Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (2024)

Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (1)

From decadent, fleur de sel-sprinkled caramel sauce to light-as-air corn soufflés, Baked Elements features dishes sure to delight any palate. Here's a glimpse inside the book, along with the treats we savored long after our plates had been cleared.

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4 Must-Try Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked

Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (2)

I acquire cookbooks the way many women buy shoes—it was a stressful day, it was on sale, it was just too beautiful to leave in the store. There's a thrill in the hunt: for new flavors, new techniques, and new culinary adventures. And yet it is rare that I am as completely captivated by a new cookbook as when Baked Elements crossed my desk. I gave it a quick read at work, then devoured the rest on my train ride home. By the end of the night, a whiskey peach upside down cake was cooling on my counter and I'd flagged a couple recipes for the upcoming weekend brunch I was hosting.

The thing is, it's not just the recipes that are good. Baked Elements is a cookbook that you actually read. The writers—Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the owners of the Brooklyn bakery Baked—are gracious and personable in the preambles to each recipe. Their love for baked goods oozes off the page, and their enthusiasm for each ingredient is infectious.

The book, as its name suggests, is organized around Matt and Renato's ten favorite ingredients: peanut butter, lemon and lime, caramel, booze, pumpkin, malted milk powder, cinnamon, cheese, chocolate, and banana. Recipes range from simple and understated to delightfully complex, with treats for everything from breakfast to dessert (if you're okay with cake for dinner). What's not to love? Here are four of my favorite recipes, complete with Matt and Renato's lovely introductions to each.

The book: Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, ABRAMS, $32.50

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Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (3)

Kaitlin: This recipe is everything you could ever want in a cinnamon roll, and more—a sticky pumpkin dough with a gooey filling of seasonal spices and a tangy-sweet buttermilk and cream cheese icing. I made them on the first cold fall morning, served with a cup of strong coffee—and now I can't help but long for one each morning as my feet hit the cold wood floor.

Matt and Renato: America's food courts and highway rest stops are filled with myriad oddities and vast collections of the absurd—bizarre fast food chains that wouldn't survive outside the protective womb of a mall or the glamless oasis of a roadside pit stop—but even in these locales, a shop dedicated to a single breakfast item (oversized cinnamon rolls) seems slightly alien. Yet we find ourselves transfixed by the store, its yeasty, cinnamon aroma lulling its followers into a trancelike state. How is this a business concept? How many cinnamon rolls can one person eat in a given year? Why aren't there more flavors? None of these questions matter as we place our order, hearts beating erratically in anticipation. Our Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls were created partly as an ode to this chain store, a chain store beloved by Renato. They are surprisingly simple to put together and highly impressive to serve for a Sunday brunch.

Baking Note: You can make the bulk of this recipe the night before. Once the rolls are sliced and in the pan, cover them with two tight layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate them. In the morning, remove the pan from the refrigerator and proceed with the recipe as normal; however, make sure you allow sufficient time for the dough to come to room temperature and rise properly.

Yield: 10 to 12 rolls

For the Pumpkin Dough:

3 1⁄2 cups bread flour
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 ounces (3⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
2⁄3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2⁄3 cup pumpkin puree

For the Cinnamon Filling:

3⁄4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the Assembly:

1 ounce (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1⁄4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted


1. Make the pumpkin dough:

Butter one 10-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugars, yeast, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom on medium speed. Add the butter and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the milk and egg and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the pumpkin puree and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. The dough will be light orange in color and feel soft and sticky. Remove the dough from the bowl, carefully form it into a large ball, smooth the top with your hands, and place it in a clean, lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.

2. Make the cinnamon filling:

In a small bowl, stir together the sugars, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until combined.

3. Assemble the rolls:

Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle approximately 20 by 10 inches, brush the dough with half the melted butter, and sprinkle the filling over the butter, leaving a 1⁄4-inch border around the edges. Use the palms of your hands to press the filling lightly into the dough. Roll up the long side of the rectangle to form a tight log and place it seam side down. Slice the log into ten 2-inch rolls. Place one roll in the center of the cake pan, then fill in the rest of the pan with the other rolls. Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining melted butter, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until the rolls have almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F and position the rack in the center.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops of the rolls are browned. In order to pour your icing over still-warm rolls for the best effect, prep all the frosting ingredients while the rolls are baking and put together the frosting (this will only take about 5 minutes) immediately after the rolls come out of the oven.

6. Make the frosting:

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and buttermilk on medium speed until the mixture is lump free. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat on medium-low speed until a smooth, fluid mixture forms.

7. Serve the rolls:

Invert the pan of rolls onto a serving plate or leave them in the pan for a rustic look. Pour the frosting over the warm rolls. It's okay if a little bit of the frosting drips down the sides—it's even encouraged. Serve immediately.

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Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (4)

Kaitlin: Taking Matt and Renato's advice, I served this soufflé for brunch, with roasted new potatoes and a frisee salad. They're right, it was a lot of early-morning prep, but it was also a smash hit!

Matt and Renato: Yes, this incredibly rich, creamy, Cheddar Corn Souffle can be served as a dessert—a studious, old-school cheese course. It can also be served as an appetizer. We actually encourage you, if you are feeling full of morning pep, to try it out on unsuspecting breakfast or brunch guests. Our riff on this venerable dish is punched up with the decidedly unsubtle extra-sharp cheddar (we have classic macaroni and cheese on the brain) and a handful of corn—the two flavors complement each other well, and the corn adds a bright burst of texture. Finally, we think our perfectly golden Cheddar Corn Souffle is one of those dishes that fancifies the mood with little effort, and everyone knows we could use a bit more fancy in our lives.

Yield: 6 main-dish or 10 side-dish servings


2 tablespoons finely grated fresh
Parmesan cheese
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 cup whole milk
2 ounces (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, separated, plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
3⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup packed grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1⁄2 cup fresh corn kernels or frozen corn, thawed


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and position the rack in the center. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 1 ½-quart soufflé dish. Dust the soufflé dish with the Parmesan cheese (so that it adheres to the butter) and knock out the excess. In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and cayenne. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm, but do not boil, the milk. Remove from heat once tiny bubbles appear around the pan's perimeter.

3. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until completely combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, wait 30 seconds, then slowly stream the milk into the butter mixture while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until smooth, and return to the heat. Cook until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 10 minutes. When bubbles appear, remove from the heat and whisk in the spice mixture. Continue stirring vigorously for about 1 minute to release some of the heat. Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time, whisking after each addition. After all the yolks are completely incorporated, transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

4. In another large bowl (or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), whisk the 6 egg whites vigorously for 1 minute. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the whites and continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

5. Fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the soufflé base. Add the cheddar cheese and corn, along with half of the remaining egg whites, and gently fold until almost incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until completely but just incorporated.

6. Transfer the entire mixture to the prepared soufflé dish. Run your thumb around the inside edge of the dish to wipe away any stray mixture (this will provide for an even rise), place the soufflé in the oven, and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the soufflé is puffy, slightly golden, and the center is just about set.

7. Transfer the soufflé dish to a serving platter and serve immediately.

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Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (5)

Kaitlin: The pretzel crust of these key lime tarts also works well under a run-of-the-mill lemon bar recipe.

Matt and Renato: Both of us spent a portion of our formative years in the Sunshine State (a.k.a. Florida)—Renato on the Atlantic side, myself on the Gulf—and we can attest, true to stereotype, the state is awash in Key lime pies. They were everywhere, and we took them for granted. Only after we left the state, and outgrew the arrogance of youth, did we understand the true beauty of this dessert—we had to leave it to love it. Our Sunrise Key Lime Tarts are Key lime tarts reinterpreted with bits and pieces of our favorite things. Renato thought a pretzel crust was snazzier and saltier than the traditional graham cracker crust, and I thought a splash of tequila seemed predestined. Thus we added a tiny bit of Brooklyn sentiment to what otherwise closely resembled a Florida classic—a creamy, tart, refreshing filling on a snappy crust.

Yield: Eight 4-inch tarts

For the Pretzel Crust:

5 ounces (11⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1⁄2 generous cups (about 6 ounces) salted thin pretzel sticks, ground

For the Key Lime Filling:

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice (about 12 to 15 Key limes)
Zest of 2 Key limes or 1 regular Persian lime (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons good-quality tequila
1 tablespoon triple sec or orange juice

For the Topping:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Zest of 4 Key limes or 2 regular
Persian limes (about 2 tablespoons)
8 thin slices of Key lime (optional)


1. Make the Pretzel Crust: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly spray a paper towel with vegetable oil and use it to apply the oil to the sides and bottom of eight 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet.

2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the brown sugar and remove from the heat. Add the pretzel crumbs and stir until combined—the mixture should look like wet sand. Place about 3 tablespoons of the crumb mixture in each prepared tart pan. Using your fingers or the bottom of a small metal measuring cup, press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of each tart pan.

3. Bake the tarts on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes (the tops will appear set), then set them aside to cool completely.

4. Increase the oven temperature to 350 °F.

5. Make the Key Lime Filling: In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sweetened condensed milk until well blended. Add the lime juice, lime zest, tequila, and triple sec and whisk until combined and slightly thickened. Divide the filling among the prepared tart pans and bake on the baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes, until the filling appears set.

6. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely, then refrigerate the tarts until the tops are cool to the touch, about 2 hours.

7. Make the Topping: Pour the cream into a chilled metal bowl and beat it with a chilled whisk for about 1 minute. Sprinkle the granulated sugar and zest on top and continue whisking vigorously until soft peaks form.

8. To serve, gently push up on the tart bottoms to release the tarts from their pans. Top with the whipped topping and a thinly sliced lime pinwheel, if desired.

9. These tarts taste best if eaten within 24 hours but can be stored in the refrigerator (without the whipped topping), tightly covered, for up to 2 days.

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Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (6)

Kaitlin: I used the extra frosting on a batch of chocolate cupcakes, with caramel sauce drizzled on top—and I'm never going back to buttercream ever again. A jar of the caramel sauce would also be the perfect holiday gift for ice cream sundae-loving pals.

Matt and Renato: This is one of those recipes that has been kicking around my periphery ever since my University of Alabama days. I am fairly certain I ate many a caramel cake during those years, but honestly, I just remember eating many a cake—caramel, red velvet, coconut, lemon, chocolate, praline—it was like a big fluffy Southern dream. I decided to revisit caramel cake via an old college friend, Gerald, from Fulton, Mississippi. His mom, Terrisa, gave us her treasured recipe—her antique or vintage recipe—and we toyed with it ever so gently. The layers by themselves were beautiful as is—a sturdy, tasty, yellow crumb—but we dialed down (only a few notches) the sweetness of the frosting by adding cream cheese. We imagine this cake was invented for large picnic tables and Southern breezes, but we will eat it just about any time.

Baking Note: If you want to ratchet the sweetness level up a bit, we suggest poking holes in the layers a few minutes after they come out of the oven and drizzling them with warm Classic Caramel Sauce—it will seep into the cake.

Yield: One 8-inch, 2-layer cake

For the Caramel Cake:

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

For the Caramel Frosting:

1⁄4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 ounces (1 1⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes, divided
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

For the Assembly:

1⁄4 cup Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce (recipe below)


1. Make the Caramel Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again and add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.

4. In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and beat it into the batter until just combined.

5. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 32-37 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the cake tops are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

6. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the racks and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

7. Make the Caramel Frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the brown sugar and 2 ounces (1⁄2 stick) of the butter until melted and combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 10 to 15 seconds.

8. Remove from the heat, whisk in the cream, and transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool completely. (Note: To cool the mixture quickly for immediate use, you can stir or whisk the mixture vigorously to release excess heat or you can nestle the bowl with the mixture in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice.)

9. Once the brown sugar mixture is nearly cool, place the remaining 3 ounces of butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until it is lump free. Add the cream cheese and salt and continue beating until mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 15 seconds.

10. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the brown sugar mixture. Scrape down the bowl again, add the confectioners' sugar, and beat until smooth. If the mixture feels too loose, refrigerate it for 5 to 10 minutes until it firms up.

11. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 3⁄4 cup frosting on top. Place the next layer on top, then trim and frost it the same way. Frost the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, drizzle with the caramel sauce (either in a zigzag or circular pattern), and refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes to set before serving.

12. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver, for up to 3 days. Allow it to come to almost room temperature before serving.


1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1⁄4 cup sour cream


1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1⁄4 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don't splash any of it up on the sides of the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and, without stirring, cook over high heat until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly) or just shy of 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (be careful, as it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

2. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 10 days.

Well-Prepared: Recipes from Brooklyn's Baked (2024)


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