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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12 Comments ( Reply )

  1. Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    Thanks for a great review, Mercedes! I’ve read a lot about Momofuku Milk Bar but haven’t had the chance to check out the cookbook yet. I completely agree with you – when you have a whole day to dedicate to the process of baking, trying something complex can be a fun challenge. However, we don’t always have that kind of time!


    • Mercedes
      Apr 28, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

      I totally agree with you Laura! Usually when I want to bake, I have a small window of time to get it done and so I usually make far fewer complex, time consuming recipes unless there is a special occasion or I really want to spend the entire day in the kitchen. I’m glad you found the review helpful!


  2. Melissa {thebakedequation}
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    It’s interesting I have read alot about them, but wondered if I should try. Thanks so much for this review!


    • Mercedes
      Apr 28, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

      I am glad that you found the review helpful Melissa!


  3. emily (a nutritionist eats)
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

    I really like this review.
    I (self-proclaimed non-baker) get frustrated/annoyed by recipes that require “mother” recipes (similarly to Babycakes) – I know the end result is great, but it is something I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do yet! Maybe I’m just lazy?
    With that said, I love the creativity of their recipes and I’m sure they taste absolutely amazing.


    • Mercedes
      Apr 28, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

      I am totally with you Em! You’re not lazy, you’re just realistic!


  4. Arezoo
    Apr 29, 2012 @ 6:21 am

    hello my dear

    I am from iran

    and i don t know English well

    but i want to learn from you

    I have a website about food

    if you come to my website ( blog ) i am very happy


  5. Sydney @ The Crepes of Wrath
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

    Milk Bar is definitely a favorite of mine – the corn cookies are like eating giant pieces of Captain Crunch! I love them. I think the cereal milk idea is definitely kitschy, but fun at the same time. Great review!


    • Mercedes
      May 01, 2012 @ 8:26 am

      Thanks for the reply to my review! I know this is a much-loved cookbook, so I was a little nervous about writing the review, but I always stay truthful to how I feel about something! I need to get some freeze-dried corn so that I can make those corn cookies, they sound fabulous!


  6. Kat
    Jun 30, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    Stumbled across your review when, coincidentally, I was looking for a picture of a finished Brownie Pie because I was frustrated by the lack of pictures in the book. Great review and very comforting because I totally agree with you on all the points you’ve made – it causes no end of amusement to my partner when I decide to crack out one of these recipes and immediately start moaning about the number of steps required. The end results are worth it though! I save this book for special occasion baking which keeps it fun.

    I’m in Australia and always turn to the Country Women’s Association books for everyday baking – this one is my latest acquisition if you’re interested.


    Thanks again for the great review – fingers crossed my Brownie Pie tastes as good as it looks! xx


    • Mercedes
      Jun 30, 2012 @ 11:10 am

      Hello Kat! Thank you for your comment on my review of Momofuku. I am so glad to hear that you feel the same way that I do about the book. The brownie pie is truly amazing and really easy to make! Please let me know what you think after you make it. And thank you for the cookbook recommendation. I have quite a collection and am always looking for good additions!


      • Kat
        Jul 01, 2012 @ 8:19 am

        Hi Mercedes – made the pie and it turned out perfectly…just as I was hoping and it met with rave reviews. I think I’ll try the blueberry cookies next – I read good things about them.

        The book I linked to is full of Aussie favourites, and the Country Women’s Association here is known for award winning baking recipes. All old school favourites and people here always says it reminds them of their grandmother’s baking. Definitely a great addition to any collection (and trust me, mine is extensive too!).


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