On October 24, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with three cookbooks by Joanne Chang. They included:
Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe (2010)
Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for The Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets & Savories (2013)
Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts using Natural Sweeteners and Little-To-No White Sugar (2015)
Joanne Chang had an unlikely road to becoming a pastry chef and restaurant entrepreneur. She graduated with honors from Harvard College with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics and began work after college as a management consultant. Two years into her new career, she decided her heart wasn’t in it.
So she made her way into the kitchen at Boston’s Biba restaurant. It was there that she eyed the pastry chef with envy and discovered that the sweet side of the restaurant was where she would be happiest. She moved on to work as a pastry cook at Bentonwood Bakery in Newton and then to Rialto restaurant in Cambridge.
In 1997 she accepted a position at Payard Patisserie and Bisto in New York City for one year. This training fueled her desire to open her own pastry shop. After a brief stint at Mistral in Boston, she liquidated her savings and with help from family and friends she opened the first Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston’s South End. The menu at Flour features breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts, along with sandwiches, soups, and salads.
Since the first Flour opened in 2000, she has opened additional cafes in Fort Point Channel, Cambridge near MIT and Central Square, Back Bay, and the newest location Harvard Square in 2016. To supply all of her locations, her team prepares many of the breads and sweet treats from their 8,500-square-foot commissary in Allston known as “BK” or “Big Kitchen”.
Flour has been featured in Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Lucky magazine, Inc. magazine, and Boston magazine and has received numerous Best of Boston awards.
Joanne’s recipe for Sticky Buns was featured on the Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay where her recipe went head-to-head with Chef Flay’s recipe, and Joanne’s recipe won!
Joanne opened the restaurant Myers + Chang with her husband Christopher Myers in the South End of Boston in 2007. It is an indie-diner setting specializing in Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese food. She is an avid runner and has competed in every Boston Marathon from 1991–2006. Joanne also keeps trim by bicycling to-and-from her five Flour locations and commissary kitchen. A Boston Globe article (11/24/15, see Sources below) commented that she is constantly in motion and reported that she and her husband are looking to open a second restaurant together. Joanne is also working on a cookbook for Myers + Chang.
Joanne has received numerous awards, but most recently is the winner of the 2016 James Beard award for Outstanding Baker.
Some members from our Cookbook Club visited the Fort Point Channel location of Flour on Sunday, November 6, 2016. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and tasted many of the sweets we had seen in Joanne’s cookbooks.
Club Rating: 3.4
“Good, basic–though some would be easier in a professional kitchen setup. The pain aux raisin was too much for my Kitchen Aide mixer and a mess with the pastry cream, but baked perfectly. More pictures!” T.H.
“Chunky Lola Cookies were great, Milky Way Tart & Double Chocolate Cookies were a disaster. Complicated steps, tricky ingredient lists, and too long baking times.” K.M.
“Have to know a little about baking before using these recipes.” C.C.
“Too many steps, could have been easier.” M.C.
“Other sweeteners, even less sweet is delicious.” A.W. (reviewing Baking with Less Sugar).
“The recipes were great, though I wish the book had more–yum!” J.K.
“Very nice, will open peoples’ eyes to alternatives for making baked goods sweet.” E.T. (reviewing Baking with Less Sugar).
“I thought the recipes were interesting and explained well. I prefer a bit sweeter though.” A.G. (reviewing Baking with Less Sugar).
“Loved every one that I made (and I made several).” K.A.
13 out of 18 club members would recommend these cookbooks to a friend. 9 out of 18 club members were familiar with Joanne Chang and her Flour Bakeries.
Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe (2010) Close to 150 recipes for the bakery’s most popular recipes, also includes Joanne’s baking techniques, recommended equipment, glossary of ingredients and Joanne’s Top 12 Baking Tips. Loaded with full-page color photography to make your mouth water.
- Cranberry-Maple-Pecan Breakfast Cake p. 68
- French Lemon-Poppy Pound Cake p.70
- Pain Aux Raisins p.76
- Homemade Pop-Tarts p. 88
- Double-Chocolate Cookies p.106
- Coconut Macaroons p.122
- Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Whipped Cream p.211
Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for The Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets & Savories (2013) The companion to Flour, Flour, Too contains the most requested savory fare with about 100 recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Includes a cooking vocabulary, a pantry ingredient glossary, a refrigerator ingredient glossary, a cabinet ingredient glossary, and a “in our heads” tip glossary.
- Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables & Ginger Scallion Dressing p.170
- Maple-Apple Upside-Down Buttermilk Cake p.242
Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes For Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar (2015) 60+ recipes from baker and Harvard math-major Joanne Chang for those who love sweets, but need to cut back on white sugar. With chapters on Reducing White Sugar; Just Chocolate; Using Honey; Baking with Maple Syrup & Molasses; and Fruit. The book includes introductory chapters on the why’s and what’s of low/no-sugar and the science behind sweets. Recipes for no/low-sugar Flour favorites are also found here, like the Banana Bread.
- Fudgy Mascarpone Brownies p.42
- White Chocolate-Cherry-Almond Cookies p.47
- Chocolate-Orange Truffles p.68
- Honey Cashew Morning Buns p.94
- Raspberry Honey Frozen Yogurt p.106
- Pain D’Epices p.113
- Honey-Almond Snack Cake p.119
- Molasses Gingerbread p.127
- Keith’s Super-Snappy Gingersnaps p.132
- Old-Fashioned Indian Pudding p.138
- French Apple-Almond Crostata p.184
- Carrot-Pineapple Cake p.187
Boston Globe November 24, 2015 – “Joanne Change Won’t Rest Until Everything is Perfect”.
Flour Bakery Website
Food Network – Throwdown with Bobby Flay