will be one of many other ingredients.  A recipe within a recipe, if you will.  More steps, but also more flavor.

With all of that being said, here is my bottom line:  if you are a new baker looking for basic cookbooks to get you started, this is not the book for you.  However, if you have some experience and are adding to your collection, this book offers a great challenge and some magnificently distinctive recipes.  On my list yet to make are:

Confetti Cookies

Birthday Layer Cake (for someone I really,really like because there are quite a few steps involved)

and Grasshopper Pie.

If this book makes me realize one thing, it is that Christina Tosi and the rest of the team at Momofuku Milk Bar are truly artists.  The hours, imagination and dedication that has gone into developing these complex and thoroughly thought-out desserts is very admirable.  I will be happy to pull out this cookbook when I have a full day that I can dedicate to baking, I am looking for a challenge and something out of the ordinary, or I have a special occasion to celebrate.

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I know I went on and on about how interesting and unique Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is and I maybe even sounded like I was complaining a bit.  I apologize for that.  I don’t want to be a downer.  It’s just that people are going B-A-N-A-N-A-S over this cookbook and it initially left me feeling frustrated and stupefied.  That is until I used the rest of that graham cracker crust I was telling you about to make this.

It’s pretty hard to feel anything but euphoric when molten brownie is oozing in your mouth.

Tell me what’s wrong with this picture.  Oh, what’s that you said?  Nothing?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  This is not me being egotistical sweet teeth, this is just the cold, hard facts.  This brownie pie was so incredibly easy and quick to make and the results are really mind-blowing.  Imagine those molten chocolate cakes that were all the rage a couple of years ago and showed up on every dessert menu, in pie form.  That means every bite is ooey gooey, melt-in-your-mouth.  Not just the center bite.  That means that even though my husband is notorious for taking that last, best bite of whatever it is that I am savoring, there is no best bite for him to steal in this pie.  There are ONLY best bites.  No dry edges or crispy crust.  Just ooey.  Gooey.  Pure.  Chocolatey.  Bliss.

Ok, I’m done ranting.  You just need to make this.  Now.  Walk away from your computer.  I mean now.

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make graham crust (step-by-step instructions here) and press into pie tin

melt chocolate and butter together

combine eggs and sugar and whisk until pale yellow 3-4 minutes

add melted chocolate/butter mixture

and mix to combine

add dry ingredients

mix until just incorporated

scrape down sides of bowl and fold in remaining graham crust using spatula

place pie tin onto baking sheet and pour batter into it

bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is no longer liquid

enjoy, as if I need to tell you

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I have never felt so many mixed emotions about a cookbook.  Yes a cookbook has evoked fear, excitement, frustration, intimidation and giddiness all at the same time inside of me.  Momofuku Milk Bar is like no other cookbook.  I can assure you of that.  Usually when a cookbook calls for all sorts of specialty ingredients, I am instantly turned off.  I want recipes with ingredients that I have on hand or are easy to find and inexpensive to buy.  However, I recognize the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone from time to time, so here I am, my mind swirling, my confidence challenged and I feel like there should be a support group for cooking your way through this book.  You know, to ask questions such as “Is glucose the stickiest most annoying substance you have ever tried to measure out?  Or is it just me and am I missing something?”

I started with cookies.

Cookies people.  Typically one of the most straight forward things you could bake.  Until now.  First, I had to order glucose from amazon.com.  Then I had to purchase milk powder.  Is “milk powder” as it is referred to in the book the same as nonfat dry milk??  I sure hope so.  Oh and potato chips.  Yep, you read right, crispy, kettle-cooked potato chips were another ingredient I had to get before I could get started on these cookies.  I am really not trying to complain or sound whiney, but I would not be telling you the truth and honestly reviewing this recipe and book if I did not share this experience with you.  And don’t worry, it gets better.

Another unique aspect of Momofuku Milk Bar is that they use several “mother recipes” that are then ingredients for their pies, cakes, cookies, etc.  Another step, yes, but honestly not a complicated one.  So the mother recipe that was used in this infamous cookie recipe was their graham crust.  Basically what you would expect in any old graham cracker crust with the addition of milk powder.  The way I would describe these cookies is everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookies.  You’ve got mini chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pretzels, potato chips and graham cracker crust all rolled into one cookie!

I believe that the reason they call these cookies “compost cookies” is because your kitchen counter will look like a compost heap by the time you are finished!  Case in point:

I followed this recipe down to the glucose, but if you don’t want to purchase any specialty ingredients, I have included substitutions for you in the recipe.  And if you are a fan of the sweet & salty combination, you may find your new favorite with these Compost Cookies.

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to make graham crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, dry milk, sugar and salt

add melted butter and cream and mix with hands until large clumps form

for the cookies,in a large bowl, combine butter, sugars and glucose (if using) and mix on medium 

add eggs and vanilla and mix another 7-8 minutes

add dry ingredients and mix just to incorporate

add chocolate and butterscotch chips, graham crust (or crackers), oats and coffee

mix in potato chips and pretzels

place dough onto cookies sheets to chill for an hour

then bake, with no more than 4 cookies per sheet until edges are golden brown

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk (or beer??)

What is the most unique ingredient you have ever tasted in a cookie?  Did you like it?

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I have never loved eggs.  For some reason, if you even present them to me before noon, just the smell makes me a little nauseous.  Which is why it is particularly interesting that I have a new found love for egg salad and deviled eggs.  That’s the great thing about growing older.  So many of our tastes change and we come to enjoy foods that we didn’t care for at all as children.  Some of the other foods I have grown to like are raw bell peppers, raw tomatoes and cilantro.

I am so happy to have found this new adoration for egg salad because it is a great option for weekday lunches.  I get in such a rut and get so tired of turkey wraps.  The egg salad that I made this week is not your grandma’s egg salad. It is all dressed up with southwestern flavors like cilantro, cumin and cayenne pepper.

It seems like everyone has their own twist on egg salad.  I love traditional egg salad with mayo, mustard and some celery for crunch.  One of my other favorites is curried egg salad.  Especially this time of year, egg dishes seem to be popping up all over the blog and magazine world.  I was excited to try this twist on egg salad because I love southwestern flavors.  The cumin and cilantro do not overpower, but just add enough spice and flavor to keep you wanting more.  And instead of the traditional paprika sprinkled over the top of this egg salad, I kicked it up a notch and used cayenne pepper.  It added the same color contrast, but a bit more heat.

What foods or flavors have you come to enjoy in your adult life that you couldn’t have been forced to eat as a child?

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combine egg yolks and mayo, mustard powder, cumin and cilantro

*Note:  I purchased a tube of pre-chopped cilantro because I got tired of buying bunches of cilantro, using a handful and wasting the rest.  I found this tube in the produce section of my grocery store and I love it because now I have cilantro on hand whenever I need it!

combine with chopped egg whites

sprinkle with cayenne pepper and serve on your favorite bread

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Have you noticed a theme this week?  The recipes I have shared with you have both come from Baked New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  I know this seems a little backwards because I already reviewed the authors’ second book Baked Explorations, but I felt that it was necessary to backtrack and compare this first book with it’s much loved sequel.

I have gone a little crazy with the recipes from this book lately.  First I embellished their classic Peanut Butter Cookie recipe to make these Deep-dish Peanut Butter Cookies with M&M Peanut Butter Eggs:

Then I shared one of my new absolute favorites with you.  This Root Beer Chocolate Bundt cake pretty much wraps up the amazing surprises found all throughout this cookbook.

And just yesterday I shared my (embarrassing) obsession with peanut butter chocolate cereal bars by sharing yet another recipe from Baked.  These Peanut Butter Crispy Bars are another perfect example of the Matt and Renato’s twist on a classic.

Maybe you remember my criteria for what makes up a great cookbook.  I love a good story with my recipes.  Baked New Frontiers in Baking begins with a great introduction explaining how the oh-so-popular and successful Baked Coffee Shop and Bakery came into existence in Brooklyn in 2005.  It is a very inspiring story about how two men with established careers in advertising left what they knew behind to create what they hoped would be “the classic American bakery”.  Like many famed bakeries, the entrepreneurs were bombarded with requests for recipes for their cakes and brownies and so they wrote this cookbook to answer some of those requests.

This cookbook includes the recipe for the famous Baked Brownie that has earned the respect of Oprah, the Today Show and America’s Test Kitchen.  I would imagine that earning a spot on Oprah’s Favorite Things does some pretty amazing things for your product.

(source)

This first cookbook by the authors definitely has recipe appeal.  Just reading the names of some of the recipes makes me drool.  Malt Ball Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting.  Butterscotch Pudding Tarts.  Yes, my list of “Recipes To Try” from this book is still quite extensive.

While there is not a 1:1 ratio of photos:recipes, the quality of the photos that accompany about every 3rd recipe are truly works of art.  Perfectly lit and styled, the photos will surely inspire you to attempt to re-create each perfectly baked treat.

Finally, the book is well organized into bulky chapters that will satisfy your desires for new savory and sweet recipes for everything from breakfast to snacks to baked dinner accompaniments.  Each and every recipe is preceded by a lovely explanation about where the inspiration came from for creating the recipe and/or the kind of occasion the authors imagine your serving the dish for.   Sour Lemon Scones perfect for “a dressy brunch or special Sunday get-together” or Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits  with spice that “starts as a small tingle in the back of your throat followed by a burst of deep, pleasant heat and flavor”.  Can’t you practically taste them now?  That’s what good writing does.

Abrams Publishers sent me a copy of Baked New Frontiers in Baking to review and they were so kind to include an extra copy to pass along to one Satisfy My Sweet Tooth reader!  Enter to win a copy of the book below:
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