Little Flower: Recipes from the Café

Image of Little Flower: Recipes from the Cafe
Release Date: 
September 15, 2012
Prospect Park Books
Reviewed by: 

“. . . a charming book . . . but a bit of a tease.”

Little Flower, the cookbook, may leave readers with the same taste as the author’s Little Flower caramels: sweet, but salty.

This $25 book, with 60 full recipes, hits some sweet spots, but when some of those 60 are like the ham sandwich recipe—butter a baguette with good butter and top it with three slices of ham—salt may be all you notice.

Granted, that recipe comes with a very sweet headnote, which acknowledges the simplicity of the recipe and gives the story of the author’s discovery of it. But when it’s joined by too many too-obvious recipes—salt, again.

That feeling recurs throughout: This is a charming book, with an uplifting story of perseverance by the owner of the Little Flower café in Pasadena, Calif. But the irritations keep popping up.

Mainly, those come in taking “simple” too far—“basic” should not describe the bulk of a book. Do you need another recipe for salad greens mixed with herbs? Or another for red-wine vinaigrette? How about a basic blueberry muffin whose biggest tweak is the use of separately whipped egg whites, basic brownies made in muffin cups, basic caramel apples, or basic coconut macaroons? A “larder basics” section at the end makes the book seem more substantial, but is truly basic, with instructions for cooking barley and black-eyed peas and making bread crumbs.

And with only 60 recipes, the chapters feel skimpy. Although Moore says baking is at the heart of the Little Flower kitchen, the “bakery” chapter offers just seven recipes—including those blueberry muffins and a basic granola.

Tucked in among the short chapters, though, Moore offers some gems. She takes advantage of the nuttiness of browned butter in a white cake buttercream, and uses it to great effect in simple shortbread cookies and ginger molasses cookies. A tea cake with jam in the middle and almonds on top also appeals in its simplicity; made with melted butter, this quickly mixed treat looks fancier than it is, and offers the bonus of being able to wait up to a week before baking.

Mixed in among some standard quiches, an olive and thyme tart makes a quick and more unusual offering, and a roasted cauliflower and leek soup, like the desserts that use browned butter, takes advantage of the deep flavors from roasting. Vegetable-heavy soups and sandwiches may pull cooks in with their quick, short directions; all the book’s recipes hold to one page, and often just one paragraph.

The recipes do seem true to the riches of a bakery, with an emphasis on rich: three sticks of butter and a cup of cream go into just 15 lemon-ginger scones, for example; while three sticks of butter, 1 ½ cups of Swiss cheese, four eggs, and a cup of cream go into 16 mushroom biscuits.

Overall, Little Flower feels like more like a barely opened bud: full of promise and beauty, but a bit of a tease.