Category Archives: Gear

My kitchen tools and recommendations

Christina Tosi is a Genius!!!

An endorsement for the Milk Bar Cookbook

MilkBarI was introduced to Milk Bar cookies a couple of years ago when a box arrived at our door as a gift. Individually wrapped in cellophane were cookies named Compost, Corn, Blueberries & Cream and Cornflake. These were familiar names for things such as muffins and breakfast cereal, but these were very exotic flavors for cookies.

Perplexed, Billy and I inspected each cookie carefully before tasting. “Hum, feels soft and chewy… What’s this on the ingredient list? POTATO CHIPS??? Huh? …” Well, we were sold after the first bite. All the flavors were strangely familiar and comforting. The Compost cookie was a perfect combination of sweet and savory. The love child of the classic chocolate chip and of any and all (it seems) the snack foods you could think of. Chips, pretzels, butterscotch, even coffee! The Corn cookie tasted like what cornbread would be if it were reincarnated as a dessert. We finished half the box in short order and froze the rest for special occasions.

When we ran out of cookies, I looked for the Compost Cookie recipe online and made a batch. I  portioned and froze half the dough so that I could bake a few at a time in my Breville oven when the craving struck. After piece-mealing Milk Bar recipes from here and there, and finding that they produced cookies as good as the ones from the bakery, I decided it was time to buy the book…

Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook is a revelation. Christina Tosi, author of this book as well as chef, owner, and founder of Momofuku Milkbar is a mad, mad genius. The cookbook is full of wonderful desserts that could’ve come from the imagination of a child wearing a unicorn t-shirt on a Lucky Charms sugar high.  Her monologues are friendly and whimsical and recipes exactdown to the gram—with thorough directions. There’s a whole section of what specific ingredients to buy, and where, as well as an equipment guide. A technique section: “the ten minute creaming process, or why milk bar cookies are so damn good.”  Ms. Tosi is a woman after my OCD heart!

I’ve had a great time learning and baking from this book. It’s really inspired me to use unusual ingredients, to be more inventive and has improved my baking. Outside of a minor conversion typogelatin sheet to powder—which caused a runny banana cream pie and a loose batch of panna cotta (in book 1 1/2 sheet silver gelatin= 3/4 tsp. powder. Should be 1 1/2 tsp.), the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook is a joy. I’d recommend to new and experienced bakers alike.

THE toaster oven…


I had a cheap Oster toaster oven forever!!! It was a remnant of my starving student days. To say that it toasted or was an oven was a gross exaggeration. On the toast feature, it burnt one side of my bread and lightly warmed the other. And I’m not sure that you can consider something an oven if it never accurately keeps temperature. The Thing made me sad every time I used it. Being frugal, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away something that was still ‘functional.’ But, the Thing would NOT die. And I willed it. I didn’t clean it for years. I let crumbs, grime and crud build up hoping to somehow make it suicidal. Yet, it lived on.

A couple of years ago, after close to 10 years of unhappy ownership, I finally gave the Thing away. A friend who is in grad school now utilizes it. She cleaned it up. After she raised an eyebrow, it was explained that the yuck was a result of my murderous plans. It still works to this day… Well, kind of.

So, I ponied up the money for a new toaster oven. This time around, I had the means to buy something of quality. I researched and shopped around. Finally, I tentatively handed my 20% off coupon and my money to the Bed Bath and Beyond cashier. And ka-shing! I bought a toaster oven that cost five times what I originally paid for the Thing. The Breville Smart Oven (1800 watts convection) was going home with me!

So. Much. Money. Is it worth it? YES! Absolutely!

It is beautifully designed. The oven body is stainless with knobs that click just so when you are setting it. The backlit blue information screen is clear and easy to understand. And a sweet little ding tells you when it’s ready or done. I would say that it is a compact oven with a toaster feature. Not the other way around.

Being a household of two, we use it almost daily. It’s much more practical than heating up our full-size conventional oven and keeps the house much cooler. This mini oven is big enough to cook food for four, maybe more. It’s dependable and heats up very evenly and I trust it with any task that I would use my regular oven for. We use it to broil tandoori fish (four fillets at a time), make delicious whole roasted chicken, to bake pies and quiches and the list goes on.

The Smart Oven comes equipped with a pizza pan and broiler tray/cookie sheet. Truthfully, I haven’t used any of these items for what they are intended for. I prefer to bake my pizza on a preheated stone or cast iron pan. The quality of the pans provided are better than average. But, I personally like the non-stick cookie sheets from Williams-Sonoma. I had bought some for my regular oven and liked the quality, so I bought the small ones for the Breville. They are great for roasting vegetables and clean up very easily. You can also buy a small Silpat that’s perfectly sized for this sheet. It works out great for baking small batches of cookies. We have gotten in the habit of freezing pre-measured cookie dough and baking 2 at a time for a snack.

But, don’t throw those pans away. I recently used the round pizza pan to bake a large galette in the Breville!

Last, but, not least. It’s great for warming and crisping back up day-old fried chicken!