I knew from the beginning of the episode of Chef’s Table devoted to Momofuku’s Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi’s life that she is a pastry chef whose food I can understand and to which I can relate. Totally unapologetic about her sweet tooth, Tosi embraces sugar and desserts instead of demonizing them. She recognizes that sweet foods add quality and magic to our lives. Her free dietary spirit is evident from her opening words in Chef’s Table:
Let’s be honest. You’re not going for a cookie for sustenance. You’re going for a cookie for the beauty of indulgence, for like the spirit of just letting free, and being like, I know maybe this cookie isn’t going to be the thing that rounds out my diet for the day. But it’s what’s going to bring me joy, and remind me that life’s too short to worry about how many cookies I ate today.
And so, as Tosi explains after expressing this radical attitude toward sweets, at one point in her life she started asking herself what she could do every day for the rest of her life, and she answered herself: make cookies.
Christina Tosi’s work encapsulates so much more than making cookies, though. She intuitively understands the intangible value that food imparts to our lives as through the foods we eat we forge relationships and form memories. Inspired by the time she spent baking in the kitchen with the important women in her life, her mother and grandmothers, Christina creates desserts the taste of which sparks the childhood culinary memories of the people who eat them. Remember when you drank the sweetened, cereal-flavored milk leftover in your bowl after finished eating the cereal? Did you ever think anyone would create a dessert specifically to recapture that memory for you? Tosi’s creations, dishes such as cereal milk panna cotta with caramelized corn flake crunch, do that for people.
Many of the desserts and cookies Milk Bar serves are reminiscent of childhood breakfasts which usually included commercial kids’ cereals. I don’t know whether Milk Bar’s corn cookies are inspired by any particular kids’ cereal, but they remind me of a cross between Cap’n Crunch and Sugar Pops (memories from back in the days long before my celiac diagnosis). The cookies are slightly sweet and slightly salty, indulging that oh-so-satisfying sweet – salty combination that pleases the tongue and mind in a way few other taste sensations do.
The corn cookie recipe, written for volume and weight, is easy to follow. It does require a couple of ingredients not everyone has in her kitchen. You will need freeze dried corn, which I think is expensive (but the cookies are well worth the expense). When I first decided to deglutenize this cookie recipe, I even looked on prepper’s sites for less expensive freeze dried corn. Even on those sites the freeze dried corn is expensive, and it’s only sold in bulk. Freeze dried, instead of dehydrated, corn is essential in keeping with Tosi’s vision of the cookie’s essence. No substitutions work to preserve the original idea of the cookie, so I buy *this freeze dried corn. Alternatively, you can buy freeze dried corn powder (enough for one batch of corn cookies) from Milk Bar. You will also need corn flour (not corn meal). Corn flour is available in many grocery stores and most natural food stores. I always have sprouted corn flour in my stock of flours; sprouted corn flour seems healthier somehow. Sprouted corn flour is available online; I’ve not seen it in stores since Target and Whole Foods quit carrying One Degree sprouted corn flour.
To deglutenize Milk Bar’s corn cookie recipe, I chose to blend almond, sprouted brown rice, and arrowroot flours based on the original recipe’s requirement of bread flour. Bread flour has a protein content of 11-13%. I decided upon a 12% protein content for my flour blend, which I reached with the almond flour and sprouted brown rice flours, and I added the arrowroot starch to lighten the final product. (Note: sprouted brown rice flour and regular brown rice flour contain the same amount of protein per serving). Creating a flour blend to achieve a certain amount of protein requires math – and the weighing of flours rather than measuring them out in volume. Now, I KNOW the proteins in gluten-free flours don’t contain gliadins and glutenins (the two components of gluten); however, over the years I’ve found that if I create a blend of gluten-free flours that contains the same amount of protein as the wheat or glutenous flour I’m replacing in a recipe, the deglutenized recipe succeeds, and without my adding any of the additional helping ingredients may people add to gluten-free recipes.
I made an additional change to the original corn cookie recipe. The original recipe requires that the cookie dough be scooped onto the prepared cookie sheets as soon as the cookie dough is finished, and the sheets with the domes of dough placed in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or more before baking. I never have enough room in my refrigerator to place cookie sheets on the shelves. Instead I chill the dough in the mixing bowl for over an hour, then scoop the dough onto the baking sheets as quickly as possible while its still cold.
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Gluten-Free Milk Bar Corn Cookies
This gluten-free version of Milk Bar's corn cookies produces cookies with a perfect balance of sweet - salty, soft - chewy.
- 16 tablespoons butter room temperature
- 300 grams caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 75 grams almond flour
- 75 grams sprouted brown rice flour or superfine brown rice flour
- 75 grams arrowroot starch
- 45 grams sprouted corn flour or regular corn flour NOT corn meal
- 65 grams or 2/3 cup freeze dried corn ground to powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and beat for 7 to 8 minutes or until very light and fluffy. (You need to beat the mixture for this long to help the cookie dough incorporate a large amount of butter.) Stop to scrape down the bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredient mixture all at once to the creamed mixture. Beat on low speed just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute.
Chill the dough for an hour more more. While the dough is still very cold, use an ice cream scoop to place perfectly portioned scoops of dough on the parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving room between each mound of dough for the cookies to spread as they bake.
Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until the cookies have puffed, cracked, spread, and begun to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets, then remove the cookies to wire racks for cooling.