It’s Throwback Thursday and time for some a great oldie. This week we are doubling down. The book itself is from 1991 but the genesis is the 1970s. Flo Braker started a baking business that was so special, so outrageously wonderful that she was featured in a Bon Appetit article in 1979. Her “miniatures” were a rage, particularly because so many of them were her own original creations and not just scaled down versions of standard recipes.
It took a dozen years, not a baker’s dozen, but in 1991 we were treated to Sweet Miniatures: The Art of Making Bite-Sized Desserts. The treating continues. Suzen and I still and often refer to this book.
A 1991 book is bound to have few anachronisms, like her talking about the search for an exotic ingredient: rice flour. [Bob’s Red Mill products had barely started: 1978!]
This 1991 book has some timeless pieces, too, and not just the recipes. The section on how to make cookies — mixing by hand versus a stand mixer versus a small hand mixer versus your food processor — is a complete cookie education in a few pages. Combining butter, sugar and eggs the right way is NOT immediate or easy. Flo describes the best ways to do it, depending on what kind of dough and cookies you are preparing. How did Flo figure it out? You’ll smile at her discussion of a few kitchen failures. Honesty and thoroughness are Flo trademarks.
The recipes are listed in an oh-so-careful way so that you can find exactly what you need:
There are cookie chapters organized by texture and flavor. Here are some samples:
- Shortbread: Pineapple Pockets, Java Sticks
- Chewy: Meringue Bubbles, Maple Japonais
- Crispy Cognac Wafers, Champagne Biscuits
- Spicy: Sesame Spice Cups. Creamy Ginger Squares
- Chocolate: Chocolate Mint Nuggets, Chocolate Macaroons
Pastry treats are divided between classic tartlets and flaky treats:
- Tartlets: Caramel Carmenitas, Raspberry Lemon Tartlets, Lemon Meringue Tartlets
- Flaky: Pumpkin Pastries, Sweet Cheese Puffs
Cakes recipes include Pistachio Petits Fours, Dominos [Apricot, marzipan and chocolate], and the very lovely Parisers. A Pariser is a “coin of genoise mounded with a decadent chocolate buttercream, and encased in a satiny, dark chocolate glaze” topped with “a pale yellow buttercream flower and a pair of pale green buttercream leaves on top.”
The only danger in this book is that, if the yield is supposed to be 50, Suzen and I often only net about 40. She asks me, “Why” and I say, “I don’t know” as I lick my fingers. Some books are filled with mystery. Sweet Miniatures has lots of mystery, pages and pages of mystery. Find a copy of Sweet Miniatures and begin your own investigations.
Besides mystery, there is treasure. In the pages of recipes, you’ll find the signature recipes that made Flo a Los Angeles sensation, like the Lemon Meringue Tartlets and the Sweet Cheese Puffs.
Making a dozen cookies or a single cake is one things. Producing dozens or hundreds of miniatures can be overwhelming. So there is a short, intensive final section: “Making Miniatures Ahead, 1 to 100 Dozen.” Your sanity can rest easy. Your kitchen shall not resemble a battlefield, well, not a big battlefield. Part of the inspiration of miniatures is comparing those dainty final products with the mass of ingredients and tools that were required for construction.
Sweet Miniatures was republished in paperback form in 2000. You can still order it in physical format or download a Kindle version. I prefer paper, myself. Getting chocolate off my iPad screen is not easy!