Saturday, March 29, 2014

Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookies

Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookie Mix - made March 22, 2014, recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi
Have you heard of Momofuku Milk Bar? I hadn't until I received this cookie mix and their baking book as a gift last year. According to their website, "Momofuku Milk Bar is the bakery-inspired dessert branch of David Chang's Momofuku Restaurant Group". Okay, I confess I had never heard of the Momofuku Restaurant Group either. But that could be explained by the fact that their brick and mortar locations are only in New York City and Toronto, not exactly within my culinary eating sphere unless I hop on a plane. Which I've been known to do but it's been years since I was in New York City and a couple of decades since I've been to Toronto.
Nevertheless, if there's one type of box mix I don't turn my nose up at, it's this kind: high end product made by a small business and focused on taste and quality rather than mass production with ingredients I can't pronounce. And you can buy it at Williams Sonoma, not Safeway. I've never had a cornmeal cookie so I didn't know what to expect. I'm not a huge fan of cornmeal or cornbread since I don't generally like the grittiness and, to me, the taste is just okay. But I was game to try this. Like all high-end mixes, it comes with the dry ingredients and the recipe instructions to add butter and egg.
The instructions gave me a bit of pause because it calls for beating the butter, sugar mix, and egg for 10 minutes. 10 minutes? Geez, that's a lifetime in cookie mixing. When you beat a cookie batter that much, you're adding a lot of air into it which conventional wisdom says will lead to a cakey cookie. And we know how I scorn those. But I was committed to seeing it through and for once I didn't cheat and think I knew better than the Momofuku people. I followed their instructions to the letter. Although I admit, I turned the mixer off as soon as the 10 minutes were up and not a second more. After adding the dry ingredients, I ended up with a cookie dough that looked like thick cornmeal batter. I portioned it into golf-sized dough balls and froze them to bake off later.
You can see from the dome shape that the cookies didn't spread very much, just a little at the edges. I baked off one cookie in my little toaster/convection oven and took a bite after it had been out for 10 minutes, like I normally do with chocolate chip cookies. Ugh, too gooey. So I let it cool completely and tried it again. That's when things got interesting. The outer edges and some cornmeal-y bits on top had cooled to an airy crispness and, contrary to my expectations from that 10-minute mixing period, the cookie wasn't cakey. Instead it was almost "fudgy". It was moist, a bit dense and chewy which is how I like my cookies and the airy crispness was a great contrast to the "fudginess" of the middle.
So I loved the texture of this cookie. However, I wasn't sure at first if I liked the taste. Usually I know after one bite whether I like the taste of something or not. Not so with this cookie. I ate the whole thing and I still wasn't sure. It had a cornmeal aftertaste I didn't think I was fond of but I was so lured in by the texture that I was conflicted. So the next day, I baked another cookie, let it cool properly and tried it once more. It took a few bites but by the last bite of that second cookie, I had convinced myself I did like both taste and texture. It took a little getting used to but my taste buds acclimated to the flavor and I really, really liked the texture. On the third day, I baked a third cookie just to be sure. I'm nothing if not thorough. Yup, I like these cookies.
If you don't have access to the Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookie, here's the recipe from their baking book. It has ingredients I don't normally stock and would have to buy as specialty ingredients so it might be cheaper to buy the mix if you can get it, unless you plan to bake multiple batches of this then the investment in corn flour and corn powder might be worth it. I recommend freezing the cookie dough first, baking from frozen dough and only baking until the edges are golden brown and the middle isn't shiny or raw looking. Eat at room temperature for optimal texture. The directions from the book says to flatten the cookie dough balls but I like my cookies puffy so I skipped that step. It also says to beat the dough for 7-8 minutes but the mix said to beat for 10. Mine still came out with the great texture by beating for 10 minutes.

16 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups (225 g) flour
1/4 cup (45 grams) corn flour
2/3 cup (65 grams) freeze-dried corn powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. Combine the butter and sugar 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 beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. 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. Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat. 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 bake properly.
  4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute if not.
  6. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage. At room temp, the cookies keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.

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