I cannot quite remember when I first came across Christina Tosi, chef/co-cowner at Momofuku Milkbar (read this interview in the Guardian with Christina if you want to learn a bit more about her) but I have been fascinated by her work ever since. Christina has a pretty unique take on pastry/desserts – taking US childhood favourites and ramping them up a little bit – e.g. by making panna cotta with milk that has been flavoured by letting toasted frosted cereal steep in it.
Christina started out by overseeing desserts at David Chang’s restaurant Momofuku in New York before opening what are now five bakeries under the Milk Bar name and her work has become associated with things like Cereal Milk, Compost Cookies and Milk Crumble – a crumble made out of powdered milk and butter which lends a deep and rich, somewhat toasted, flavour to cookies.
The first recipe of her Milk Bar recipe book I came across was for her Blueberries and Cream cookies (one of the recipes which uses her famous Milk Crumble). Not wanting to shell out for another recipe book (given that our book shelf will soon collapse under the weight of all my cookery books) I googled to see whether I could find any of her recips online. As luck would have it, Christina did a stint on the Martha Stewart show demonstrating the recipe for her Blueberries and Cream cookies. There is also a video on Martha’s website where Christina explains the process of making these cookies – highlighting a few important points:
– the creaming stage (where the butter and the three different types of sugar are mixed together) should be taken seriously – think 5-10 minutes of fairly rigorous beating until the mixture is pale in colour and light and fluffy and has increased in volume;
– cookies taste best when the dough has had time to age a little bit – you can refrigerate the dough for these cookies anywhere from 1hour to a couple of days – a long rest time gives the flour time to absorb all the moisture in the dough and results in chewy cookies with a deep toffee flavour and colour.
– it is not necessary to use glucose – a mix of brown and white sugar works perfectly well;
– buy a good quality white chocolate to make the milk crumb – white chocolate chips will not melt properly so won’t coat the milk crumbs as required by the recipe. Also, I would recommend making a large batch of milk crumb – once you try it you will want to throw it on everything, whether stirring it into some vanilla ice cream, using it to make a deconstructed crumble, to top your porridge, you name it;
– check your first batch of cookies carefully – as with all types of chewy cookies, you want the cookie to be crisp on the outside and still slightly undercooked in the middle – you will need to figure out what temperature and time works best for your oven;
– when her recipe says it yields 14 cookies it will yield 14 cookies – cookies the size of your head – I tend to make smaller cookies (about half the size of my palm) and get three times as many cookies;
– if you choose to bake smaller cookies the baking time will need to be adjusted accordingly (mine were in the oven for 10-12 minutes).
The inspiration to make these cookies came in several ways – the memories of the huge stash of cake truffles and the whole range of Christina’s cookies sold at the Milk Bar that my friend Millen brought back from New York for me to try, a post by Kathryn about her recent visit to one of the Milk Bar locations in New York and the fact that I am off on holiday for two weeks tomorrow and I had 1 egg and half a pack of butter left in the fridge that I did not want to go to waste.
Head on over to Martha Stewart for the recipe and give these a try. I am already thinking about adapting the basic recipe for a continental twist on these cookies – the obvious one would be strawberries and cream … or an Eton Mess cookie using crushed meringue pieces as well as strawberries and Milk Crumble… in particular cause I just spotted freeze-dried strawberries at Whole Foods – not cheap but oh so flavourful. I am thinking that grinding some freeze-dried strawberries to mix in with the flour in addition to adding some chopped freeze-dried strawberries to the dough should result in delicious (and slightly pink) cookies…
Alas, any further experimentation with Milk Crumble will have to wait for a few weeks as Alessandro and I are off to Morocco tomorrow – the country where my brother was born and which left a lasting impression on my parents, where our big dining table at home comes from and the reason I have always associated New Year’s Eve with eating Cous Cous with my hands.