Walking in to the Momofuku Milk Bar commissary felt a bit magical…a place where sugar dreams come true. Or at least it seemed like it with a long table adorned with flickering candlelight and stacks of Scharffen Berger chocolate. Christina Tosi invited us to share her love of cookies, and her take on this year’s Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest.
The Chocolate Adventure Contest theme this year is Sandwich Cookies (darn, I missed last year’s cupcake theme!) with a grand prize of $25,000. Everyone is welcome to create and submit a sandwich cookie recipe that uses Scharffen Berger chocolate and at least one adventure ingredient:
- Coconut milk or coconut cream
- Pine nuts
- Sweet potato
- Corn meal
- Tapioca or tapioca flour
- Sumatra coffee
- Fresh ginger
- Yerba mate tea
- Chili pepper (any type; fresh, whole-dried or ground)
- Cacao nibs
Entries are due by January 2, 2013. Make sure to read the rules for details.
I am impressed by how much Christina has done, expanding Momofuku Milk Bar, publishing a cookbook and traveling the world on collaborations. She is extremely driven and competitive, yet friendly and down-to-earth. As we nibbled on her Scharffen Berger Banana Cacao Nib Pine Nut Cookies and Chocolate Cookies with Coconut Filling, and sipped Chocolate Covered Pretzel Milkshakes (62% Scharffen Berger spiked with white rum) Christina gave us some insight in to who she is and how Momofuku Milk Bar started.
She originally joined Momofuku in an office role. As a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, with experience in the kitchens of Bouley and wd-50, and most importantly a childhood love of cookie dough she would bring in her experiments and creations to share with everyone at work. Finally, David Chang had enough of it and told her that she needed to create a dessert for Momofuku. From there she created the dessert program for Momofuku, Noodle Bar and Ssäm Bar. It was so well-received that the desserts warranted their own bar: Momofuku Milk Bar.
All this doesn’t come easily, which is where her drive and love of cookies comes in. The only time you won’t find Christina at the milk bar is when she squeezes in a run (she is a long-distance runner). The day we saw her was an example of her whirlwind schedule: she landed back in town from a marketing campaign tour the night before, checked in on the milk bar that morning, did a Skype collaboration during lunch (I’ll tell you all about that fun event in a future post!) then had our Scharffen Berger event this evening…just to turn around and fly out of town again the next morning.
Christina is truly an inspiration right along with her cookies. She had always wanted to make a banana cookie and one day a friend had asked her for banana cookies for his birthday. (It seems special requests are a great way to push your culinary experiments, such as when two of my friends asked for a “breakfast cupcake” which turned into a play on pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. Don’t you just love playing with your food?)
She considered using banana extract and super ripe bananas. Sometimes she dehydrates leftover banana cake to add banana flavor without making the dough too wet. If the dough is too wet, the texture will be more cakey like a whoopie pie. For the filling, she created homemade Nutella using roasted pine nuts and cocoa powder inspired by the classic chocolate/peanut butter/banana combination.
When I made this cookie at home, mine came out thin and crispy instead of thick and tender. I preferred the crispy texture better since it just seemed to match the salty and savory pine nut flavor. With a schmear of the filling, it was a perfect balance of sweet and salty. Which leads us to the science of the filling to cookie ratio.
How much filling should you put in a cookie? Christina explained that it depends on the texture of the cookie and on how sweet the cookie is. Another tip is that butter-based cookies taste better when they sit for a day after they are frosted. The frosting will soften the inside of the cookie as a contrast to the crunchy exterior (this also applies to macarons which taste better after they are frosted then refrigerated for a day or two). If the cookie is super crunchy you don’t want the filling too soft, otherwise it will spill out when you bite into it.
Armed with these tips and sandwich cookie inspirations you can start creating your own recipe for the Chocolate Adventure Contest. If you run into any hiccups while experimenting, ask Christina! In “Tweet with Tosi Fridays” you can tweet your baking questions to @momomilkbar every Friday to get her advice and suggestions.
Scharffen Berger Banana Cacao Nib Pine Nut Cookies
For the cookie:
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter
7 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
3.5 ounces (7 tablespoons) light brown sugar
1 large egg
0.07 ounce (scarce 1/2 teaspoon) banana extract
7 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
0.05 ounce (1/3 teaspoon) baking powder
0.03 ounce (1/4 teaspoon) baking soda
0.14 ounce (3/4 teaspoon) kosher salt
3.5 ounce (7 tablespoons) Scharffen Berger Roasted Cacao Nibs
1.76 ounces (3 1/2 tablespoons) pine nuts, lightly toasted
For the filling:
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
3.52 ounces (7 tablespoons) pine nuts, lightly toasted, then pureed into peanut butter-like consistency
8.5 ounces (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar
0.28 ounces (1 2/3 teaspoon) kosher salt
2.82 ounces (1/3 cup) Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder
Make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 375F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula, add the egg and banana extract, then cream the mixture again on medium-high until super fluffy, another 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
Add all of the dry ingredients and paddle on low-speed until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Scoop the cookies into small lumps of cookie dough and bake on a lined baking tray for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie.
Cool completely before moving off of the baking tray.
Make the filling:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and pine nut puree on medium-low speed until just combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar, salt and cocoa powder and combine on medium-low until the mixture is even in color and fluffy, an additional 3 minutes.
Assemble the cookies:
Layer the chocolate-pine nut filling between the banana-cacao nib-pine nut cookies and serve at room temperature.
Christina Tosi for Scharffen Berger