Tag Archives: flo braker

flo’s snack cake

i’ve had flo braker’s baking for all occasions book for a while now. . . and just came across her recipe for any day all-occasion snack cake (p. 66).  it’s a simple to make and deliciously versatile cake.  one can drop in anything from berries to carrots to raisins to diced apples. Continue reading

espresso shortbread cookies

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grape jam rugelach with pecans and chocolate chips

i never realised how good rugelach can be until i bought an individual one for 90¢ at sarabeth’s bakery inside of chelsea market one weekend.  Continue reading

a very berry jam square

the final leg of my rain saturday cookie-a-thon involved making these jam squares.  flo discloses in her book that she had admired these creations at a local coffee shop for a long time and when the baker, susie block, was getting ready to move to the midwest, she gathered up the courage to ask for the recipe.  and i’m sure glad she did!  my husband loves these jam squares. he ever so quietly popped four down the gullet before i even noticed.  they are fruity, rustic and crunchy — all at the same time.

once you get the pastry dough down, the recipe is highly adaptable. however, the recipe is really only as good as the jam that you use.  i still have a ton of earl grey blackberry jam that i made earlier this summer, and decided to pop that into the recipe. you really want to use a jam that has got more fruit than it has water / gelatin content.  the latter, once melted in the oven, would just turn the pastry dough soggy.

i decided that these were sturdy enough for shipping, and individually packaged them up in cellophane sleeves for my xmas cookie bundle.  they kinda look nicer once they’re separated into 2 inch small squares!

Very Berry Jam Square
(adapted from Flo Braker and Susie Block.  Makes about 24 squares)

Butter 2 sticks (225g)
Sugar 275g (amount decreased from the original recipe)
Eggs 2 large ones
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
Flour 300g
Salt ½ tsp
Pecans 85g, chopped in a food processor (you can use any kind of chopped nuts. it doesn’t have to be pecans)
Jam 280g (about 1 cup) (you can use any kind of jam.  i used a blackberry earl grey jam)
  1. Line a 9x13x2 inch pan with foil. Leave about a 2 inch overhang on the short ends.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment until light and creamy.
  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  Beat until smooth. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. On the lowest speed, add in the flour and salt. Mix until a dough forms.
  5. Divide the dough into 2 portions: one about 400g and the other 470g.
  6. Wrap the 400g portion in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator.
  7. Take the 470g piece of dough and fit it into the bottom of a 9x13x2 inch pan.  The easiest way to do so is to use a soda can (wrapped in plastic) to roll the dough slowly out into a thin layer to cover the bottom of the pan.  You can also use your fingers to spread the dough around the bottom of the pan.
  8. Sprinkle the pecans evenly across the top of the dough, then spread the jam on top of the pecans using an offset spatula.  Some of the pecans and jam will intersperse together.  But it will all taste great, so don’t worry about keeping the two apart.
  9. Split the 400g piece of dough (that had been resting in the refrigerator) into 8 equal pieces.  On a well floured surface, roll each piece into a rope that is about 12 inches in length.  Fit these pieces of rope in a diagonal criss-crossing fashion across the top of the jam. You’re aiming to make a lattice window frame with the dough ropes, and should be able to see some of the jam and nuts through the “windows”
  10. Bake at 350ºF for around 40-45 minutes.  The jam should be set, and the tops and bottom of the jam squares will be golden brown.
  11. When the pan has completely cooled, carefully take the large jam square out of pan by lifting it out using the foil and a spatula.  Peel off the foil and discard.
  12. Cut into 2-inch squares using a serrated knife.
  13. To store, stack the cookies using layers of parchment paper to separate.  They should keep at room temperature for 3 days in an airtight container.

espresso shortbread cookies

part of my rainy saturday cookie-a-thon included making these espresso cookies adapted from flo, of course.  they are really easy to make and with a little bit of ground up stumptown espresso beans, delicious in the mouth as well.  that said, in a future iteration, i’d probably throw some chocolate into the mix for added depth.

note: flo’s original recipe advocated baking the dough in a 8×2 inch pan and then cutting the baked dough into 12 shortbread bars.  i’m a fan of smaller nibbles and decided to make about 5 dozen petite cookies instead.

Espresso Shortbread Cookies
(makes about 5 dozen cookies using a 1 inch diameter cookie cutter; adapted from Flo Braker)

Flour 255g
Salt ½ tsp
Butter 225g (2 sticks)
Sugar 120g
Finely ground espresso coffee 2 tsp (I used Stumptown’s Ethiopia Mordecofe)
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
  1. Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until the butter is light and creamy.
  2. Add the sugar and ground coffee and continue to beat until the mixture becomes fluffy and light.
  3. Add in the vanilla and mix till incorporated (15 seconds).
  4. On the lowest speed, add in the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms.  Do not overmix.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  6. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter to form shapes in the cookie dough.
  7. Transfer the cut-out cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking pan.  Bake at 350ºF for 12-15 minutes.  The cookies will no longer be shiny when they are done.
  8. The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about 1-2 weeks.

flo’s mexican wedding cookies

it was cold this weekend, and wet, and it snowed.  i decided to stay cooped up at home and bake…well…a lot of cookies from flo’s book.  the first cookies i made were these surprisingly simple to make mexican wedding cookies shaped into crescent moons.  they came out really well with very minimal effort.  they taste quite a bit like the velvety and crumbly russian tea cookies i made in cooking school with the benefit that one doesn’t have to be quite as careful not to overmix them.

i’m about to head over to the post office to mail out the cookies i made this weekend.   hopefully they don’t arrive at due destination as a pile of crumbs!

Mexican Wedding Cookies
(Makes 4-5 dozen; adapted and simplified)

Flour 255g
Salt ¼ tsp
Powdered Sugar 70g + more for dusting
Pecans 115g
Butter 2 sticks (225g)
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until it is light and fluffy.
  2. Pulse together powdered sugar and pecans in a food processor until finely ground.
  3. With the stand mixer set at its lowest speed, add in the sugar/pecan mixture to the butter, then add the vanilla, and finally the flour and salt until all ingredients are combined.  You may need to intermittently stop the food processor and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to help things along.  Do not overmix.  The dough will be quite soft, almost like mashed potatoes.
  4. You can make the cookies into any shape you’d like:  cutouts, slice and bake, crescents or thumbprints.  I chose to make crescents.  To do so, measure about 15g of dough (~2tsp) and roll it into a ball.  Then shape the ball into a short rope about 2 inches in length with slightly tapered ends.  Bend the rope into a moon shape and place on a parchment covered baking sheet.  The cookies don’t spread very much and can be placed about 1/2 inch apart.
  5. Bake the cookies at 325ºF for about 12-15 minutes.  The bottom of the cookies will be a light golden brown.
  6. Dust the cookies with powdered sugar when you take them out of the oven.  You can dust them directly in the pan or transfer them to a cooling rack first.  The heat from the cookies well help the sugar adhere to the cookies.

the jetsetter cookie: crispy anzac biscuits

i think i may have found my new favorite cookie (or should i say biscuits as they hail from down under)!  crispy, crunchy, fragrant … flo says these anzac biscuits were invented during WWI by housewives to send to australian and new zealand soldiers fighing in the trenches. the housewives used golden syrup to bind the cookies biscuits together as eggs were in short supply during the war.  the cookies biscuits were also designed to survive a long journey — it’s actually quite a bit like a granola bar cookie, if i do say so myself!  i think i might just send a few to my friends in different parts of the country for christmas…as they travel well!

i came across a few other anzac biscuit recipes and will be testing them out in a bit.  for now, i’ve got quite a big jar of flo’s anzacs to work through.

Crispy ANZAC Cookies Biscuits
(~4 dozen cookies; adapted from flo braker’s Baking for All Occasions with a few modifications)

AP Flour 195g
Sugar 280g
Unsweetened Shredded Dried Coconut 130g
Rolled Oats 130g
Baking Soda 1 tsp
Lemon Zest 1 tsp
Dried Cranberries ½ cup
Dried Currants ½ cup
Butter 190g
Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Honey 90g
Hot Water 3 tbsp
  1. Mix together flour, sugar, coconut, oats, baking soda, lemon zest, cranberries and currants in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment on low speed.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan.  Take it off the heat and then add in golden syrup and water, stirring until even.  (here’s a trick for measuring out the golden syrup or honey:  line your measuring bowl with plastic and pour the syrup into the plastic lining.  to add the syrup into the mix, just gather up the ends of the plastic, cut a small hole on the bottom and squeeze the syrup through.  this way you won’t leave 30% of the syrup in the measuring container).
  3. Add the liquids into the flour mixture and combine with the paddle attachment set to low speed.
  4. The resulting cookie dough is very crumbly.  Use a tablespoon to scoop out the dough and squeeze it tightly into a ball. Set the ball on a parchment lined baking sheet.   Then slightly flatten the ball with the palm of your hand.   The cookies can be placed about 1 inch apart from each other.  They spread but not too much.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown and then cool on a rack.

red velvet roll cake

tested out flo’s red velvet roll cake recipe over the weekend.  i’ve never seen a red velvet cake made into a roll before.  am rather curious why roll cakes haven’t caught on in all those homey NYC bakeries.  they seem to be easier to make, slice and store than layer cakes. i guess roll cakes just haven’t hit the americana big leagues yet?

the cake turned out to be smooth and tender.  i tweaked the filling a bit, swapping out the white chocolate for a bit extra cream cheese.  the raspberries are a must; they are surprising and add a pleasant fruity note to the cake.

some baking notes for next time…would definitely recommend:

(1) letting the cream cheese come to room temperature before spreading it onto the cake, if you’re making the filling in advance.  if the cream cheese filling is too hard, it doesn’t spread easily and will tear into the surface layer of the cake and get mixed up with the white cream filling.

(2) using fresh raspberries rather than frozen.

flo’s pull-apart lemon coffee cake, sort of

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the more i make items listed as coffee cakes in flo braker’s book, the more i wonder about what constitutes a coffee cake? like the coconut twist coffee cake i experimented with a few days earlier, this item came out rather more like a sweet bread than a traditional cake.   over at wikipedia, the entry reads that coffee cake is a cake served with coffee or eaten as dessert.  at wordnetweb, the definition has been expanded to include any cake or sweet bread that is served with coffee. there’s no mention of coffee cake needing to have that crumbly crust or that kind of rustic and dense cake layer, often times kind of dry but pairing perfectly with coffee.  i guess it’s really any sort of carb that is enhanced with a good cup of steaming hot coffee.

without further ado, here’s the skinny on flo’s cake with my adaptations and all. (and yes, as the name suggests, it indeed pulls apart into citrusy  layers — a sunny pick me up for those autumn blahs)

Pull-Apart Lemon Zest Coffee Cake
(Adapted from Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions. Note: i skipped the glaze in her recipe and cut back on some of the sugar.  I also changed some steps around as well to simplify the process. But hey, you gotta do what works for ya, right?)

Ingredients for the Dough:

Flour 350g
Sugar 50g
Active Yeast 2 ¼ tsp
Salt ½ tsp
Milk 75 ml
Butter 55g
Water 60 ml
Vanilla Extract 2 tsp
Eggs 2 large ones

Ingredients for the Lemon Paste Filling

Sugar 70g
Lemon Zest From 3 lemons
Orange Zest From 1 orange
Butter ½ stick, melted
  1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat until the butter has melted.
  3. Remove from heat and add in the water.
  4. While you are waiting for the liquid to cool down a bit, add the eggs one at a time into the flour mixture.  Combine using the paddle attachment on low speed until well incorporated.
  5. When the liquid mixture feels just warm to the touch, add in the vanilla extract.
  6. With the mixer set a low speed,  slowly pour the liquid mixture into the bowl.  Do not pour it in all at once.  You may not need all of the liquid. You are looking for a dough that is soft and only slightly sticky.
  7. After the liquid has been added, you may find it easier to change to the dough hook set to a medium speed.  Continue to knead the dough with the dough hook until it becomes smooth and no longer sticky.
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic and let is rise until it has doubled in size.  About 1 hour.  The dough is ready when an indentation made with your fingertip remains.
  9. Make the filling while you’re waiting for the dough to rise.  In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and zests with your hands until the a sandy-wet mixture is achieved.  You should also be able to smell the citrus aromas.
  10. When the dough is ready, roll it out into a 20×12 inch rectangle.  It helps to work on a well floured surface or to roll the dough over parchment paper.  I chose to do the latter as it makes for a much easier clean-up.
  11. Then, cut the dough into 5 equal strips that are 12 x 4 inches large.
  12. Using a pastry brush, spread the melted butter over one of the strips and sprinkle the sugar zest over the butter.  Stack another strip on top and repeat with the butter and sugar zest, until all the strips are stack on top of each other.
  13. Next, cut the stacked strips into 6 equal pieces that are 2 x 4 inches large.
  14. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 x 3 inches loaf pan.  It also helps to place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan.
  15. Arrange the 6 pieces of dough in the loaf pan.  They should be placed so that you can see the lemon zest and dough layers from the top.
  16. Loosely cover the pan and let the dough rise until it has doubled.  About 1 hour at room temp or 30 minutes with your oven set to the proofing function.
  17. Bake at 350ºF fro 30 minutes.
  18. Let the coffee cake rest for 10 minutes before flipping it out of the pan. Be careful when taking it out.  The cake really does pull apart or fall apart, if you do so too abruptly.
  19. Flo recommends topping the coffee cake with a tangy cream cheese icing.

inkblot cookies

IMG_2515

these cookies were the first morsel i spied when i cracked open flo braker’s book, Baking for All Occasions. she calls them chocolate-vanilla swirl cookies, and in turn, got the recipe from nora’s patisserie in daly city, california. they made pretty fantastic toppers for the chocolate cupcakes that i had been working on for K’s birthday (more on that soon), and have the most delightful smell — a combination of a bright vanilla and a mocha chocolate.  i fell in love the moment i opened the oven and took in the full blast of those aromas.

Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl Cookies
(makes 6 to 12 dozen cookies depending on how large you make the cookies; recipe contains a few adaptations on my part)

Ingredients for Vanilla Dough:

Cake Flour 310g
Powdered Sugar 115g
Salt ¼ tsp
Unsalted Butter 225g @ room temperature, cubed
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp

 

Ingredients for Chocolate Dough:

Cake Flour 255g
Powdered Sugar 115g
Cocoa Powder 55g
Instant Coffee Powder 1 tbsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Unsalted Butter 225g @ room temperature, cubed
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together flour, sugar and salt using the paddle attachment.  Use the lowest speed possible, otherwise the flour will splatter out of the bowl.
  2. Add in butter and continue to mix on the lowest speed possible.
  3. As small chunks start to appear in the dough, add in the vanilla and resume mixing at the lowest speed.
  4. The ingredients will slowly come together into a smooth and dense dough.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic and set aside in the refrigerator.
  6. Wash the bowl and paddle attachment and make the chocolate dough using the same method as described in steps 1-5.  You should add the cocoa powder in step one when you add in the flour.
  7. To form the cookies, roll the vanilla and chocolate dough into slabs that are 7 x 15 inches in size each.
  8. Place the vanilla dough on top of the chocolate dough.
  9. Cut the doughs in half along the long end, so that you have 2 pieces that are 7 x 7.5 inches in size.
  10. Stack the two 7 x 7.5 inch pieces on top of each other.  Be sure that the dough types continue to alternate in colour.
  11. Pat or roll the stack into 12 x 15 inch rectangle, and then cut the rectangle in half again, to form two 6 x 15 inch pieces.
  12. Stack those on top of each other to form an 8 layer stack.
  13. You may find it easier at this point to cut the dough into thirds.
  14. Using both hands, take one third of the dough and twist it 3 times to create the marble-lized texture.  While twisting the dough, gently elongate and compress the dough so as to form a log.
  15. Wrap the log in plastic, and roll it a few times on a flat surface to continue shaping the dough into a round-ish log that is 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
  16. Repeat with the remaining thirds of dough.
  17. Before baking, let the log firm up in the refrigerator (~1 hour) or freezer (30 minutes). [The logs will keep in the freezer for several months]
  18. Using a sharp knife, slice the chilled logs into 1/4 inch thick slices and place them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.
  19. Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes.