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'Momofuku Milk Bar': Baking desserts with an edge

The cookie, pie and cake recipes in Christina Tosi's 'Momofuku Milk Bar' taste as good as the sweets at the New York bakery.

December 08, 2011
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Chocolate-chocolate cookies, compost cookies (made with potato chips, pretzels, butterscotch chips, graham cracker crumbs, etc.), blueberries and cream cookies, banana cream pie, brownie pie, hot fudge sauce, chocolate cake. I can't stop baking from "Momofuku Milk Bar," written by pastry chef Christina Tosi.

The truth is, I think I take a lot more pleasure out of baking from the book than I ever did from stopping by the East Village bakery in New York. Maybe at least partly because these home-baked versions come with a dose of accomplishment, a testament to the recipes: The sweets turn out as good as the bakery's. (This season I tested two other baking books whose recipes did not live up to expectations, and nothing's worse than feeling defeated by a baking sheet full of cookies.)

Tosi's desserts, for the most part, are homey recipes with an edge: cakes, cookies, pies and ice creams tweaked with ingredients such as corn flour or milk powder or char-blackened marshmallows or even kimchi. I keep returning to the chapter on "the crumb," described as "clumpy, crunchy, yet sandy little bits of flavor" that turn up as the crust for pies and as added texture in cookies and cakes. The chocolate-chocolate cookies are made with melted chocolate, cocoa powder and chocolate crumb, for instance.

The brownie pie's got a graham cracker crumb crust and dense, fudgy filling, a cross between molten chocolate cake and gooey brownies. A crowd pleaser, obviously.

"Momofuku Milk Bar" by Christina Tosi, Clarkson Potter, $35.

—Betty Hallock

Brownie Pie

Total time: About 1 hour, plus cooling time for the pie

Servings: Makes 1 (10-inch) pie, serves 8 to 10

Note: Adapted from "Momofuku Milk Bar" by Christina Tosi.

Graham Crust

1 1/2 cups (190 grams) graham cracker crumbs, from about 12 graham crackers

1/4 cup (20 grams) milk powder

2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar

3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 55 grams) butter, melted

1/4 cup (55 grams) heavy cream

1. In a medium bowl, toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as a glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and add it to the mixture.

3. This makes slightly more crust than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. Eat immediately, or deploy as directed in the recipe. The crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

Brownie pie

About 3/4 recipe Graham Crust (1 1/2 cups, or 225 grams), divided

4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) 72% chocolate

6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter

2 eggs

3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar

1/4 cup (40 grams) flour

3 tablespoons (25 grams) cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt

1/2 cup (110 grams) heavy cream

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Into a 10-inch pie tin, dump 1 1/4 cups (210 grams) of the graham crust into a 10-inch pie tin and set the remaining 1/4 cup to the side. With your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the crust firmly into the pie tin, covering the bottom and sides of the pan completely. Wrapped in plastic, the crust can be refrigerated or frozen for up to 2 weeks.

3. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and gently melt them together on low heat, for 30 to 50 seconds. Use a heat-proof spatula to stir them together, working until the mixture is glossy and smooth.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs and sugar and whip together on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow and has reached the ribbon state. (Detach your whisk, dunk it into the whipped eggs, and wave it back and forth like a pendulum: The mixture should form a thickened, silky ribbon that falls and then disappears into the batter.) If the mixture does not form ribbons, continue whipping on high as needed.

5. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Dump the chocolate mixture into the eggs and briefly mix together on low speed, then increase the speed to medium and paddle the mixture for 1 minute, or until it is brown and completely homogenous, about 1 minute. If there are any dark streaks of chocolate, paddle for a few seconds longer, or as needed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

6. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt and paddle on low speed for 45 to 60 seconds. There should be no clumps of dry ingredients. If there are any lumps, mix for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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