Christina Tosi's ingenious desserts, like crack pie and cereal milk ice cream, have earned her fame and fortune, and have catapulted Momofuku Milk Bar to the top of the bakery It List (move over, Magnolia). So when we heard she was teaming up with Williams-Sonoma to create a line of cookie mixes based on Milk Bar's top sellers, we couldn't wait to try them. How would the boxed-mix versions compare to the real thing?
We compared the cookies from the mixes with the bakery versions from the East Village branch of Momofuku Milk Bar in a blind taste test. The cookies from the mix were baked the day of the test, following the package instructions exactly. Bakery versions were purchased the same day, and all cookies were roughly the same size.
The compost cookie is like a chocolate chip cookie on steroids. A stoner's dream, it combines chocolate and butterscotch chips, potato chips, pretzels, and coffee grounds for a pretty awesome salty-sweet experience.
Bakery version ingredients: butter, unbleached wheat flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham crumbs, pretzels, potato chips, glucose syrup, eggs, whole oats, cream milk powder, coffee grounds, salt, leavening.
Mix version ingredients: Graham cracker packet: graham cracker, sugar, nonfat dry milk, salt. Sugar packet: granulated sugar, light brown sugar, dextrose, natural vanilla flavor. Cookie mix packet: enriched wheat flour, salt, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate. Compost packet: chocolate chunks, butterscotch chips, natural and artificial flavor, artificial color, rolled oats, coffee. At home, you have to add in: 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 egg, 1 ounce potato chips, 1 ounce pretzels.
This first cookie match was a bit of a toss-up. Tasters liked both versions, but the bakery cookies were bested ever so slightly by the cookies from the mix, which testers preferred citing good texture, richer coffee flavor, and crispy edges. Of the three mixes, this was the group favorite.
The Winner: The mix, but it was a close one.
Blueberry & Cream Cookies:
Inspired by the crumbly tops of blueberry muffins, these rich, chewy butter cookies are loaded with blueberries and white chocolate, plus Tosi's signature "milk crumbs."
Bakery version ingredients: unbleached wheat flour, butter, brown sugar, sugar, dried blueberries, glucose syrup, eggs, milk powder, white chocolate, cornstarch, salt, leavening.
Mix version ingredients: Milk powder packet: nonfat dry milk, enriched wheat flour, granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt. White chocolate packet: white chocolate, vanilla extract. Sugar packet: light brown sugar, granulated sugar, dextrose. Cookie mix packet: Enriched wheat flour, salt, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate. Blueberry packet: dried blueberries. At home, you have to add in: 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 egg.
We've had some good experiences at Milk Bar, but even great bakeries have an off day sometimes. The bakery versions of this cookie were woefully underbaked and doughy-tasting. Maybe the ovens were finicky, or the timers were broken. Tasters liked the large chunks of white chocolate and distinct blueberry flavor in the bakery cookies, but unanimously preferred the cookies from the mix for texture and less "raw dough" flavor. Some found the mix flavor to be a bit too close to a blueberry energy bar for their liking, though.
The Winner: the mix.
We were so surprised at the barely-baked state of the bakery cookies that we went back again to try them a few days later. On try two, the cookies we ordered were a bit less underdone (and the blueberry even had slightly crisp edges), though still pretty raw in the center.
A simple, understated cookie made with cornmeal and loads of butter, Milk Bar's corn cookie is an homage to cornflake cereal.
Bakery version ingredients: sugar, butter, unbleached wheat flour, corn powder, eggs, salt, leavening.
Mix version ingredients: sugar, flour, sweet corn, degermed yellow corn flour, salt, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate. At home, you have to add in: 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 egg.
Again, the bakery cookies were underbaked—all were raw in the center. But tasters liked their distinctly "corny" flavor, which brought to mind a thick, moist, hunk of buttery cornbread with fresh kernels. The cookies from the mix were pretty different, tasting like top-quality sugar cookies: moist at the center, crisp at the edges, with a tender crumb and a pure buttery flavor. Unfortunately, they were lacking the nutty, sweet flavor of corn. Tasters enjoyed the mix, but felt like they weren't as unusual as the bakery cookies.
The Winner: Bakery-bought.
Conclusion and a Little Math
The brilliance of all of these cookies is in creativity required to come up with them. Who but Christina Tosi would think to add coffee grinds and potato chips to cookie dough, or come up with the idea for milk crumbs?
Even though we found some flaws with her new line of mixes, the cookies they yield are still far more delicious than any you would get from a supermarket cookie mix. If you don't live in New York and want to get a glimpse of what all the Milk Bar hype is about, it would be worth it to stop by Williams-Sonoma and pick up the Compost Cookie mix (our top pick).
But better yet, roll up those sleeves and bake some of Christina Tosi's recipes from scratch. Consider the cost: this Blueberry & Cream Cookies recipe yields 35 cookies for $19.61, about 56 cents a cookie. It'll cost $16 for the mix plus $1.38 in additional ingredients to make 9 cookies, about $1.93 per cookie. (If you ordered the baked cookies online, you pay $2 per cookie. At the bakery, you can get a dozen for $20, so they come out to $1.66.)* The Corn Cookie recipe comes out to $12.96 for 13 cookies—so each cookie is 99 cents, compared with $1.52 per cookie for the mix. The Compost Cookie recipe comes to $15.85 for 15 to 20 cookies, so each one costs between 79 cents and $1.06, compared with $2.04 a cookie for the mix. In every case, following the recipe from scratch is cheapest.
Added bonus? You get to take all the credit for making them yourself.
*Cookie costs for making at home according to the recipes were calculated based on the average online cost of basic pantry ingredients prorated for the volume called for in the recipe. For specialty items that you might not have at home, like milk powder, potato chips, or dried blueberries, we added the entire cost of the smallest package available online.
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