The Milk Bar phenomenon began at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan, N.Y., where Christina Tosi started out writing a food safety plan and ended up a pastry chef; she opened the wildly popular Momofuku Milk Bar in 2009. Since then, Tosi’s star has rapidly risen (much as her mentor’s did), and Milk Bar now has six storefronts in New York and one in Toronto. There are Milk Bar baking classes and a bustling online business.

Tosi’s first cookbook, published in 2011 and named for the bakery, revealed the secrets behind such trademarked store favorites as Cereal Milk, Compost Cookies and Crack Pie. It was a hard-core baking book, dense with text, full of sub-recipes. The recipes were expressed in weights as well as volume and dared you to hunt down freeze-dried corn powder and glucose.

Tosi’s second book, the newly released “Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories” (Clarkson Potter, $35) is a very different creature. For one, there are savory recipes (many derived from “family meals” at Momofuku-related restaurants). There are lots of pictures and volume-only measurements. Once again, some items may be a challenge to source, but only if it’s been years since you bought tubes of crescent roll dough, boxes of cake mix or “Italian” seasoned bread crumbs.

Defiantly lowbrow pleasures like those figure throughout the book, as much so in the entrees as in the desserts. Chicken puffs are nothing but cooked chicken mashed up with cream cheese and baked inside crescent roll dough rolled in seasoned bread crumbs. It’s not innovative fare, but it’s just the thing for those who like their carbs coated in more carbs.

It’s hard to resist a hot dog that comes baked into its own bun, like Tosi’s Haute Dogs. The dough was temperamental; it took me an extra 3/4 cup of flour to get to the mandatory “wet ball” consistency, and even then I needed to roll it out with liberal dustings of extra flour. But the sesame-scattered “blanket” was certainly an improvement over your typical fiberfill bun. You can doctor your dogs in any of the usual ways, but it’s shockingly easy to make Tosi’s Sweet-and-Sour Red Onion Jam: 15 minutes softening some onions, and 15 minutes simmering them in sweetened vinegar, and you have a condiment that’s as drapey and sweet as relish but much more versatile.

“Sauce with penne” is no misnomer: The yield is nearly a quart and a half of sauce, served with 2 pounds of pasta (serving “4 to 6,” according to Tosi. Four to six sumo wrestlers? Marine battalions? That’s a lot of pasta). It’s one of those sauces that has to go all day – well, at least three hours – but the prep is so quick, and the meat so fall-apart tender at the end, that it’s worth having to get started around lunchtime.

Fans of the original Momofuku will recognize the famous bo ssam formula from David Chang’s restaurant. It’s a dry rub of sugar and salt applied to any kind of protein, which is then slow-cooked in the oven. A bo-ssam’ed slab of brisket boasted impressive flavor, though it remained rather tough. Cubed, the meat went into Brisket Stroganoff – a traditionally homely retro favorite you may recall was once made with concentrated cream of mushroom soup. This version was not so downmarket (you make the Wondra-thickened gravy yourself, at least), but it is just as homely as any stroganoff Don Draper ever ate, and as much of a guilty pleasure.

It’s worth making Burnt Honey Butter just for the sake of getting beyond the point where you usually panic when working with honey, which is cooked down here to a caramel consistency and blended with butter. You feel sure it won’t possibly work, and then it does. Massaged into kale with sesame seeds, it makes for an over-the-top kale chip that’s more like junk food than any vegetable you’ve ever had.

The lure of her Kimcheez-Its, a kimchi-spiked take on the popular snack cracker, is hard to resist, and the result is as tangy-sharp and tasty as you would expect. But the recipe directions are not as helpful to the home cook as they should be, and they call for a pastry chef’s patience in cutting hundreds of 1-inch squares of a very thin dough. Yet again, more flour was needed, and oven times and temperature seemed off.

When it comes to desserts, Tosi’s tastes remain idiosyncratic and crowd-pleasing and, in this book at least, easy. Ritz crackers — enigmatically addictive on their own — turn into an equally jonesworthy cookie when broken up and just held together in a standard cookie dough. (They spread like anything, though, so don’t skimp on space on the baking sheet.) They taste like the emptiest of calories, but that won’t stop you from having another.

I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a more macho cookie than Tosi’s Molasses-Rye Cookies. There’s not actually any rye in them, but the spirit of rye bread is convincingly summoned with a liberal dose of caraway (both ground and as whole seeds). They demanded a bit longer in the oven than expected, but the results were well worth the wait.

You’ll need cake mix, of all things, for Tosi’s take on lemon bars. (Be sure to weigh. The recipe calls for a 15-ounce box, but all I could find was an 18.5-ounce box that actually weighed in at 17 ounces.) The mix goes into both the crust and the filling, and it’s certainly one of the easiest lemon bar recipes I’ve ever attempted. It took 10 minutes longer in the oven than forecast for the curd to set, and its industrial potency – like lemon Tang, or lemon Jell-O powder – was more than I could handle.

It’s hard not to be captivated by Tosi’s lack of pretense. There’s something intellectually provocative about “Milk Bar Life,” with its mad juxtapositions of Fruity Pebbles and slow-simmered sauces. The book’s voice is disarming, and no one could accuse Tosi of not being an original. Yet nostalgia for an era when processed foods had the gleam of true invention can take you only so far. After the sugar high ends, and after the chemical party in your mouth subsides, you might just find yourself longing for a poached pear – comparatively pretentious, but perfect as is, and thoroughly knowable.

Haute Dogs

8 servings

This recipe exemplifies the kind of high-low combination of ingredients represented throughout Momfuku Milk Bar pastry chef Christina Tosi’s “Milk Bar Life”: store-bought hot dogs, handmade “bun.” It’s decidedly unpretentious, and most likely a retro crowd-pleaser. The toppings are rolled and baked inside.

You may find, as the tester did, that more flour is needed than the 3 cups called for in the original recipe.

MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs to proof in the refrigerator overnight.

3 to 3 3/4 cups flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Generous 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus 1/2 teaspoon warm water
Toppings such as ketchup, mustard and/or Sweet-and-Sour Red Onion Jam (see below)
8 all-beef hot dogs, such as Nathan’s Famous Original Coney Island Natural Casing Beef Frankfurters
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sesame or poppy seeds

Combine the 3 cups of flour, the salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough-hook attachment. Add the 1 3/4 cups of water; beat on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, adding flour as needed to form a smooth and somewhat cohesive “wet ball” consistency. Knead on the lowest speed for about 4 minutes; the dough should bounce back softly when pressed.

(Alternatively, stir those initial ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, then gradually add the water, stirring, until the mixture has come together in a shaggy mass; add flour as needed and then knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface.)

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liners. Lightly flour a work surface.

Transfer the dough to the work surface; divide into 8 equal portions. Roll out each one into a rectangle about the length of the hot dogs you’re using, and wide enough to fully wrap around the dog (say, 8 by 5 inches).

Spread the dough with about 2 tablespoons of any condiment/any combination of fixings you like. Place a hot dog on top of each piece of dough and wrap up like a baby in a blanket. Arrange the dough-wrapped dogs seam side down on the baking sheet.

Whisk together the egg and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of water in a small bowl. Brush each blanketed dog with egg wash and sprinkle with some sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the bread blankets puff slightly and take on a golden hue.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition per serving (based on Nathan’s Frankfurters and 2 tablespoons of red onion jam): 400 calories, 12 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 1,120 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar

Sweet-and-Sour Red Onion Jam

2 cups

Only your imagination can limit the savory applications for this jam.

Use a mandoline to slice the onions, if you have one.

MAKE AHEAD: The jam can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small red onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain rice vinegar or champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat; cook until they begin to soften and turn translucent but do not brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and vinegar; reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cook until the liquid evaporates entirely, creating a jam that is thick and sticky, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the salt. Let cool, then transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition per 2-tablespoon serving: 50 calories, 0 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar

Kimcheez-Its With Blue Cheese Dip

150 two-inch crackers and 2 cups dip

Tosi is a big fan of Cheez-Its and took on the personal challenge of creating a snack “with a sense of scratch” that rivals their cheesy goodness. Because “kimchi is a required refrigerator ingredient” in the Momofuku family, she says, she was inspired to incorporate it.

If you have a convection oven, preheat to 250 degrees instead of 275.

The recipe originally called for cutting the dough into 1-inch squares; here, we’ve made them 2-inch squares — and still, that’s a lot of crackers. We found the rolled-out dough easier to cut into squares after a 15-minute rest in the refrigerator. Stacking the parchment-covered portions on top of a flexible plastic cutting board is a good way to go.

MAKE AHEAD: The dip can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The crackers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days; you may wish to recrisp them in a 300-degree oven, and cool completely, before serving.

Cheddar powder is available at specialty stories and online via King Arthur Flour. You can also use the powdered cheese that comes in boxed macaroni and cheese.

For the dip
2 tablespoons dried chives
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon dried dill
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie brand
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
4 ounces good blue cheese, such as Stilton, crumbled

For the crackers
1 cup homemade or store-bought kimchi (see recipe at
2 cups (12 ounces) loosely packed, shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/3 cups flour (scant 5 ounces)
1/4 cup (1 ounce; from 1 packet) cheddar powder (see headnote)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

For the dip: Mix the dried chives, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper, sugar and dried dill in a small bowl.

Whisk together the sour cream, mayo and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add the seasoning mix and stir until completely incorporated. Stir in the blue cheese, smashing it a little along the way to break it down.

Let the dip sit for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator to develop flavor. The yield is about 2 cups.

For the crackers: Put the kimchi in a strainer lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl and let it drain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the (non-convection) oven to 275 degrees. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Remove the kimchi from the strainer and discard the liquid (or use it to make kimchi bloody marys). Put the drained kimchi in a food processor; puree until completely smooth.

Combine the kimchi puree and shredded cheddar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula, add the flour, cheddar powder and cayenne, and mix until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl down again and mix on low for an additional minute. The dough will be stiff. If it’s too much for your mixer, finish kneading it by hand.

Divide the dough into 6 portions and shape into balls. Put each ball between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Use a rolling pin to roll it out to a thin 10-inch square. If desired, refrigerate for no more than 15 minutes (see headnote).

Remove the top piece of paper from each portion of dough and then use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 2-inch squares. You should get about 25 crackers from each portion. Transfer to the baking sheets, spacing the dough 1/2 inch apart.

Bake one sheet at a time for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees; bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until the crackers are completely dry and just starting to brown on the edges. Transfer the crackers to a wire rack to crisp up and cool completely.

Serve with the blue cheese dip.

Nutrition per 6 crackers and 2 tablespoons dip: 170 calories, 7 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

Molasses-Rye Cookies

18 servings large cookies

Tosi calls this “the oversized flannel shirt of cookies,” a marriage of rye bread and a gingersnap.

The tester’s cookie scoop was closer to 2 1/4 ounces (a generous 1/4 cup) than the 2 3/4 ounce scoop prescribed by Tosi, but the yield came out the same (a typical ice cream scoop holds about 3 ounces of dough.) Also, the cookies are supposed to bake to a “manly, leather-like brown” in 9 to 10 minutes. But it took our tester 15 minutes to end up with cookies that had a chewy texture and a light gingerbread color.

MAKE AHEAD: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 1 month. If you want to store the cookies at room temperature (for up to 5 days), Tosi recommends including a slice of sandwich bread in the airtight container, to help keep them moist.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons caraway seed
1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, until well blended. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Add the egg and yolk; beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, just until incorporated. Add the molasses and vinegar; beat for about 1 minute (medium speed) just until incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, ground caraway seed and ginger; beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or just until incorporated. The mixture will be the consistency of Tollhouse cookie dough.

Portion generous 1/4-cup scoops of dough 2 to 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheet before serving or storing.

Nutrition per cookie: 200 calories, 2 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 21 g sugar

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