The corn cookies at Milk Bar are my favorite sweet treat in New York, and they've been something I've wanted to make at home since getting my hands on the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and watching Christina Tosi make the cookies on an episode of PBS' Mind of a Chef. Momofuku Milk Bar is a joy to flip through and read, though enough of the recipes call for enough obscure ingredients that the book ends up not being very accessible to the home baker. And even if you've managed to collect all the provisions for a recipe like the one for corn cookies, the other obstacle is often a matter of equipment. In both the cookbook and on Mind of a Chef, Christina Tosi emphasizes how critical it is that the butter be creamed in a stand mixer on medium-high speed for something like 11 minutes total. Eleven minutes!
I believe everyone has the right to homemade corn cookies, even if one doesn't have a KitchenAid. I also think there should be some kind of national KitchenAid stand mixer relief program whereby anyone who owns a KitchenAid but never uses it gives it to someone who doesn't have one but would use it regularly, and the original owner gets free cookies for life. Someone call the White House.
After recently enjoying a corn cookie that a friend carted from New York all the way back to San Francisco, I set out to make these cookies by hand, to 1) see if I could create a cookie that comes anywhere close to the original without the aid of a stand mixer, and 2) tide me over until the next time I find myself out east.
Since I was mixing the cookie dough by hand and therefore wouldn't be able aerate the butter as thoroughly as a stand mixer, I reduced the butter by just a little bit as a precaution against an overly greasy end cookie. I also reduced the sugar by a 1/2 cup mainly because I find pretty much everything at Milk Bar to be overly sweet, and the results even with the smaller amount of sugar were more than sufficiently sweet. And lastly, I ended up using masa harina instead of corn flour because that's all I could find, but as far as I could tell it worked out pretty well (masa harina is the kind of corn flour that is used to make tortillas and pupusas).
Were the cookies I made identical to the ones at Milk Bar? No. Were they delicious? I think so! As did two other fans of the Milk Bar corn cookie who taste-tested this hand-mixed version. The Milk Bar cookies are undoubtedly fluffier from the very long creaming process, while the cookies mixed by hand have the texture of a chewy and soft sugar cookie, but what the two versions do share in common is that distinct sweet and savory corn taste.
And lastly, the Mind of a Chef episode featuring the world of Momofuku sweets also had Christina Tosi making a strawberry ice cream pie using crushed corn cookies as a crust, so here we have some corn cookie strawberry ice cream sandwiches. These are not terribly season appropriate, but the the corn is freeze dried, the strawberries come in the form of store-bought ice cream, and San Francisco is still in Indian Summer, so summer-themed ice cream sandwiches it is. Ta da!
Hand-Mixed Milk Bar Corn Cookies
January 11, 2016, recipe update: Upon being gifted a kitchen sale, I realized that the recipe in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is way off regarding the weight-to-volume conversion for the all-purpose flour: 225 grams of all-purpose flour is definitely not equal to 1 1/3 cups, but rather closer to 1 3/4 cups. I've updated the recipe, which yields a thicker, less spread-out cookie (Milk Bar scoops a bigger cookie using 5 tablespoons of dough per cookie; here I've made smaller cookies using 2 tablespoons per cookie). I've also omitted the corn flour, because one obscure ingredient per cookie recipe is enough.
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup freeze-dried corn powder*
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* To make freeze-dried corn powder, simply grind freeze-dried corn in a food processor or blender until very fine. The notes in the cookbook recommend freeze-dried corn from the brand JustTomatoes.com, specifically the conventional variety over the organic. Four ounces of freeze-dried corn will yield between 1 and 1 1/4 cups of freeze-dried corn powder, leftovers of which should be stored in an airtight container to prevent the powder from absorbing moisture.
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture takes on a paler color and is fluffy. Add the egg, and beat the mixture until the egg is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is nice and fluffy again. Beat the butter mixture for as long as your arm can handle it.
Add all of the remaining dry ingredient to the butter mixture, and mix until the the dough comes together.
Using about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough per cookie, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, and pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to a week. Refrigerating the dough ensures that the cookies will bake properly -- baking this cookie dough from room temperature will result in a thin (from the butter spreading out to quickly) and greasy cookie. Also, instead of keeping this cookie dough in the fridge for a week, you can keep the dough in the freezer in a large Ziploc bag for at least a month.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange the chilled cookie dough at least 3 inches apart on parchment-lined sheet pans, and bake cookies for 12 to 14 minutes. The cookies should be faintly browned on the edges but still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute if not. If baking cookie dough straight from the freezer, add an extra minute to the bake time (it took 14 minutes for my frozen cookie dough to bake up).
Cool cookies completely on sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage. Cookies will keep at room temperature for 5 days; in the freezer they will keep for a month.
For Corn Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
To make the ice cream sandwiches, just scoop some ice cream in between two cookies, squish together, and enjoy. Strawberry pairs especially nicely with the corn flavor.