Monday, 30 April 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar - Book review

Ever get that feeling that some things are preordained? The sense that behind the scenes the cosmic building blocks of fate, unseen, are shifting and tumbling endlessly into place in infinitesimal combinations, until, finally they converge and suddenly it all makes sense. Like a one armed bandit’s blurred reels jolting to a stop one after the other, thumping into place… jackpot, jackpot, jackpot.

Well, that’s how I felt when my KitchenAid stand mixer and my copy of the long awaited Momofuku Milk Bar book arrived in the same frigging week! A quick shufty validated that feeling that it was indeed the hand of fate at work, when I realised that you definitely need a mixer to really make full use of the book. But back to that in a minute.

Let’s talk about naming kitchen equipment. All of my major appliances have, at the very least, a first name and in some cases, a surname. My Magimix is called Marcel, and any activities involving him are done in a ridiculously naff ‘Allo Allo’ style French accent. Braun the stick blender, whilst in use provokes an accent exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and somewhat alarmingly, now that I come to think of it, a definite vibe of mild perviness.
The arrival of the KitchenAid, a premium and not insubstantial piece of kit provoked much soul searching on what to name ‘him’ for it’s undoubtedly a male. Sleek, shiny chrome and black metal what I now possess is obviously the epitome of a rough, tough butch man’s machine. The throbbing Harley Davidson of home baking. Yet, despite the brand being American, I felt somehow, that like Braun, this piece of equipment was German and therefore needed a name reflecting his Teutonic origins and place of prestige in the kitchen pecking order. Then, like a thunderbolt, it came to me, arise Klaus Von Battenberg. A legend is born.

So now the scene is set. Back to the Momofuku Milk Bar book and it’s arrival providing the opportunity for Klaus to show what he can do. For those of you who don’t know, chef and foul-mouthed genius, David Chang owns a handful of ridiculously hip restaurants in New York under the Momofuku banner. One of these is a bakery and cake shop, the eponymous Milk Bar of the book title. The chef behind this is Christina Tosi and it seems she’s responsible for all the baking and desserts, across the board. This is her book.

I have to say straight away, it’s truly exciting. It’s unlike any other book I own. There’s a real feeling of inventiveness about it, as well as honest writing and absolutely filthy recipes, all of it coated in a veneer of New York hipster cool that’s somehow endearing. I want to cook everything from it basically, even if it makes me fat(ter).

Interestingly, Momofuku have a ‘Mother dough’ recipe. A sort of versatile utility dough, which is used for all their rolls, bread, some of the cakes and surprisingly, even their croissants. I’ve tried out a few of the recipes using the ‘mother dough’ and the results, even if I do say myself, have been frigging amazing.
Cinnamon Bun Pie, a Frankenstein mix of cheesecake, brown butter, cinnamon, sugar and dough is probably one of the most incredible examples of this kind of dessert I’ve tasted. Although to be fair, it almost defies categorisation. Admittedly, it’s a fair bit of work to make and is shockingly filthy. I dread to think of how many calories a slice contains, but it’s so incredibly good that it pretty much rendered both ‘E’ and myself speechless, apart of course, from muffled obscenities of appreciation as we both tried to stuff it all in our gobs.
The recipe for Bagel Bombs provoked a similarly enthusiastic bout of expletives mixed with frantic gorging. Basically a sort of bread roll stuffed with hot cream cheese, spring onion and bacon. Very simple to make, and it’s a classic flavour pairing but I honestly cannot express how good these are to munch on. I was also pretty smug with just how professional looking they turned out.
Finally, I tried making Volcanoes, similar to the Bagel Bombs in that it’s a stuffed roll, but on a much larger scale. Stuffed with a mixture of dauphinoise potatoes, caramelised onions, and cheese. Given the ingredients, I don’t think I really need to describe the sheer state of rapture ‘E’ and I succumbed to as we ate these. Truly epic. I think at one point I may have cried.

Based on results so far, I think it’s fair to say that we can chalk the Momofuku Milk Bar book up as a bit of a success. I mean, seriously, three of the nicest things I’ve eaten anywhere in months have come straight out of this book.

But in the interests of balance, it’s not all swearing yourself silly as you ecstatically pile on the pounds. If you’re a strict vegetarian, you’re a bit screwed. A hell of a lot of the recipes contain gelatin, including all the ice-cream. In addition, some of the recipes themselves pull no punches and are pretty advanced, involving multiple sub-recipes within the actual preparation process. Oh and did I mention the inclusion of a fairly exotic and therefore expensive ingredient ‘freeze-dried sweetcorn powder’ in one of the more iconic recipes, ‘Crack Pie’?

For all that, this is one of the most exciting cookbooks I’ve read in years. I covet my copy. It’s cool, urban New York, tear up the rulebook, sassy vibe, combined with the most ridiculously dirty, brutal, sugar and good stuff laden recipes really makes it one of a kind. Buy it and get fat.


*Massive thanks to Absolute Press for being kind enough to send me a review copy*

13 comments:

Mzungu said...

I was going to buy the book when I was in New York recently, but some how never got round to it. But did manage to try the "Crack Pie" at the Milk Bar. Damn is it sweet, but addictive.....

Bethany said...

Those bagel bombs look the bomb! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself. They do...) Great review Dan, can't wait to get the book and try some of the recipes myself.

Dan said...

Mzungu - Definitely worth grabbing a copy now it's been released in the UK. I haven't tried the Crack Pie, so really interesting to hear from someone who has. I'm intrigued and despite the freeze dried sweetcorn powder being a bit of a pain in the arse to get hold of, I'm determined to give it a go.

Bethany - Hahaha awful punnage. Thank you!

Kavey said...

Aaw, if my Intergalactic Unicorn and your Klaus von Battenburg had babies, they'd be mixed race beauties, a pretty grey colour to match your blog background. :-D

Dan said...

Kavey - Nice idea but there's no mating for Klaus. He's like a thoroughbred stallion, it drains his essence and weakens his mixing action.

Wai Yee Hong said...

Talking to your kitchen appliances? You weirdo... :-P P.S. Where was my invite when all of these eats were being made?

laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

I read n article on Momfuku recently and ever since have wanted to get the book. Now I am scared that if I do I will turn into a crack pie addict! Your dishes look amazing and I agree it seems to be the most fantastically experimental yet delicious cookbook out there. Keep enjoying your KitchenAid :)

Dan said...

Wai Yee Hong - I don't talk to the kitchen appliances. 'E' and myself refer to them in their particular accents. Didn't you get your invite? errr...it was in the post. Second class.

Laura - Reckon it'd be just as expensive to be a crack pie addict as addicted to the real thing, what with the freeze dried sweetcorn powder ingredient.

sewa elf said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Sharmila said...

I can testify to the amazingness of Crack Pie. Wish I'd tried the corn cookies. The book still hasn't fully released in the UK, even though the publishing date was 23rd Feb. Got my copy on pre-order on Amazon but I want it now :-(

Dan said...

Sewa Elf - Not sure if your comment is spam, linking to a minibus firm in Jakarta, of all places. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. You're welcome.

Sharmila - I really want to try Crack Pie. I will get hold of the magic ingredient at some point and make it. Think the book is due for release in the UK, in a weeks time.

fran39 said...

Fantastic post, Dan and dammit, I now must have that book

addictedtolore said...

Off to buy a copy. Have managed baking since I bough a copy of Back in the day bakery. Try their doughnut muffins- awesome