A Conversation with...

Christina Tosi

Christina Tosi is the chef, founder and owner of Milk Bar, the dessert offshoot of chef mastermind David Chang抯 Momofuku restaurant group known for its addictively delicious baked treats like Cereal Milk and Crack Pie. Born with a picky palate and a permanent sweet tooth, Tosi always preferred dessert over a main course meal. Eventually her everyday diet turned into a culinary passion and profession. By 2008, she opened the first Milk Bar location in New York City抯 East Village; it now has five other locations throughout the city as well as in Toronto, Canada.

Tosi抯 love and talent for baking hasn抰 gone unnoticed: In addition to the swarm of customers who ask for Milk Bar抯 famous cake truffles, pies, cookies and soft serve, the James Beard Foundation awarded Tosi with the Rising Star Chef of the Year award in 2012. This year, she was a finalist for the James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef award.

In between her busy schedule of baking and writing a second cookbook Milk Bar Life (slated for shelves next spring), Tosi talked to us about her summer plans, beauty routine and, of course, dessert.


What was the very first thing you baked and how old were you?
My grandmother taught me how to bake, and we made oatmeal cookies when I was five years old.

What's the most memorable dessert you've ever had and where?
Chocolate and peanut butter custard at Kline's Dairy Bar in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

What exciting things can we expect from your upcoming book?
It抯 all about our life and lifestyle outside of the kitchen. Each chapter will focus on a different theme: think backyard barbecues, summer hangouts and team-building, snacks to make when you come home dog-tired at 10 pm and need to eat something but only have war rations left in the cupboard (it抯 a specialty of ours) and more. We are excited to share the hilarious, youthful and fun-loving culture that is Milk Bar Life. We might even take a road trip!

We like to think that Milk Bar treats are what started the dessert craze in New York City. With so many dessert hybrids trending at the moment, what do you think will be the next big thing?
I think it抯 all so exciting. I predict fun and boundary-pushing ice cream flavors and popsicles will be the big thing in these coming summer months.

What do you like to do when you're not at Milk Bar?
I love to travel, run, ride bikes and do silly things outdoors. I also love to listen to music, watch old and new movies and garden.

What have you been up to this summer?
I recently went to trapeze school with my siblings. I抳e also gone camping and to Hershey Park over the Fourth of July weekend. Since it抯 so beautiful out, I love to transform all of my activities to outdoor movies. One of my favorite summer after-work activities is to go see movies in the park. I even have all the of park/movie schedules downloaded!

What's your beauty routine like?
I have to be prepared to bounce in and out of the kitchen at any moment, so I keep things simple and light. Usually, blush for my cheeks and a little on my eyelids for color and warmth.

I抦 a tomboy from sun-up to sundown but when I'm jumping into a cute outfit and off to dinner or an event, I throw on my favorite lipstick to glam up my look and remind myself to let go of the tomboy a little and get girly. (I always keep a few colors in my bag.)

For hair, I go to sleep with my hair wet so when it dries overnight, it has volume and personality. It抯 also probably because I抦 too lazy to do anything fancier. I always twist and clip back my baby hairs with a bobby pin.

You once mentioned that Imperm閍ble Anti-Humidity Spray is your favorite product. What do you love about it?
Yes, it is! I have straight, thick hair that loves to pick up humidity any chance it gets. I spray a little bit of Imperm閍ble Anti-Humidity Spray in my hair every morning before I head off to work. It smells like a romanticized version of the beach to me, so it keeps my hair looking fresh and keeps me feeling cool and mellow. It抯 my secret weapon.

If you had your own salon, what kind of sweet treats would you offer?
Chocolate chip cookies, gooey butter cake and cake truffles, which are all super easy to make.

Any recipes you could offer salon owners for easy pick-up desserts clients could eat while they wait?
We have a ton of easy recipes on our website, including our Cornflake-Chocolate-Chip-Marshmallow Cookies and Birthday Cake Truffles. For those of you in the New York City area, we also offer a monthly baking class in our Williamsburg kitchen, the heart of Milk Bar.

If you could recommend an easy summer dessert recipe for a first-time baker, what would it be?
Ice box cake! I created a version with strawberry marshmallows and Ritz crackers:

Strawberry Marshmallow/Ritz Ice Box Cake

Ingredients:
1 tbsp Powdered gelatin
1/3 cup Cold water
1 cup Sugar
cup Water
cup Strawberry puree (We take our favorite seasonal Tristars, puree in the food processor and strain out the seeds)
2 Egg whites
cup Confectioner抯 sugar
tsp Kosher salt
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
1 pint Strawberries, cleaned and quartered

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup water. In a saucepan on low heat, combine sugar and cup water; stir just to combine. Increase heat and bring mixture to a boil, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer reads 240-degrees F (6-8 minutes). Carefully pour sugar mixture into stand mixer bowl over gelatin mixture.

With whisk attachment, beat mixture on high for 5 minutes until bowl抯 contents are white, thick and almost doubled in size. (Set a timer, as more than 5 minutes will begin to deflate the mixture.) At 5 minutes, add strawberry puree and continue whisking until even in color. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl.

With a cleaned stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment, on medium high, beat the egg whites, salt and confectioner抯 sugar until they hold stiff peaks. Pour in strawberry mixture and whisk until just combined.

On a serving plate arrange Ritz crackers in a 6 circle, spoon or pipe a layer of the strawberry fluff, stud with a few pieces of fresh strawberries. Arrange another layer of Ritz crackers and repeat, tapering in the ice box cake as you go. Refrigerate overnight. Serves 8.

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