What to Buy to Bake Through Momofuku Milk Bar

September 28, 2017

Christina’s Tosi’s widely celebrated book, Momofuku Milk Bar, just might be one of the most unique books to be selected in our Baking Club to date.

We'll be cooking through it together in October, but you'd be wise to plan ahead, as Tosi goes to great lengths to outline the (numerous) specialty ingredients and equipment used in her recipes. There's no need to be intimidated though, fellow bakers! We've compiled a list of the must-haves, so you can stock up and be ready to bake through her book with us next month.

Christina Tosi giggling—possibly at all of the shopping ahead of you. Photo by James Ransom

Must have basics

Most avid home bakers are likely to have the following essentials—but it’s still a good idea to double check the pantry to make sure your quantities aren’t limited and your ingredients haven’t been left to expire.

Some basic and frequently used items in Tosi’s recipes are as follows: milk powder (or as Tosi likes to refer to it—MSG for baking), cake flour, and grapeseed oil. These ingredients can be found in the bulk of the book’s recipes, as is all-purpose flour. HOWEVER—As Tosi explains, Milk Bar’s “all-purpose" flour is actually bread flour. She notes that either will work, but you'll get better results with bread flour.

more (no-so-basic) must haves

If you do not already have it, STOCK UP on gelatin sheets. I repeat, STOCK UP on gelatin sheets! If you plan to make any of the ice creams, the panna cotta, and even some of the cakes and pies, you will need gelatin. Tosi prefers to use gelatin sheets, but offers conversions for powdered gelatin as well. About one-third of the 140 recipes in the book call for gelatin, so it is a fairly safe bet that at least one of the recipes you choose will require it.

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Top Comment:
“When I made the layer birthday cake this month, I noticed as soon as I put the batter in the pan - if it doubled in the oven, as Tosi says it should, it will bubble up and out of your pan. A high-sided, standard, 9" x 13" pan someone probably already has in their kitchen, works just as well. ”
— Jordan

Just in case you have promised yourself that you would stop buying ingredients for only one book or recipe, rest easy—there is no need for buyer’s remorse when purchasing this ingredient. If you plan to participate in both the Baking Club and the Cookbook Club in the upcoming months you will find gelatin in a few recipes in Stella Parks' BraveTart, as well as in some of the savory recipes in The Food Lab. (YES, I said gelatin in savory recipes; J. Kenji López-Alt calls for gelatin in his Bolognese sauce recipe!)

The sheets and the powder. Photo by James Ransom

Glucose is another must-have for Milk Bar baking. Once again, about a third of Tosi’s recipes rely on glucose. While Tosi provides conversions for those who choose to replace glucose with corn syrup, she advises that results when subbing in corn syrup may be sweeter and texturally not as pleasing as intended. This ingredient will not go to waste in your pantry either, as the much-anticipated December Baking Club book of the month, Sweet, by Helen Goh and Yotam Ottolenghi, contains plenty of recipes which also call for glucose—like the Chocolate Peanut Butter S’mores and the Honey, Macadamia, and Coconut Caramels.

Citric acid, also known as sour salt, is often used as a “secret weapon” by the Milk Bar team to give a boost to fresh ingredients without adding any detectable flavor or liquid—it simply enhances the other ingredients in the recipe. This is an easy one to find, and affordable to boot! Citric acid is also used in many of Thomas Keller’s recipes in Bouchon Bakery, January’s Baking Club book selection, like his flavored sugars.

If you are interested in making the layer cakes, and let’s be honest, who isn’t interested in making Milk Bar’s famous layer cakes, then these following items are must-haves, too.

You may not have known that Tosi bakes all of her layer cakes using quarter sheet pans. To get the layers JUST right, Tosi also uses 6-inch cake rings. Not only does she use these rings to cut the cake from the sheet pan, but also to build the cakes in. The rings allow for the beautiful naked-edged cakes, and make the layering and filling possible without making a huge mess.

Acetate is the other tool necessary for creating these beautiful layers. Acetate can be purchased in pre-cut strips (sometimes referred to as cake collars) or in sheets, allowing you to trim to the length and width you desire. The acetate not only allows the cake ring to come off the cake easier, but it also leaves your cake with smooth and straight sides! All of these tools can be found on online, and many can be purchased at restaurant supply stores or commercial cookware shops.

Less necessary items

Some of the following are used less frequently in the book or are easily substituted for by more common home cooking equipment.

Tosi recommends 10-inch disposable pie tins for the pies, mostly because it simplifies sharing your baked goods as well as the clean-up. Tosi advises scaling up or down a recipe if the pie tin you own is a size up or down, so you may choose to simply use the size you have on hand.

Also, helpful—yet not quite essential—would be the chinois (conical strainer) and the 2 3/4-ounce ice cream scoop (blue handle no. 16 in industry terms). Both are used multiple times throughout the book, but can be easily replaced by other household items in a pinch—for instance, a larger gauge cheesecloth and a tablespoon, respectively.

Possible splurges

A great deal of the recipes in Momofuku Milk Bar are for ice cream, so you might want to consider an ice cream machine. Tosi recommends a reasonably priced hand-cranked one in her book that she has used when testing the recipes. There are plenty of recipes for you in this book even if you do not own an ice cream maker, so it is not essential, but if you have the room for another gadget and some spare cash in the bank, you may want to consider it—both BraveTart and Sweet (November and December’s Baking Club picks) include multiple ice cream recipes as well. (Just one more reason to join the Baking Club, fellow members are great at helping you justify specialty purchases!)

Feuilltine, tiny and impossibly thin and crunchy toasted crepe-like bits, are available online (though sometimes tough to source in the quantities a home baker might desire). If you plan to make ANY of the Crunch recipes in the book, which are a part of a few of the cake and pie recipes as well, you are going to want to track these down or try making them yourself. Bouchon Bakery, January’s book of the month, will call for this rare ingredient in a few recipes as well, so if you buy it now make sure to get a good airtight container to store your leftovers in until the new year.

Freeze-dried corn is not terribly difficult to find, but is only used sparingly in Momofuku Milk Bar. Unless you are planning to make Corn Cookies or the Sweet Corn Cereal Milk and Cereal Milk Ice Cream, you can leave this one off your list. (However, if you need to justify the purchase to yourself, you will find freeze-dried corn in the Animal Cracker recipe in November's Bravetart.)

And last, but certainly not least, is the head scarf. Now this is not so much an ingredient, heck, it's not even really equipment, but many have come to believe it just MIGHT be Tosi’s secret to success! Every baker at Milk Bar wears one, and Tosi has stacks, boxes, even bags, of head scarfs (many lovingly made by her grandmother) all over the stores and her home. A truly authentic Momofuku Milk Bar baking experience in your home just might require one of these if you really want to go all out.

If you love Momofuku Milk Bar’s treats and haven’t yet explored our Baking Club, check it out on Facebook and find other members on Instagram by searching #f52bakingclub. We hope you will join in the Momofuku Milk Bar experience with us—we can’t wait to bake with you!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • David Freund
    David Freund
  • dc
  • Jordan
  • Donna Hacker
    Donna Hacker
Food Lover, Puppy Hugger. F52 Cookbook+BakingClub Moderator


David F. September 6, 2018
Milk bar has a link to items you may need on Amazon
David F. September 5, 2018
I know that you need to use a 6" cake ring. How tall should it be?
dc October 5, 2017
I didn't have a stand mixer so I was in a world of hurt. A few recipes in there say not even to attempt without one.
Jordan September 29, 2017
I think it should be noted that Tosi's "quarter sheet" pans are 10"x 13" - if you buy one of Nordic's aluminium sheet pans - their interior is only 8.75" x 12.25" - it's a tight fit. When I made the layer birthday cake this month, I noticed as soon as I put the batter in the pan - if it doubled in the oven, as Tosi says it should, it will bubble up and out of your pan. A high-sided, standard, 9" x 13" pan someone probably already has in their kitchen, works just as well.
Donna H. August 25, 2018
TU so much for this advice!