I’ve not minced my words when it comes to the fact that I will always have a big ole’ soft spot for my former stomping grounds. Besides the people – my fabulous friends, hysterical co-workers, the curious and strange souls, and even the sweet coffee-cart-man on 48th and Park who had my morning cup ready and waiting every day just the way I like it (large, with a generous tip of cream) – the thing I find most enticing about that great big city is the food.
Being as interested in cooking and eating as I am (yes, I do loathe the term ‘foodie‘ and will continue to avoid it at all costs….**shudder**), I am massively lucky to have ended up in Boulder. For a city that takes up only a small sliver of the size of New York City’s giant and jumbled pie, there has been an answer – and an amazing one at that – to every one of my old favorites. Lights out bakeries, small meticulously curated restaurants, white tablecloth service, excellent vegetarian, killer Neapolitan pies, craft breweries, impossibly fresh seafood, and food trucks galore….my little city of one-hundred-thousand does a bang-up-job when it comes head to head in comparison with my old playground – a playground that contains, arguably, some of the best food in the world.
However there are some things that are so unique to a certain place, there is just no amount of re-creation, re-imagination, or re-anything that can be done to properly replicate them, and, to be frank — you wouldn’t want to. There are a thousand rotating reasons I will forever have to be excited for trips back to New York, and if I had access to all of each and every one of those things, well….
what would be the fun in that?
But there are a few things….a few small, round, crunchy and delightfully chewy things that I am oh-so-happy I can whip up on my own.
When one of aforementioned fabulous friends (Mary) drops a package in the mail that contains a little piece of aforementioned food in mailable format (The Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook), I am not going to be in any position to refrain from trying to make everything that the outrageously quirky bakery stocks it’s shelves with.
Tucked onto a side street in the East Village, The Milk Bar is the sweets extension of David Chang’s awesome Momofuku empire that undoes any notions that you think you’ve seen it all. Pretty frosted pastel cupcakes and delicate desserts there are none; The Milk Bar is a hardcore, rock and roll, bizzaro-land of sweets — and though sometimes a concept this far out can fall flat on its backside, here it not only works, but it creates sugary cult-like classics that very literally can keep you up at night.
The creations of the Milk Bar’s head chef, Christina Tosi, are a bunch of wacky and odd-ball delicacies that warrant snaking lines around the graffitied and gum-stained block; proprietary and unique treats like crack pie, cereal milk soft serve, and these amazing cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies.
Christina Tosi, your word is gospel.
This unorthodox approach to sweets is refreshingly original, and instead of focusing on recreating that cute (but trite!) bakery that we have all seen a thousand times (cue saccharine pastel colors, 50′s style decor, and kitschy patterned aprons), Christina chooses the road less taken, and ties a head scarf over her messy ponytail while whipping up bad-ass renditions of desserts her way, like compost cookies and a range of soft serve ice cream in flavors that sound more like what ends up in the dishwasher than what you’d fill a cone with (as I mentioned before….cereal milk?!). The Milk Bar is a true original, and the fact that I can now bring its genius into my kitchen (via one hard-spined cookbook) rocks my Colorado monde.
The Milk Bar is 100% still a destination for me when I make my coveted return visits to the city that never sleeps – make no bones about that. But I love that Christina shares her secrets in her book for those who aren’t privy to 13th street on a regular basis. These cornflake cookies sound a bit wild, but when you bite into the crispy cookie with the salty, sweet, and milky crunch of the reimagined cereal (that is all held together by melting pools of chocolate and molten mini-marshmellows….be still my cavity-ridden heart), you’ll know exactly why I think it’s better not to wait till I have a JFK bound ticket in hand before indulging in these again.
From Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook
Makes 15-20 cookies
You will end up with a good bit extra of the Cornflake crunch (if you follow the batch directions below), and that is A-OK my friends. This stuff is seriously good, and I suggest adding the surplus into homemade ice cream (just before its done churning), sprinkling it directly over a sundae, adding a few spoonfuls to a crumble topping, or just eating it straight up with a bit of milk (like Cornflakes to the Nth degree)…..it is awesome.
These cookies are very dense, and will bake up to be fairly thin and spread out with chewy dense marshmallowy insides and crisped up edges. They keep well in a covered container, but I think they are best fresh, the day you make them. This recipe does not make a ton (15-20 cookies), and that makes them even easier to polish them all off in an afternoon (as if you needed more reason to).
Be sure to use mini marshmallows and mini chocolate chips – the larger regular size would be too intense for these cookies and throw off the balance of the dough.
The Cornflake Crunch
1/2 box (~5 cups) (170g) cornflakes
1/2 cup (40g) milk powder
3 tablespoons (40g) sugar
1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt
9 tablespoons (130g) unsalted butter, melted
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (150g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon ( 2g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons (5 g) kosher salt
3 cups (270g) Cornflake Crunch (see recipe above)
2/3 cup (125g) mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup (65g) mini marshmallows
First, make your cornflake crunch, as follows. Feel free to make this ahead of time – it keeps, fresh, for 1 week in a covered container, or up to a month frozen.
1. Heat the oven to 275F
2. Pour the cornflakes into a medium bowl and crush them with your hands so they end up being about one-quarter of their original size. Add the milk powder, sugar, and salt and toss to mix. Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cereal and creating small clusters.
3. Spread the clusters on a parchment (or Silpat) lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, at which point they should look toasted, smell buttery, and crunch gently when cooled slightly and chewed.
4. Cool the cornflake crunch completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for 1 week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep 1 month.
After you have your cornflake crunch, it’s time to make the cookies!
1. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes. It is important to properly cream your butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla….so don’t be tempted to skimp on time for this step! It will affect your end product if you do, and that would be a shame.
2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. (Do not walk away from the machine during this step, or you will risk overmixing the dough.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. Still on low speed, paddle in the cornflake crunch and mini chocolate chips just until they’re incorporated, no more than 30-45 seconds. Paddle in the mini marshmallows just until incorporated.
4. Using a 2 3/4-ounce ice cream scoop (or a 1/3 cup measure), portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature–they will not hold their shape.
5. Heat the oven to 375˙F.
6. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes – the cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. At the 18-minute mark the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown toward the center. (I’ll note very importantly here that my cookies cooked up MUCH more quickly than this – closer to 10-11 minutes. KEEP AN EYE ON THEM! I am at a high altitude, but when the cookies look done and are no longer raw – pull them out, no matter how many minutes they were in there. Always go by touch and look rather than just the time suggested.) Leave them in the oven for an additional minute or so if they still seem pale and doughy on the surface.
7. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or to an airtight container for storage. At room temperature, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.