It’s strange how people can change. A few years ago, the thought of this cookie would have turned me upside down. Not only does it call for rainbow sprinkles in two iterations, it also includes corn syrup and specifically calls for the clear, artificial kind of vanilla-flavored extract that doesn’t actually have any vanilla in it. A few years ago, I would have asked, Why make something at home, only to fill it with disgusting manufactured ingredients? Why? Because these cookies are sugary and chewy and pillowy and crispy on the edges, and if you only live once, it’s okay to consume strange sugar syrups every now and then (in my books). Also, because my little brother was visiting and he loves them, sugar cookies being one of his three main food groups.
I got this recipe from the legendary (among my friends) Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. Christina Tosi, this lady who seems so awesome, runs the ship at Milk Bar, a divine spinoff of David Chang’s Momofuku empire. I was trying to pin down what is so appealing about Milk Bar and their whole aesthetic. I think it’s some kind of shameless dedication, homage even, that Tosi pays to that root addiction to sugar. There’s no shame in using cornflakes and marshmallows, or even glucose syrup, in tasty treats, so long as you really think they need to be there to achieve the indulgent, childhood fantasy flavor you’re looking for.
It reminds me of being a kid and absolutely melting into the saccharine bliss of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or buying those weird packaged cookies with a ½-inch of blue icing on top, or discovering something so ethereal in a frosted Pop-Tart. Come to think of it, I guess I’ve always had a not-so-secret obsession with artificially-colored sprinkles. Back in Boston, I had no qualms about ordering all-natural, organic, super pristine frozen yogurt and absolutely covering it in mass-manufactured corn-sugary, hydrogenated-oily “chocolate” sprinkles. Tosi’s attitude makes me thinks it’s okay to proclaim my undying, if often closeted, love of artificially flavored ingredients.
Maybe a future generation, one raised on brown rice syrup, millet crispies, and all-natural fruit leathers, will put an end to this need for the processed flavors we all know are so bad, but I like to think that even these barely-food food items can be part of our culture, and part of our memories, and something we revive now and then to take us back to simpler times.
There are no tricky secrets to what we do–it’s about getting in there, working smart, and making something delicious out of everyday ingredients. The only things you need that are not already in your cupboards are a few funny ingredients that will make you shake your head in disbelief. Our recipes exist to appeal and relate to everyone. -Christina Tosi, “Introduction” to Momofuku Milk Bar
Recipe note — The recipe provided here is what I did, and something I think you can replicate with good results. Tosi’s recipe, however, includes glucose syrup, something I didn’t have time to order before baking these. Also, her version includes “confetti crumb,” which is basically rainbow sprinkle nirvana, in my mind. You’ll have to buy her book to follow the recipe exactly, but I think doing so would be well worth it if you do any baking at all.
Adapted from Christina Tosi’s recipe in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook
Makes around 15 cookies
16 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup (use glucose, if you have it)
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
⅔ cup milk powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup rainbow sprinkles
1. In stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, and corn syrup (or glucose) on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, beating on medium-high for 7-8 minutes (don’t skip this), until the substance changes in texture and color, becoming glossy and cloudy/puffy.
2. On low, add dry goods (flour, milk powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, kosher salt, and sprinkles), and mix just until combined, one minute or less.
3. Scoop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet with a 2¾-oz. ice cream scoop or a ⅓ cup measure, spacing dough balls at least 4 inches apart. CHILL AT LEAST 1 HOUR, and up to a week.
Oven at 350 F
4. Bake 18 minutes. Cool on pan, then use a spatula to move cookies to a cooling rack.