Why buy it?
Christina Tosi began turning out inventive desserts for David Chang’s hot New York restaurant empire Momofuku. As word spread of her insane delights, together, they opened a haven dedicated to her crack pie, compost cookies and other childhood-flavours-turned-cheffy. Now, Milk Bar and Tosi are global phenomenons in their own right.
The pastry chef’s first cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar, let readers in on the venue’s signature desserts and, as expected, was relatively technical. Die-hard fans and accomplished bakers swooned. In her second title, Milk Bar Life, Tosi’s gone down-home, even low-brow, with Americana sweets you can whip up in a flash, as well as savoury dishes.
It could have been a strategic move, opening up the readership, but every facet of the book attests to Tosi’s claim that this is how she and her staff eat as a daily course, including at least five retro cookies and, often, a canned spaghetti sandwich, for which she shares the recipes. “There’s no shame in saying I work 14 hours a day and by the time I get home at 11pm, all I want is something that incorporates eggs, cheese and onions,” writes Tosi.
At first look, the dishes are somewhat unappealing – it could be the brash food photography and styling at odds with the lush, clean aesthetic that characterises Australian food mags – and the lifestyle shots are pretty hipster (or worse, try hard). But Tosi’s writing is honest, her enthusiasm infectious and her expertise blatant. Before long you’ll find yourself earmarking recipes, secretly thankful that all the ingredients are already in your pantry and there’s nothing fancy to this kind of food – it’s simply about flavour.
Cookability Tosi is a fearless ambassador for banal, everyday supermarket ingredients, from corn chips to premade dough, which she crafts into taste-driven, no-pretention dishes. Chapters are divided into Hand-Me-Downs (family recipes), We Are Family (staff meals) and Weak Nights (midnight or after-work snacks), to name a few. You get the gist – this is cookable stuff (if you’re not afraid of lots of fat, sugar and salt), and that’s the point.
Must-cook recipe ‘Cookie-dough cookie’. Basically, a half-baked cookie made with Tosi’s signature chocolate chip recipe. Says Tosi, “My. Dream. Come. True”. Also, the citrus cookies, made with 10 lemons, 4 limes and 2 oranges. “If you want to make a citrus cookie that tastes like you climbed a tree and plucked the cookie off the branch, that’s what it takes.” Yes, we want to taste one! Clearly, there’s a cookie theme happening in this book; Tosi can’t get enough of ’em.
Most surprising dish There are many, from pretzels baked in blue cheese and a Ritz cracker icebox cake, to grape juice and yoghurt ‘cake’ and mac ‘n’ cheese pancakes. In fact, the whole book is surprising.
Kitchen wisdom The secret to many of Tosi’s desserts? Non-fat milk powder, which she adds for depth of flavour, richness and chew. “Add it to any cookie dough if you’d like; usually a tablespoon or two will do the trick.”
Ideal for Milk Bar fans, low-brow cooks, kitchen hackers, American food enthusiasts, and anyone up for a bit of fun.
Cook the book
Recipes and images from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi (Crown Publishing, $59.99, hbk).