Friday, August 10, 2012

Momofuku's Compost Cookies

Compost Cookies
Home Cooking

I saw mentioned in Masterchef Magazine a cookbook called 'Momofuku Milk Bar' by Christina Tosi. The article referenced a couple of her notoriously unusual dessert concoctions, including something called the compost cookie.

The name on its own doesn't sound very appealing. In fact, after I baked a batch, I told a friend what I'd made and he said "I don't want to eat it because it's called a compost cookie". From that point onwards, whenever I was handing out cookies for people to try, I avoided referring to them as that in fear of a similar reaction. My preferred description for these cookies is: "Anzac biscuits on steroids", because in a way, that's what they are.

Close-up showing the crazy composition. Intrigued...?

I've always been attracted to the collaboration of opposing tastes. Sweetness in savory dishes and saltiness in desserts... if I read those kinds of descriptions on a menu, I'm inclined to order that dish. It seems to be the current trend in cooking anyway, although I know not everyone shares my opinion.

When I read that the compost cookies were made with potato chips and pretzels, I practically scrambled to look the recipe up. There are a few sources online but I went with the recipe listed on Oprah's website because that seemed the most credible.

I won't pretend to be a health fanatic... after all, I am writing about a cookie recipe (that also happens to have just about every 'naughty' snack in it), but my pantry and fridge is generally a NO SNACK ZONE. I don't buy chips, biscuits, crackers, chocolate bars or anything like that because a) I need to use my 'bad food' quota on dining out and home cooking and b) I have the worst self-control when it comes to snacking.

Consequently, I had to buy all the snacks that go into this cookie dough. The theory is that you can use whatever left over party snacks you have at home and just incorporate it into the base mixture. You do have to be mindful of the wetness and fat content of whatever you use because it may alter the dough chemistry and lead to, I don't know, explosions. Or something. Basically, if you use too much of something gooey the cookies may come out too gooey. Since I was buying all my snack ingredients, I took the safe route and purchased according to the original recipe. I still made some slight variations though.

For one, I didn't want to spend $5 on a bottle of 'glucose' so I substituted with golden syrup. I couldn't find butterscotch chips (I don't even know if they exist in Australia) so I used white chocolate chips instead. There weren't any Graham crackers either (another USA thing?) so I Googled an alternative and read that Arnott's Marie biscuits are the best subsitute. Thicker chips were recommended so I went with plain Pringles. Don't get a flavored one please. I'm liberal enough to accept salted potato in a cookie form but I don't have confidence in combinations of Texan BBQ Chicken with chocolate. Or anything with onion. Ew...

This recipe is a bit annoying to follow for a couple of reasons. The cookie dough has to be refrigerated for at least an hour. They can't be baked fresh after mixing and spooning. This is a problem if you have a small fridge like mine. I had to do a lot of reshuffling. The other thing is that the cookie blobs need to be spaced 4 inches apart. That's over 8cm in metric! I had to bake the cookies in 3 batches because I could only put 3 on each small tray and 6 on the larger tray.

Despite all that, I actually do think the end result is worth it. If I haven't just completely discouraged you, please read the recipe below and my verdict at the end.

Momofuku's Compost Cookies
Makes 15-20 cookies

  • 225g butter, at room temperature
  • 200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 150g (2/3 cup, tightly packed) light brown sugar
  • 50g (2 tbsp) glucose (I used golden syrup; corn syrup is fine too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g (1 and 1/3 cup) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g (3/4 cup) mini chocolate chips
  • 100g (1/2 cup) mini butterscotch chips (I used white chocolate chips)
  • 85g (1/2 cup) crushed Graham crackers (I used Arnotts Marie biscuits)
  • 40g (1/3 cup) rolled oats (not instant oats)
  • 5g (2 and 1/2 tsp) ground coffee (do NOT use instant coffee)
  • 50g (2 cups) crushed potato chips (not too crushed; chip chunks are good)
  • 50g (1 cup) mini pretzels

1. Combine the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and glucose (or syrup) in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together on medium-high for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla. Beat for 7-8 minutes.
3. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until the dough just comes together, no longer than 1 minute (use a paddle attachment on your stand mixer for this part, if you have one. I didn't so I was just extra careful). Do NOT over-mix the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
4. The recipe suggests adding the choc chips and coffee, and then the chips and pretzels in the stand mixer all on a low setting, but I didn't want to risk it since I didn't have a paddle attachment. I unclipped the bowl and folded in the choc chips and coffee until just combined. Then, I did the same with the chips and pretzels, taking care not to over-mix or break up the snacks too much.
5. Use a 1/3 cup to scoop out portions of dough and place on baking paper lined trays. Press them down gently to flatten. Cover the trays with clingwrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour. They can stay refrigerated for up to a week. The recipe stresses that the cookies must not be baked from room temperature.

6. Once the cookies are cooled enough to be baked, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
7. Arranged the chilled cookie dough on a baking paper lined tray (or silicone sheet) at least 4 inches apart.
8. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will morph and spread out as they bake. After 18 minutes they should be golden on the edges but still bright yellow in the centre.
9. Cool the cookies completely in the tray before moving them (trust me; even if you're tempted, don't do it because they'll be soft and fall to pieces).
10. Store the cookies in an airtight container. At room temperature, they'll keep for 5 days. In the freezer they'll keep for a month.

Phew. That has to be one of the longest recipes I've written out in a while, both in terms of the ingredients list and procedure. I maintain that it was worth the effort though!

I loved watching the cookies in the oven as they bloomed out from tightly rolled balls of dough into big explosions of sweet and savory goodness. It was quite the spectacle.

Wait for the cookies to cool completely before eating. I was tempted to try a bit while they were still warm and even though the melty chocolate is a plus, I liked them better crunchy the next day. The chips are surprisingly low key. I asked a couple of people to guess what was inside and pretzels were mentioned (maybe because you can literally see them) but noone suspected potato chips. They definitely contribute to the savory aspect of the cookie though, which I think is not only the whole point of this recipe but also critical in balancing out the 3 types of sweetners that went into the dough. The chips, pretzels and Marie biscuits also lended a textural complexity to the cookie that I haven't experienced before. I mean, cookies are normally crunchy or soft with the occasionly gooey thrown in. These had a crunchy and chewy base with bursts of variation via the assortment of snacks snuck into the batter.

Delicious pretzely bite

I think the compost cookie is a strange concept to get your head around but it really does work. I took these to work because there's no way I can or should finish a whole batch on my own. I was worried the strange appearance would result in a poor reception, but the box was empty by the end of the day. Always a good sign!

I'm not just chuffed about this recipe because I'm an advocate of the weird and interesting. Throwing savory snacks into a sweet cookie batter is a great way of introducing new flavors and textures, and will be a resourceful way of using up the dregs of party snack bowls.


  1. Nom nom nom... the only way I can think to make this better is a big glob of peanut butter - I shall try and let you know how I go :P

  2. Hi Bee...

    I'm a sucker for nutty things too. I reackon PB or peanut M&Ms would go a treat.