the compost cookie.

And I thought the cornflake/chocolate chip/marshmallow one was ridiculous. I’m really happy I warmed up with that one from my Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook before attempting this beast; and I mean “beast” in the best way possible. True to its name, this cookie has everything in it. So far, my favorite thing about it is when people ask the inevitable question “sooooo…what’s in this again?!?” and I get to bumble my way through the laundry list of ingredients, testing myself to see if I can name all of them. Most of the time, I forget one. or five. 

I’m sad about the name. I’ve heard this type of cookie called all sorts of things: Garbage Cookies, Kitchen Sink Cookies, Leftover Cookies, Pantry Cookies, etc. I’ve never once tried to make them, or eat them. I blame those names. How would one look forward to eating something that sounds like someone just threw a bunch of leftovers together and baked them up? There’s got to be a better name.

Take, for instance, the Seven-Layer Bar. Or at least that’s what I call it. Like the Compost Cookie, it goes by several names, seemingly dependent on geographic region and family tradition. I’ve heard them called Magic Bars (because it’s magic, I guess, to watch the condensed milk do its thing), and I’ve heard them called Hello Dolly Bars (honestly, don’t know where that one came from). I’ve also heard them called Happening Bars, and if you believe what my mother says, it’s because everyone used to look through the oven and yell “what’s happening? what’s happening!?!?” until they were done.

My point here is that the Seven-Layer Bar and the Compost Cookie have similar ingredients and a similar variety of names. The difference? the seven-layer bar names sound exciting. Attractive. Filled with mystery (“what’s happening?!?”) even. Compost/Garbage/Kitchen Sink/Pantry Cookies just doesn’t do these things justice. Someone please tell me if there’s a better name out there that imparts the glory of these round pieces of heaven.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Sometimes when any recipe has too much in it, it goes wrong. Not this one. My apologies to this cookie for ever thinking this could be anything but mind-blowingly good. You’ll see the ingredients below, but to summarize, it’s just layer, upon layer, upon layer, upon five more layers of flavor. Most notable flavor? The coffee. DO NOT LEAVE IT OUT. Resist the urge to say “ohhh…coffee grounds? I don’t know about that…” No. add them. you’ll love it.

It’s worth saying that these also involve a little pre-recipe of graham crust which gets put in the cookie once done. It’s easy and you’ll have leftovers for eating with your fingers…um, making a crust.

I’m going to refer to my notes from the Momofuku Cornflake + Chocolate Chip + Marshmallow cookie for this one as well. Like that one, I had to alter the bake time and temperature to get the results shown above. I didn’t have the marshmallows to worry about this time, but they do go from perfect to crispy in the blink of an eye. Watch these carefully; it helps to do a trial batch in your oven to see how long you’ll need without going over.

And someone brainstorm a new name for these. They more than deserve it.

Adapted from the new love of my life, the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook by Christina Tosi.

Compost Cookies

to make graham crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

for the cookies:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons glucose (use 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup to substitute if you don’t have glucose)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup graham crust mix
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground coffee
  • 2 cups Cape Cod potato chips (I used them per the suggestion in the book, with great results)
  • 1 cup mini pretzels

ok: i will now create the graham crust:

Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients. I did this for several minutes because once you go butter, you can’t unbutter. Add the melted butter and heavy cream, stirring until everything is incorporated and evenly damp. The crust is ready for your use. If you’re saving it for later, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

whoa; that was so easy. time to make cookies:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter, sugars, and glucose in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together, no more than one minute. Do not overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Still on low speed, add the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham crust, oats and coffee and mix just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and add the potato chips and pretzels, working them gently into the dough using a folding motion. Once they are let’s say, halfway incorporated, put the bowl back into the mixer stand and paddle for a few seconds more until everything looks evenly distributed. It seems like extra work, but I did it to keep the chips and pretzels whole-ish and not crumbly. AND IT WORKED.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measure, portion out the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour (I let mine go for three) until firm.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350˚F.

Arrange the chilled dough balls a minimum of 4 inches apart (seems extreme? it’s not) on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 14-16 minutes, watching closely after the 11 minute mark. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. Take them out when they are just golden-brownish and around the edges and not wet-looking in the middle. If you’re paying attention, you just know when they’re done.

And this is critical: cool the cookies completely on the pans before transferring them to a plate or container or you will have a mess on your hands. Resist. If you want to eat one while they’re cooling (and you will, because the smell is indescribable), go ahead, but know you’ll be picking it off the pan in pieces. So just stand there and enjoy yourself.

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  • Reply Renee V. January 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve had similar cookies and they are yummy. I like em’ without chips and add nuts, only b/c I’m nuts about em’.
    BTW love that I could pin this from here! Thanks.

  • Reply Eftychia January 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Delicious cookies! Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

  • Reply Bonnie January 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I think you made a mistake in the graham crust recipe–s/b 3/4 teaspoon salt rather than 3/4 tablespoon. Unfortunately, I did not check other sources before making the recipe. I hope the cookies are not ruined by being too salty. Please correct your post.

    • Reply shannon January 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      oh, Bonnie, i’m so sorry you had to catch that before I did! I do try and triple-check my recipes before publishing, but this seemed to make its way through anyway. many thanks for catching this, and i’ll correct the post right away. I owe you a batch of less-salty graham crust. my apologies.
      I hope your cookies turn out okay! I know there’s added salt in the cookie recipe, which maybe you could lessen to counteract the graham crust, which was my fault.

      • Reply Bonnie January 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm

        They were still good, no worries! Thanks for your response. I added more of all the other ingredients to the leftover graham crust mix and stuck it in the freezer…just a reason to make more cookies! 🙂

  • Reply Kathy February 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Gosh, I see what you mean about how these get too crunchy in the blink of an eye. So I am letting my 3rd test cookie cool as I write this. I did not turn the oven temperature down but I stood by the oven peering through the window! I pulled the cookie out a couple of times so I could determine whether it was the right shade of brown on the edges, lighter on the inside and no longer wet looking. Agh! I was forced to take it out because it was bordering on too crispy and brown again, even though it looked a tiny bit wet in a few spots! I am waiting now so I can do the ultimate test: biting into it! I will give it a few more minutes….One thing I noticed is my cookie has a much lumpier look to it than yours. Do you think I did something wrong??? be right back… That cookie was better, but it still spread quite a bit. And I am concerned about how lumpy and bumpy mine is.

    I also think they could use more chocolate chips and less butterscotch. They are awfully sweet. 😛 And what’s the deal with the glucose???? I had never used that before — what a sticky mess! The container I bought had hardened so I microwaved it to soften it. It was such a goopy mess that now I am wondering if I put more than 2 Tbsp in! Would too much glucose result in an increased crunchiness and uber sweetness?
    I am not feeling very confident about this recipe. I have to make cookies for 35+ teenagers for a play rehearsal snack. Do you have any suggestions for sure fire hit cookies that they would love? I would appreciate your advice.
    Kathy from MN

    • Reply Kathy February 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Oops! Sorry, SHANNON! I’m new here!

      • Reply shannon February 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm

        Caught and corrected! 🙂 no problem at all. I just wrote you a mini-post to (hopefully) help you out.

    • Reply shannon February 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Kathy!
      And good for you for test-running your cookies…that’s awesome. These aren’t the easiest cookies to make at first, but i’ve noticed i’ve gotten to a really good comfort level with them. coincidentally, i just made a batch of these the other day, so it’s fresh in my mind and i’ll try and answer your questions.
      ok, so: first, the lumps. both batches of mine bear cookies that are all very “unique” looking. i think because of the nature of the ingredients (and the sheer amount of ingredients), these are going to be all very different from one another. I noticed the batch i just made seemed lumpier than the first, but i used mini pretzel sticks versus the normal pretzel minis (it’s what i had). That being said, i don’t think you did anything wrong there; it’s all in the way you incorporate your ingredients, and it could be simply that your potato chips weren’t as mashed as mine, etc. I like them lumpy and bumpy…gives them character.
      Now, the taste: feel free to tailor it to your taste buds, for sure! They are a sweet cookie, and the salty ingredients help temper that, but everyone is different. if you like a less-sweet cookie, i like your idea of upping the chocolate and lessening the butterscotch. Butterscotch, in my opinion, has a very sharp sweetness and for some it can be too much. But play with yours and don’t feel by any means like you have to do exactly what i did.
      Glucose: my glucose is on order, so i used the corn syrup option myself. The cookbook says that, among other things, using glucose gives their cookies “crispy edges and fudgy centers,” so the crisp perimeters you’re getting could be a result of glucose versus my corn syrup. However, it mentions corn syrup is looser and sweeter, so the sweetness shouldn’t be a product of your glucose. I would imagine if you added more than the 2 tablespoons, it could affect the crispy/chewy properties of your cookie.
      You sound like you’ve worked super hard on these cookies, and i applaud you for that. It’s a courageous thing to try a new recipe when you’re making them for a gathering (i like to try new ones as “practice” in the privacy of my own kitchen, and if they work, i give them out. if not, no one is the worse for it.) 🙂 In the spirit of sure-fire-ness and something that will be an easy hit, i’ll recommend two things. first, if you’re looking for a taste combo similar to these compost cookies, and that is always a hit, go with the seven-layer bar. Kids especially love this one, and it’s got your chocolate, butterscotch, and graham flavors all right there. If you’re looking for something classic but with a little twist (and a big cute factor), try the mini deep dish chocolate chip cookies. They’re totally portable, and you could make them in your sleep. I actually think i have made them in mine. They’re like the anti-compost cookie in that you won’t need to peer into your oven – pop them in, set your timer, pop them out. no fuss. and both the seven layer bar and the mini deep dish chocolate chip cookies make a ton with a single batch (cut your seven layer bars in smallish squares).
      Oh, i hope this helps you. I know what it’s like to have something to bake for and feel like you won’t have enough time or that something’s not going right. Good luck and let me know how things turn out! -S

  • Reply Lena April 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Just wondering what brand of milk powder did you use for the recipe?


    • Reply shannon April 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      hi Lena! i use Carnation brand milk powder. it’s the one i see most often at grocery stores…nothing fancy, and it works great. i love it.

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