10 Days of Cookbooks | Momofuku Milk Bar
Gobs of new cookbooks have sent Team Eat Out away from restaurants and back into the kitchen. This is the first in a ten-day series of blog posts, each of which chronicles a standout fall cookbook release.
Let it never be said that food goes to waste in the Time Out Chicago office. Half of your kid's birthday cake with seafoam-green frosting? Leave it in the break room, and it'll be gone by lunchtime. Dunkin Donuts? There is no shame in that. And by no shame I mean, last week David took one from the break room and placed it on my desk to ensure they wouldn't all be gone before I stumbled into the office. I've never seen a baked good sit uneaten here. Never, until I brought in the confection pictured below.
That's the Candy Bar Pie from Christina Tosi's cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar, a collection of recipes from the NYC bakery whose treats combine nostalgia (cereal milk–flavored ice cream), stoner snack foods (crack pie) and high-level technique. That last part brings me to the approach of this cookbook, which, like the Momofuku book it follows, is basically to transcribe the recipes used at the restaurant and let home cooks give it their best shots. And I promise, I did give the Candy Bar Pie my best shot. The recipe—which even Tosi describes "a little bit of a bitch"—calls for three other recipes: Salty Caramel, Chocolate Crust and Peanut Butter Nougat. Here's where things started to spiral. That Peanut Butter Nougat recipe calls for another recipe: Peanut Brittle. And the Chocolate Crust recipe calls for a Chocolate Crumb recipe. That's five recipes. To make one pie.
I started with the Chocolate Crumb, little cakelike crumbles versatile enough to become pie crusts or used as bonuses baked into cookies (as in the blueberry & cream cookies) and cakes (the pistachio layer cake). Using melted butter, the "crumb" comes together enough so that it's easily pressed into a tin and, there you have it, Chocolate Crust. On to the Peanut Brittle: Make caramel, coat the nuts in it, let it dry, then grind it in a food processor to the size of rice. Recipe Four—almost there!—Salty Caramel: This is when things really went down the tubes. You see, the recipe calls for one gelatin sheet, but since I couldn't find any gelatin sheets at the grocery store, I took the suggested powdered-gelatin substition, and I carefully read the "Techniques" section at the front of the book, which extolled me not to fuck up blooming the gelatin. (Okay, it actually says, "Get it right, or do it twice"). But when I whisked the gelatin—which I thought I had properly "bloomed"—into the caramel (for the record, that's the second caramel in this recipe), and when the caramel did not thicken, I knew I did not "get it right." And yet I did not "do it twice." Instead, I poured the caramel into the Chocolate Crust anyway, hoping that an overnight chill in the fridge would allow it to set. I brought it to work the next day and stuck it in the freezer, sure that—if nothing else—the freezer would get this thing to hold together. But there is no happy ending to the tale of the Candy Bar Pie that couldn't, a mess of a thing that spewed thin brown liquid at any who attempted to taste it and whose destiny was to be the only food product ever discarded into the large trash bin in the TOC break room.
Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter, $35) comes out October 25, 2011. For nine more cookbooks to look forward to this fall, see the Fall Cookbook Preview.