As a professional baker, Tosi says she learned a lot about baking at home while writing this cookbook, as she adapted the recipes for the home cook. One of the areas she says that home cooks tend to skimp on is quality ingredients.
In fact, she says, "I poke a lot of fun at my mom in this cookbook because she loves to be a home baker but misses this step." Her mom will want to use this "great margarine" that's supposed to be good for your heart for crack pie and this doesn't work for Tosi. She believes that it's important to use fresh and good-quality ingredients in your baking, particularly with butter, all dairy, and flour.
Click here to see the Crack Pie recipe (pictured at left).
Tosi actually has hereditary high cholesterol and grew up in a household that didn't cook with butter. Instead, she had a fridge full of low-cholesterol products and non-fat cheese (she had a very supportive mother). So she understands that if you need to use low-fat products for health reasons, it's definitely possible, but you will have to tweak the recipes in several ways. Why? It comes down to different chemical makeups. Skim milk, for example, has a different fat and water content than whole milk or cream and that will make a big difference in your baked goods.
For cookies, if they’re not fluffy, then you need to keep mixing the butter and melted chocolate mixture. This process is important for good dough. Make sure to mix slowly, otherwise cookie dough will taste bready and not fluffy. And, that way you can avoid any dry ingredients flying up and creating an I Love Lucy moment in the kitchen.
At Milk Bar, the cookies are baked on waxed paper instead of foil because foil conducts heat and might burn the bottom of the cookies. For more advanced bakers, purchasing a Silpat is a good idea.
Quick Tip: How to know when cookies are done? First, the smell (hopefully you’ve experienced the intoxicating scent of freshly baked cookies). Second, there will be a little crack on top.
Click here to see the Chocolate Chocolate Cookies recipe (pictured at left).
"You can have any type of oven, you just really need to know it." Tosi believes that this might be one of the most important things to understand about your kitchen. Every oven has a different cold or hot spot and this is something you will get to know over time so that you can ensure the best baking possible.
Also, the temperature inside your oven might not accurately reflect the number you set it at. Check out the next slide for her thoughts on oven thermometers.
While Tosi doesn't use thermometers at Milk Bar because they are baking all the time and are very familiar with their ovens, she says if you are still getting to know your oven, then it might not be a bad idea to buy one. Tosi explains that when she first started writing the book, she set out on a diatribe against oven thermometers, but soon realized she didn't want the home cook to spend 20 minutes getting the compost cookie ready if their oven wasn't at the temperature they thought it was, because then the cookies wouldn't come out right. So, know your oven, she says, and the rest will come.
Tosi recommends a stand mixer, particularly for recipes in this book, as opposed to a hand mixer. She uses a Breville mixer that has a retractable cord so it doesn't take up too much counter space. Other items? A really heavy-duty sheet pan that's good quality. Otherwise, if it's too thin then it might bend and you won't get an even bake on your cake or could end up with a lopsided cake. Lastly, a heat-safe spatula is great to have because a lot of baking includes homogenous batters, doughs, and mixtures.
Baking is such a scientific process, so everything is measured to the gram at Milk Bar — especially because there are multiple locations and Tosi wants to make sure that there is consistency in the products sold at each store. However, because most home cooks use tablespoons and cups as measurements, the cookbook includes these as well. To be really accurate, she recommends using a scale.
Glucose: A lot of the recipes in the book use glucose syrup, and if you don’t want to order it from Amazon.com, you can substitute half the amount of light corn syrup for the glucose in the recipes. Tosi warns, though, that corn syrup is much sweeter and looser, so you won’t get the exact same result in terms of texture and flavor.
Corn Flour: If you can’t find it, use cornmeal instead.
Butter: “Use expensive butter.” Why? Because it’s what makes the cookies taste buttery. Tosi spends a good amount of money on butter at Milk Bar because it really matters. As she sometimes says, “The more expensive the butter, the better.” She recommends buying unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt in the recipe.
“Secret to Cookies”: Using vanilla extract that people are used to, not actual vanilla beans.