- Reverse Engineering
- Season 1
- Episode 34
Recreating Christina Tosi's Milk Bar Compost Cookies From Taste
Released on 12/19/2022
I'm Kat and I'm in the BA test kitchen
to have a super secret conversation about Chris Morocco.
Once again, we're putting Chris's super taster abilities
to the test.
This is Christina Tosi's Compost Cookies.
I'm challenging Chris to recreate this dish in just one day
with all the ingredients.
He'll be able to taste it, touch it, smell it,
but at no point will he be able to see the dish.
At the end of the day, we'll come back
to see his final creation and I will be the judge.
Oh, class and a glass with this crew, huh?
Oh my God.
Smells like an ice cream store that's making waffle cones.
So fatty, so buttery, so vanilla.
Feels quite a bit like a cookie.
Ever so slightly soft in the center.
Lot of texture wall to wall.
It's just like pure sweet vanilla intensity
with this sort of like toffee caramel sweetness.
But there's really like these pockets of like defined chew.
Is it marshmallow?
Is there like little bits of chocolate kind of in parts?
So I definitely got some bittersweet chocolate.
That was like, it's almost like a corn flake
or something that's like breakfast cereal.
Potato chip, chocolate.
Got a salted pretzel.
Is it like a miniature butterscotch chip?
Such a riot of textures.
So we've got a sweet cookie matrix
and then we have all these add-ins.
Maybe marshmallows, maybe like a Heath bar
giving like a toffee kind of aspect.
[laughing] It's not really quite my cup of tea
but I have a feeling about whose work this might be.
This feels very Christina Tosi to me
and her most famous cookie
is the Garbage, no, [dramatic music]
the Fridge Garbage Dump, [dramatic music]
the Kitchen Sink Cookie. [dramatic music]
[Director] Kitchen sink cookies
also called compost cookies.
[dramatic music] Compost cookie.
Feels very her, even if it's not her.
Ingredients, AP flour, eggs, granulated sugar,
dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla.
All right, now in terms of like mix-ins.
Bittersweet chocolate chips, potato chips,
salted pretzels, not rods, mini marshmallows.
Let's try Lucky Charms, toffee bar, why not?
And small butterscotch chips.
This is like one of those days where you feel like
we're going home at midnight. [laughing]
Somebody's gonna go shop for these ingredients
and then I'll have my first shot.
So mini pretzels salted.
I've got potato chips, mini marshmallows,
mini butterscotch chips.
I've got semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Ah, those 10, those are actually bittersweet.
Hershey's Special Dark.
Is that what I am to you?
Corn flakes, Lucky Charms.
God help me.
Like I haven't even thought about these things
for like three decades.
It started out fairly crisp, although as they warmed,
they started to soften
and I think that is largely a function of there being
a fairly high proportion of fat.
So Corey just gave me my own recipe
for BA's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Now that cookie I don't think is entirely correct,
but that's gonna give me at least like a rough indication
of where I should be coming in.
I wanna start out by trying
to cream the butter and sugar together
as opposed to putting the butter into a liquid state.
It's just gonna help me create
like a different structure to this cookie.
Then I'm gonna go with dark brown sugar
for its higher molasses content, stronger flavor.
And then we're gonna go one whole stick of butter.
Although, maybe let's go crazy.
Let's put an extra couple tablespoons of butter in there.
All right, so you're gonna get that creaming.
125 grams of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder,
and then 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
By creaming, you know,
it helps build the structure of the cookie,
it dissolves the sugar and yeah,
I don't know, it's freaking science.
You know, honestly, I wish I understood it
like better than I do.
The way that these ingredients intersect
is part of what creates like so many baked goods,
it's just fascinating.
Vanilla is now going into the dough as well.
Yeah, so in here, I meant to do that.
Salt's in there, that's great, now we go.
So this is our base dough and then I'll combine it
the rest of the way by hand.
As you let a dough rest,
you allow the flour to fully hydrate.
Yes, for the sake of consistency and repeatability,
you know, a rested dough may ultimately perform better.
But like if you do a cookie that's meant to be rested
and you bake it right away,
you're gonna get a very different result
than the person who's actually following the recipe
and resting it as indicated.
For me, I'm not sitting around for two hours
waiting for chocolate chip cookies.
I wanna be working in a mode here today
that doesn't necessitate resting in any real meaningful way.
To that end, I'm gonna bake off
a couple cookies side by side
just to see how the dough performs.
We can only try.
[dramatic music] Oh yeah, we got problems.
Got big problems.
The two extra tablespoons of butter
I think were almost certainly a mistake.
I just made like a frigging Tate's mutant, you know,
like plain Jane cookie here.
Sorry, no offense, Janes of the world, just plain cookie.
What we're lacking here is structure
and the whole point of doing the creamed method
was to like try to build firm yet yielding structure
with like really glassy smooth kind of underside.
I'm gonna cool this down in the fridge
just for like 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, I'm gonna go ahead and make another dough.
One stick butter.
The danger of just changing too many things at once
and not being able to tell
the impact of each individual change.
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
The cookie has that turbocharged sweet vanilla
buttery thing happening, which feels appropriate,
but it's just completely lacking in substance.
I still feel good about rebalancing these ingredients
the way that we are, may have to think about leavening.
So this is really just gonna showcase a different proportion
of fat and flour and I'm gonna hold there
without changing anything else about our leavening.
Okay, we definitely got slightly stiffer dough.
Again, it's not like a complete game change,
but I definitely notice the difference.
All right, in we go and we'll see how we're looking.
Interesting, so little bit more structure,
but we're looking a little anemic, you know?
Not quite getting our iron camera right.
So I'm going to shift the proportion
of granulated and dark brown sugar
further in favor of dark brown sugar.
I'm also gonna tweak the leavening.
The goal is to try to get just a little bit more structure.
a little bit more lift,
a little bit more heft to these cookies.
I don't know that like baking powder
ever should have been in here to begin with,
but I'm going soda only.
It's like deja vu all over again.
So now we're just doing 50 grams granulated.
Gives you sweetness, crispiness.
Brown sugar gives you more chewiness.
This will be 150 grams now.
Staying with one stick unsalted butter.
So in terms of dry ingredients,
staying constant on AP flour.
No, soda, only soda.
It gives you some lift but it also causes
baked goods to spread and brown.
So I really think you're gonna start to notice a difference
in terms of the color of this dough.
It's already pretty pronounced.
All right, dry goods going in.
Just want to zero in on the right dough,
no resting, no hydration.
10 minutes, see you there.
[dramatic music] Okay, so this was 12 minutes.
Even the parchment being raised just a little bit
inhibited the spread of the cookie
and gave me that warped shape.
Even though it's warm, I can already pick it up.
It tells me that it's gonna firm up
to some degree of crispiness.
I think this is a pretty good base to work off of
in terms of folding in some mix-ins
and then seeing how it bakes with them.
Million dollar question, and I'm serious here,
how do you get some of this in there, you know?
So we're gonna do salted pretzels,
potato chips, butterscotch chips.
I like, I don't even wanna taste it.
This is like my worst thing, awful.
It's like my worst thing, like [beep] fake vanilla.
Like what is that?
But then like mini chocolate chips.
Was it a mini chocolate chip
or was it just like chopped chocolate chocolate?
Part of it felt like more irregular.
I don't know if that's right or wrong,
but maybe we just go a little bit of chopped chocolate.
Or was it just the Heath bar, maybe, maybe.
I'm gonna chip the chocolate off the Heath bar
but include the toffee quotient
and then I'm gonna chop other chocolate on the side.
Seems very plausible.
Okay, so we've got salted pretzels,
we've got mini marshmallows.
Oh, I need the marshmallow.
We've got butterscotch chips, we've got potato chips.
Corn, no, dude.
Perfect and that's just how they do it.
Okay, so without like absolutely crushing
and shattering everything,
how do you portion this dough, you know?
All right, so we're gonna go into the oven.
See what happens here, all right?
350 degrees and we're gonna leave it about 10 minutes,
check 'em, see how we're doing.
Very curious to see how this goes.
Having some problems.
What a [beep] mess.
Same cookie, you know, in fairness,
it's hydrated, right?
But it's moving and it's spreading
in really unpredictable ways because of the mix-ins as well.
The marshmallows really do some [beep] up, annoying things.
So I'm gonna do something that's like super normal
and not annoying at all, which is pull the marshmallows
right out of this dough and then bake off a couple more
'cause they're spreading and doing bad things
like I knew they would.
That's why I wanted the [beep] stupid marshmallows
from the Lucky Charms.
I'm just gonna file this under
everything's totally cool.
[Director] On attempt one, right?
Yeah, we're still on attempt number one.
Let's see what happens here.
Might have gone a little too heavy on the mix ins,
but it's okay.
[dramatic music] All right, here we go.
I mean, do I wish that weren't sticking straight up?
Yeah, I do, thanks for pointing it out.
It took a while to get to this place.
It gives us a pretty good baseline
and then the mix-ins are the mix-ins.
All right. Let's do self-scores.
Oh God, I mean let's call it a 65 for ingredients.
Is there Heath bar, what form of chocolate,
what type of flaky things?
What type of marshmallow-y or sugary things?
Technique wise, like maybe I'm at 70,
like maybe just hope that I got the right
sort of style of cookie dough.
This is like way too textural, I'd say like 65.
Flavor wise, I'd say like maybe we're at 70.
On this piece of paper, I have the scores I just gave myself
along with the actual scores.
Ingredient-wise, I'm actually at a 50.
[rolling pin banging]
Oh my God.
Technique-wise, I'm actually at 75.
Is there something I needed to make to go in there?
There's like a sub-component, you know,
of the recipe that's like a mix-in
that I should have like constructed from the ground up?
I've got one more shot to taste the original dish
before I do my final bake on this,
and maybe I'll pick up something else.
We can hope, right?
All right, well we gotta break down
and use those mini chocolate chips.
Stop trying to get fancy
with the Hershey's Special Dark hand chopped,
thank you very much.
These little shattering crisp, marshmallow-y,
weird, caramel-y somethings.
The differential and the ingredient score made me wonder,
could it be that there's like some other component
I need to be making?
Are we sure that's not
like an ice cream cone or something?
Buttery, sweet, but like fairly neutral shards of cookie.
Compared to like the intensity of flavor
of like one of those butterscotch chips
or like a chocolate little pocket,
it like doesn't even compare.
I don't know, it's very hard for me to place.
This is giving me granola bar kind of.
It's a little bit sweet,
maybe felt like a little bit like grainy or oat-y.
If there's one thing I'm like sort of spinning out of round
is like it's these, you know, kind of like gooey things
that like present as sort of like marshmallow-y.
I'm really just racking my brain trying to figure out
like, okay, what can give you a similar effect?
Corn syrup is something that you might see a little bit more
in like a production kitchen
where you wanna retain like softness.
But it's not like my sweet spot, you know,
just in terms of like how I usually
put together my cookie dough
or what a reasonable amount of it would be.
Yeah, I don't think I need to taste anything else.
Yeah, it's this meringue sweetness gooey-ness
that's really like vexing me.
But what about like that round crunchy cookie-like thing?
Like in terms of recreating the sensation
of like what was happening in the cookie,
I'll take some [beep] sugar cones like right now.
I'll put them in there, I don't give a [beep].
We're not making big changes with the dough.
Did a lot of work to get the dough
to like a place I was like pretty happy with.
I just asked for some rolled oats,
giving me that like granola bar vibe.
Maybe that would get me something.
All right, so dry ingredients.
AP flour, baking soda, salt.
For sugars, wait, that's flour, folks.
Thanks for the heads up.
I'm gonna stay with where I was on our sugar makeup,
but I'm also adding a little bit of corn syrup.
Inverted sugars, whether it's like corn syrup, honey,
you get a lot of chew rather than like drying out
and just going full on like crispy.
It's not because it's adding flavor necessarily.
I'm tempted just to like go full rogue
and start pulling out the Lucky Charms marshmallows.
Oh my God, my kids would die of joy if I brought these home.
Honestly like kind of wild how similar it is
to like something I've been tasting in there.
Now our dry ingredients, now we need our mix-ins.
Now is like where things get weird, right?
So I'll do like 1/4 cup of those.
I mean, I don't know.
Some chips are gonna go in.
Here, take one of the marshmallows.
It's not a bad facsimile flavor-wise.
Cooked sugar, little bit like caramelized.
So we're gonna throw in some of those.
Now we're going full mini chip, butterscotch, pretzels.
Plus I'm doing a little chopped chocolate as well.
[Director] You're doing, are you doing
chocolate chip- Doing both,
oh yeah. And chopped chocolate?
More of like a matter
of what I'm perceiving in the cookie.
I wanna beat this up just a little bit,
working some of those mix-ins in to integrate it
then I might do a few pieces of pretzel on top.
I think put that in the whatever file, we're going in.
Okay, so second attempt is finally in.
We're not looking back, we're only looking forward.
So we'll regroup in like 10 minutes.
All right, honestly, like I feel okay about this.
You've got really nice color,
really nice kind of wavy ripple-y edges,
bit of a soft center, marshmallows from the Lucky Charms
standing in for this caramel-y, chewy, sticky, something.
Not mad about it at all.
It's hitting an ideal balance of like crispy and chewy
in a way that I know how to at least replicate.
So for ingredients, my actual score last time was a 50.
As much as I'd love to say
that loads of things changed since then,
honestly, like maybe I'll go with like an actual 58
and hope that like a few things in the right direction
made a difference.
Not a lot changed technique wise here
so I'm gonna stick with 75.
Appearance, if I was at 88 before,
like let's say I'm at 90 now.
Taste, let's nudge that up to maybe 85,
just with the inclusion of a couple of other elements.
Just a challenging day but I'm okay, I'm okay.
I should've slid, too. Slide, it's okay.
I didn't prepare you for that.
I didn't spin out too hard
about the things I just couldn't get, you know?
It's all right. Chris, are you ready
to find out what this is?
I sure am.
May I present to you, Christina Tosi's Compost Cookie.
[Kat] I feel like as soon as you tasted it, you were like,
I think I know who's making this cookie.
Yeah. And you got
it right immediately.
I mean, they look pretty similar.
I mean, there certainly is a slightly different structure
to my cookie from the original.
Like these don't look like they spread the same way.
Yes. I think I've had
to make some choices about how to make cookies
over the years and I've sort of never really looked back.
Yeah, your brain is just like clouded
with all of the information
that you've created for yourself and now you're like,
I refuse to do it any other way.
Yeah, exactly. [Kat laughing]
Well, you wanna tell me about how you made your cookie?
I used creamed butter, granulated sugar,
brown sugar, and light corn syrup.
Simple dry mixture, AP flour, baking soda, salt.
That was the base, no rest, right into the oven.
I think that's what
one of the biggest differences here was
is that this is a rested cookie
and you do rest it in the fridge for an hour.
The lower temperature allowed the butter to solidify
rather than stay soft at room temperature,
helped it seize a little bit better in that hot oven.
How fascinating that like a very similarly ratioed cookie,
like that is sort of the benefit of like a cold rest, right?
It's a very controlled spread
and it's a little bit of like a different texture.
Yeah, but I am super impressed with the fact
that you went this route because I think
the texture of your cookie is super similar.
So let's talk about ingredients.
Okay. I wanted you
to get it so badly.
Yeah, can I open one
while we're talking? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So that ingredient was actually graham cracker crust
that Christina Tosi makes herself
to fold into the cookie batter.
I feel like we set you up for failure and I do apologize,
but this is the show- Graham cracker?
And I don't make the rules. Know what's so funny?
No, know what's so funny, though?
Graham cracker's like very open, airy structure.
Not gonna present that crisp in my mind, right?
Because if it's a crust and it's had extra fat
added to it- Not only extra fat,
but it's had milk powder and extra sugar
and everything just kind of becomes this like thick mass.
Yeah, I don't feel bad about that at all
because I mean like what the [beep]?
And that's why I put [beep] marshmallow in there.
I was like there's some weird desiccated sugary something.
You took out your baking powder after your first attempt.
This recipe actually uses both baking soda
and baking powder. It does?
And it's actually more baking powder than soda.
There's no brown sugar?
There's light brown sugar.
I understand where you were coming from
trying to use dark brown sugar 'cause you were trying
to add in that little bit of acid
to activate the baking soda.
But yeah, this is mostly baking powder.
Okay. So it wouldn't be
a true compost cookie if there wasn't
some coffee grounds in there.
If you know it's in there, you can taste it a little bit.
Do you wanna try it?
[Chris] Sure, let's try it.
Taste the coffee a little bit?
No? Maybe I just drink
too much like actual coffee.
Yeah, should we try yours?
Be sure to get a piece with a Lucky Charm
marshmallow in it, okay? Lucky Charm, okay.
[Chris] You might have to dig around for one.
The texture is so similar, even breaking into it.
It's funny, it's like with all that dark brown sugar
in there, the whole thing tastes a little bit savory
and like butterscotch-y and caramel-y.
Your extra dark brown sugar is doing that work
so it tastes so similar.
For ingredients, I gave you a 60.
Uh-huh. Just by counting
all the ingredients
and then doing math. Because math.
Yeah, just math. [Chris laughing]
Technique, I gave you a 75.
You didn't- Because of
the graham cracker thing?
You did miss about a third of the recipe,
so as much as I hate to dock points for that-
I mean- It just had to happen.
Sure. And then for appearance,
I gave you an 85.
I do think they're extremely similar,
but because you did use those colorful marshmallows
and there just aren't quite as many mix-ins
as there are in this recipe, I had to give you an 85.
And then for taste, I gave you a 90.
You were able to create such a similar product
even though you missed so many ingredients.
You know, somehow you got there.
Nice, yeah, cool. And it just tastes
That whole farkakte, you know, graham cracker thing.
Like cool, you know? Yes.
The rest of it is gravy.
[Chris And Kat] Yeah.
Getting the chef, getting the name of the dish,
getting so close to recreating it
but doing so many things wrong along the way.
Tiny differences have huge impacts
and I think today is like just such a clear example of that.
If I discus a cookie from here into the compost,
will you give me a free ingredient?
Sure. Yeah, okay.
[dramatic music] We're okay, just careful.
Heads up, heads up, heads up.
[all groaning] Are you [beep] kidding me?
How can you be that close?
[Director] That's a wrap,
let's go home. Oh God.
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