Clay had a birthday recently! Yay!
We celebrated by having our friends Drew and Ralph over for a nice dinner at home. You may recall the parade of great dishes we made for Clay's b-day last year. This year, we kept things simple, with a grilled Kansas City brisket (which we'll post about soon!) and fresh summer veggies.
But Zach wanted to do something really special as a surprise for dessert. It took him about 3 seconds to decide on Compost Cookies with Cereal-Milk Panna Cotta.
If you follow New York restaurant news or subscribe to as many food magazines as we do, you're probably familiar with David Chang. His Momofuku restaurants in New York have redefined restaurant dining, elevating ramen noodles and street-food-influenced small-plates to a truly amazing culinary experience. (And his steamed pork buns will make you slap your mama.) You can read more about David Chang in this New Yorker profile from a couple years ago.
We've eaten at a couple of Chang's restaurants when we've visited New York (Ssam Bar once; the original Momofuku twice). They're truly terrific.
But our real Momofuku enlightenment moment came at Momofuku Milk Bar last summer. Milk Bar is a sweet-things bakery, and the pastry chef, Christina Tosi, has been getting loads of attention for her unique takes on desserts, like her amazing Crack Pie.
What floored us, though, were the compost cookies and the cereal milk. Both items have quickly become classics at Milk Bar -- and for very good reason. The compost cookie is, as the name implies, a big old mess of whatever you want to throw in. It's a bit like a chocolate chip cookie with lots of salty snacks mixed in. The original Milk Bar version uses mix-ins like potato chips, pretzels and coffee grounds.
And the cereal milk, which Milk Bar sells in little plastic jugs, takes exactly -- and we mean exactly -- like the milk that's left after you finish a big bowl of corn flakes.
The cookies and milk seemed like the perfect thing for Clay's birthday dessert, but Zach didn't just want to make the cereal milk. Instead, he decided to make cereal-milk panna cotta, something we'd actually first read about in that New Yorker piece.
Making the compost cookies is actually pretty fun -- although not as fun as shopping for the ingredients! We loaded up on lots of trashy things -- Fritos, ruffled potato chips, pretzels, Cocoa Pebbles -- we don't usually give ourselves permission to buy. You can use anything you want, really. Cheesy goldfish, Cool Ranch Doritos -- whatever! The point is to get some great crunchy, salty things along with some sweet chocolate ingredients. That salty-sweet contrast is what makes the compost cookie so distinctive.
The other key element in making the cookies is refrigerating the dough before you bake it. Doing that keeps the cookies from spreading out too thin in the oven.
Making the cereal-milk panna cotta is actually surprisingly straightforward. The recipe, essentially, is, "Soak some corn flakes in milk, dump out the corn flakes, add gelatin to thicken the milk." Seriously, it barely involves anything other than that! How genius!
So how'd they taste?
Are you kidding?! The cookies are insanely delicious. Seriously, out of this world. The crunchy, salty, sweet bites will are sure to bring a smile to anyone's face.
And the panna cotta is so nifty! It's so evocative of chomping down on cereal in front of Saturday morning cartoons. (We'd also love to try a version with some cereal other than corn flakes -- Cocoa Krispies, maybe! Or Froot Loops!) The corn-flake version, though, with its classic, milky flavor, makes a perfect foil to the compost cookies.
You should try both the cookies and the panna cotta! But you especially need to make the cookies. Like, now. Trust us, you're going to start looking at cookies that don't have Fritos and pretzels in them and think, "Something's missing here...."
Momofuku's Christina Tosi, via "Live With Regis and Kelly"
INGREDIENTS-- 1 cup butter
-- 1 cup sugar
-- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
-- 1 Tbsp corn syrup
-- 1 tsp vanilla extract
-- 2 large eggs
-- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-- 2 tsp baking powder
-- 1 tsp baking soda
-- 2 tsp kosher salt
-- 1 1/2 cups of your favorite baking ingredients, such as chocolate chips, cocoa cereal, or chocolate-covered raisins (*We used chocolate chips, Cocoa Pebbles, and coffee grounds)
-- 1 1/2 cups of your favorite crushed snack foods, such as potato chips, corn chips or pretzels (*We used Fritos, ruffled potato chips, crushed peanuts and pretzels)
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and
corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow
in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.
When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 45-60 sec just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
On same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30-45 sec until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.
Using a 6 oz ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.
Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 1 week.
DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.
Heat the conventional oven to 400F. (350F in a convection oven)
When the oven reads 400F, arrange your chilled cookie dough balls on a parchment or silpat-lined sheetpan a minimum of 4" apart in any direction.
Bake 9-11 min. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.
At 9 min the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don't match up and your cookies stills seem pale and doughy on the surface.
Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, cookies will keep fresh 5 days. In the freezer, cookies will keep fresh 1 month.
Yield: 15 6oz cookies
Cereal-Milk Panna Cotta
Momofuku's Christina Tosi, via New York Times
Time: 1 hour, plus 45 minutes’ steeping and 2 hours’ refrigeration
FOR THE PANNA COTTA:
6 cups Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
3 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (about 1 1/2 packages)
FOR THE TOPPING (OPTIONAL):
3/4 cup Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
3 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.
1. To make panna cotta, heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread cereal on a baking sheet and bake until toasty, about 12 minutes. While still warm, transfer to large bowl or container and add milk and cream. Stir to combine and let steep 45 minutes. (Dessert will get too starchy if it steeps longer.)
2. Strain into a microwave-safe bowl or a saucepan, pressing to extract liquid. (Discard soggy cereal or eat it.) Add salt and brown sugar, and heat just until milk is hot enough to dissolve sugar, watching carefully. Stir gently to dissolve sugar. Ladle 1/4 cup milk mixture into a small bowl and mix in gelatin. Set aside 5 minutes, then whisk soaked gelatin back into remaining milk mixture.
3. Divide mixture among 8 ramekins or silicone molds. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. If using ramekins, cover and reserve until ready to serve. If using molds, freeze 1 hour and pop out onto wax paper (not parchment), then refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Meanwhile, make topping, if you like: heat oven to 275 degrees. Put 3/4 cup cereal in a large bowl and crush lightly with your hands. In a small bowl, stir together milk powder, sugar and salt. Sprinkle mixture over crushed flakes and add melted butter. Toss to coat cereal evenly. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a nonstick baking mat) and bake 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside to cool. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container up to 1 week.
5. When ready, serve cold panna cottas in ramekins or turn out onto plates. Sprinkle generously with corn flake topping.
Yield: 8 servings.