March 12, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar
Christina Tosi


(March 12, 2012)

This interesting cookbook begins with an unusually intriguing consideration of ingredients. Tosi combines an openness to the possibilities of concentrated foods — powders of ground freeze-dried corn and infusions of breakfast cereal are her signature ingredient and she’s perfectly happy to grind up a whole batch of freshly-made cookies in order to make great cookie crumbs — with a fascination for the flavors of junk food desserts.

Tosi is not shy of butter, sugar, and cream cheese.

The book is also exceptionally interesting for its profile of the restaurant business. The Momofuku restaurants are pretty much at the top of the game; around eGullet, you can mention them, or David Chang, and everyone knows what you're talking about and where you're eating. There are eGullet threads dedicated to the best strategies for eating at Ssam Bar. Yet Tosi — a favored protegé, is improvising cakes in dusty basements and rushing rolls from an borrowed apartment in Spanish Harlem, hoping to arrive in time for service. It’s nice to be reminded that software isn't the only place where we work on shoestrings and hope.

I made the bagel bombs — bagel-like rolls stuffed with cream cheese, bacon, and scallions. Her technique epitomizes the approach of the whole book, focused on intensity of flavor and uninterested in exactly how we get there. You make a standard lean dough — a little wet but nothing radical — and let it rise for 45min. You scale it, and then hand-shape eight little pizza rounds; Tosi seldom uses a rolling pin. You fold these rounds over a frozen “plug” of flavored cream cheese, making something like a dumpling, cover them with an egg wash and lots of seeds, and bake. No special dough, no malt, no boiling: in short, nothing very bagel-like, and yet the texture and flavor communicates “bagel” brilliantly.