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    flour

    Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

    by Joanne Chang

    with Christie Matheson

    Photographs by Keller + Keller

    To Christopher, for making my life sweeter every day.

    Table of Contents

    Introduction

    Techniques

    Equipment

    Ingredients

    Joanne’s Top 12 Baking Tips

    BREAKFAST TREATS

    oatmeal-maple scones

    classic currant scones

    lemon-ginger scones

    cheddar-scallion scones

    heart-healthy dried fruit scones

    raspberry-rhubarb muffins

    corn muffins with raspberry jam

    pumpkin muffins with candied pepitas

    addictive bran muffins with golden raisins and “bird seed”

    good morning muffins

    new old-fashioned coffee cake

    apple snacking spice cake

    flour’s famous banana bread

    cranberry-maple-pecan breakfast cake

    french lemon-poppy pound cake

    basic brioche

    sugar + spice brioche buns

    pain aux raisins

    brioche au chocolat

    pastry cream

    craqueline

    sticky sticky buns

    homemade pop-tarts

    pâte brisée I

    croissants

    vanilla cream–filled doughnuts

    mom’s granola

    COOKIES

    milk chocolate–hazelnut cookies

    double-chocolate cookies

    chocolate chunk cookies

    chunky lola cookies

    oatmeal raisin cookies

    peanut butter cookies

    ginger molasses cookies

    cornmeal-lime cookies

    snickerdoodles

    coconut macaroons

    holiday sugar cookies

    meringue clouds

    almond and anise biscotti

    almond macaroons with bittersweet chocolate ganache

    brown butter–crispy rice treats

    homemade oreos

    homemade fig newtons

    homemade s’mores

    black sesame lace cookies

    rosemary shortbread

    intense chocolate brownies

    raspberry crumb bars

    lemon lust bars

    granola bars

    homemade dog biscuits

    CAKES

    classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

    midnight chocolate cake with milk chocolate buttercream

    yellow birthday cake with fluffy chocolate ganache frosting

    red velvet cake with creamy vanilla frosting

    nutmeg-spice cake with creamy rum buttercream

    lemon-raspberry cake with lemon buttercream

    white coconut cake with coconut frosting

    toasted coconut angel food cake

    boozy rum cake

    vegan low-fat chocolate cake

    molten chocolate cakes

    chocolate cupcakes with crispy magic frosting

    old-fashioned pineapple upside-down cake

    luscious cheesecake

    new tiramisu

    hazelnut-almond dacquoise

    deep, dark, spicy gingerbread with coffee glaze

    PIES + TARTS

    double two-apple pie

    southern pecan pie

    rich chocolate cream pie

    pâte sucrée

    toasted coconut cream pie with lime whipped cream

    super-pumpkiny pumpkin pie

    pâte brisée II

    blueberry-lemon pie

    lemon marshmallow meringue pie

    apricot-almond tart

    homemade-nutella tart

    bittersweet chocolate truffle tart

    ooey, gooey caramel-nut tart

    milky way tart

    apple and quince tarte tatin

    quick puff pastry

    roasted pear and cranberry crostata

    frangipane

    country ham, cheddar, and tomato quiche

    OTHER SWEETS

    butterscotch pudding

    best ever chocolate pudding

    classic crème brûlée

    vanilla crème caramel

    plum clafoutis

    chocolate banana bread pudding

    berry bread pudding

    coffee ice cream with cocoa nib brittle

    honey-cinnamon ice cream

    lemon sherbet and prosecco sorbet with strawberries

    bittersweet chocolate sorbet

    double-chocolate and orange semifreddo

    hazelnut-vanilla ice milk

    ginger tuile cups with champagne sabayon and fresh berries

    caramelized apple-raisin charlottes with vanilla caramel sauce

    balsamic strawberry shortcakes

    pedro ximinez sherry parfait with tea-soaked autumn fruits

    brown sugar popovers

    éclairs or cream puffs

    mixed-nut brittle

    BREADS

    bread sponge

    country bread

    marvelous multigrain sourdough

    potato bread

    golden raisin–pecan bread

    rosemary and olive oil focaccia

    dried-fruit focaccia

    parmesan and black pepper whole-wheat focaccia

    double-corn corn bread with fresh thyme

    buttermilk biscuits with parsley and sage

    Acknowledgments

    Index

    Table of Equivalents

    About the Author

    Copyright

    introduction

    Flour. On its own, it’s an ordinary ingredient. Likewise, there’s nothing special about a cup of sugar, a few eggs, or a stick of butter. But together, these seemingly pedestrian ingredients form the foundation of the magical world of baking.

    Being able to create mouthwatering treats from a roster of such basic elements never fails to delight me. Every day I watch as the mixers and ovens and bakers work their magic to create the beautiful pastries that fill the counter at Flour, my bakery. The transformation of humble ingredients into delightful desserts inspires people to exclaim with joy following a single bite. It’s a wonderful world to live and work in.

    In some ways, baking reminds me of a theoretical math class I took in college. (Bear with me for a moment.) On the first day, we erased from our minds the number system as we knew it. Beginning only with the assumption of the existence of the idea of zero, we spent the next two weeks re-creating the modern-day number system. It seemed like a crazy exercise at the time (and I just barely passed that class), but it taught me that even very complex things start with the most basic building blocks. Baking isn’t nearly as complicated as that class was, of course, but everything I bake—at Flour, or at home—starts with the fundamentals. That’s why I named my bakery Flour. It’s a reminder that in baking, as in life, simple things are best.

    At Flour, we strive for perfection with every recipe we prepare and every item we serve. But that doesn’t mean our offerings are complicated or fussy. In fact, the opposite is true. We bake the very best versions of wonderfully familiar and often nostalgic treats, from chocolate chip cookies and banana bread to such commercial classics as Oreos and Pop-Tarts. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

    In this cookbook, I am thrilled to share dozens of Flour’s most popular recipes, carefully reformulated to work successfully at home, along with my best recipes for other delicious baked goods I’ve developed in more than fifteen years as a professional baker.

    I’ve adored sweets since I was a little girl, but because I was brought up in a traditional Chinese household, I rarely had the chance to indulge my sweet tooth. Most Chinese meals end with nothing sweet at all. At our house, the occasional dinner with friends would inspire a plate of orange slices and some tea; on special occasions, we would pull out all the stops and serve moon cakes filled with red beans or crunchy almond cookies.

    I wasn’t introduced to the idea of dessert until I started spending time at my friends’ houses. Everything I tasted was a novelty to me: Chips Ahoy! cookies, Oreos, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Jell-O, instant pudding, chocolate cake from Duncan Hines. My sweet tooth knew no bounds. Whenever I could, I would sneak a new dessert.

    What started out as a curiosity stemming from my love for sweets eventually developed into a full-blown obsession with desserts and pastries. I pored over baking books and food magazines; I read and reread dessert descriptions wherever I found them; I lingered at pastry cases at the supermarket. Most of the time I never tried the desserts I was dreaming about. Instead, I could only imagine how they must taste: Turkish delight (I read about it in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), snickerdoodles (Good Housekeeping), sticky toffee pudding (The Joy of Cooking), double-crust apple pie (Little House on the Prairie), New York cheesecake (first spotted at a Safeway in Houston!). Each one tasted better in my mind than the last.

    Although I loved thinking about pastries, I never considered culinary school. I come from a fairly strict Asian family, and my parents expected me to go to college and pursue a practical career. So I went to Harvard and majored in applied mathematics and economics.

    At Harvard, I had my first “professional” baking gig: I baked cookies and sold them at the Leverett House Grill. People loved them, and I became known as the Chocolate Chip Cookie Girl. Even though it was a lot of fun—and a great distraction from my endless problem sets—baking didn’t cross my mind when it was time to look for a job. After all, I’d just spent four years and a lot of money (thanks Mom and Dad!) in pursuit of a “practical” degree, and I was determined to put it to good use.

    After graduation, I went to work as a consultant at the Monitor Group, a large international management consulting firm based in Cambridge. It was a good job for someone like me who didn’t know what to do for a career. It exposed me to a number of different industries and possible career paths. But none of them was where I wanted to be.

    During my second year at Monitor, one of my responsibilities was running the undergraduate recruiting effort. I interviewed hundreds of students for our entry-level consultant position and my opening question, created to break the ice and put anxious students at ease, was “What would you do with your life if you won the lottery?” Inevitably, I started thinking about my own response to that question. And the answer was easy: I would spend my days cooking and baking. I was always dreaming about food, especially pastries, and how I could make them taste more delicious.

    I was tossing that pretty-much-out-of-the-question idea around in my head when I happened to pick up an adult education catalog at the grocery store. A seminar entitled “Open Your Own Restaurant” caught my eye. The teacher was Judy Rosenberg, founder of the successful chain Rosie’s Bakery and author of a baking book I had read cover to cover and baked from pretty much every week. I signed up right away.

    Rosenberg’s advice for people who wanted to bake for a living was simple: go cook or bake! This inspired me to return to baking and selling cookies to those around me. Under the brand name Joanne’s Kitchen, I baked cookies in my free time for friends and coworkers who were hosting parties or needed housewarming gifts. Finally, in 1993, after finishing two years at Monitor—when it was time to commit to more years as a consultant, go to business school, or change my path completely—I decided to go for it.

    I sent letters to the top chefs in Boston at the time—Lydia Shire, Jody Adams, Todd English, Gordon Hamersley—explaining that I loved to cook and bake, had absolutely no experience or formal training, and was willing to start in any position to work in one of their restaurants. Lydia, who now owns Scampo and Locke-Ober in Boston and then was the groundbreaking chef and owner of the now-defunct Biba restaurant, responded right away. She interviewed me one day and called to hire me the next. Two weeks later, I traded my suit and pumps for a chef’s coat and clogs and started as a bar food cook (basically one rung up from dishwasher). My first day, the sous chef asked me to julienne something for her, and I stammered, “Wh-what’s julienne?”

    I was pretty clueless, but I learned fast and was soon promoted to the garde-manger (appetizer) position, which just happened to be right next to the dessert-plating area. And while my hands were busy plating up knobby foie gras terrines and mustardy steak tartares, my mind and eyes were mesmerized by the sourdough chocolate cakes, caramelized banana tartes Tatin, and quince-thyme charlottes being plated next to me. I found myself rushing through my work just so I could lend a hand at the pastry station.

    After a year of truffle oil, emulsions, and herbs, I asked Lydia if I could transfer to the pastry station. She didn’t have an opening but she pointed me in the direction of Rick Katz, Biba’s original pastry chef, who had left years prior to open his own bakery called Bentonwood. Once again my path to a new job was somewhat of a whirlwind. I took the train from Boston out to the suburb of Newton to meet Rick, he interviewed me and offered me a job, and two weeks later I made another trade, this time exchanging my chef’s knife and tongs for an offset spatula and pastry bags.

    Working for Rick was like enrolling in a rigorous baking school. He was fanatical about pastry and relentless in his pursuit of making the most delicious desserts I’d ever tasted. He used only the best ingredients. He preferred, for example, to make his own vanilla extract and shred his own fresh coconut. He was also a stickler for perfect technique, and after my shifts, the waste bins often overflowed with cakes he had deemed not tender enough or too heavy. I spent my days learning all I could about the proper way to whip meringue, cream butter, roll out puff pastry, and pipe frosting. I had been somewhat on the fence about my career change when I was surrounded by braised meats and stocks, but now that I was in the land of sugar and cream, I couldn’t imagine ever going back to the corporate world. I was completely hooked on baking.

    I would have stayed with Rick forever, but he closed Bentonwood, so I had to decide where to go next. I had heard that Rialto, an award-winning restaurant in Cambridge, was looking for pastry help. Jody Adams, the chef and co-owner, was one of the original chefs I had written to in search of a cooking job, and I was thrilled about the possibility of working with her. The position turned out to be head pastry chef. I didn’t think I was nearly experienced enough to pull it off, but I loved the rapport I had developed with Jody during my interviews, and I knew I could learn a lot from her about balancing tastes and textures, writing a menu, and managing a staff.

    Taking the pastry chef position at Rialto was like playing for the NBA right out of high school. I jumped into the frenetic, demanding world of restaurant desserts, where I was immediately responsible for creating a rotating menu of seasonal offerings, managing a small staff, and working directly with waiters, managers, and customers. I was learning every single moment: Jody taught me the importance of balancing a dessert with enough acid and salt to keep it from being one-dimensional, creating layers of texture and flavor in desserts to keep them from being flat, and being whimsical in my presentation so that every dessert was a treat for the eye as well as the palate. She encouraged me to test new ideas, and I constantly tried out pastries I’d only read about. I immersed myself in cookbooks, magazines, and my trusty Dictionary of Pastries and Desserts, eventually working my way from apricot to zabaglione.

    After two intense, wonderful years at Rialto, I knew it was time for me to work on honing my pastry skills again. I needed to take a step back from overseeing other young pastry cooks and have someone teach me. I learned that acclaimed French pastry chef François Payard, who had won the James Beard Pastry Chef of the Year award in 1995 for his work at New York’s Restaurant Daniel, was opening his own patisserie, so I took the train to the Big Apple to meet him. Following what had become the pattern in my cooking career, after only a brief interview, I found myself with a new job and a new life. I threw all of my stuff into the back of a rental car and moved to New York to become a pastry cook at Payard Patisserie. Located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, it was a beautiful space known for exquisite French pastries, decadent cakes, and traditional French service—an elegant slice of Paris in New York City.

    Before starting at Payard, I’d never had any formal training—and I’d never worked for anyone French. At Payard, I learned exacting techniques and studied methods for making the classics. It blew my mind that so many of the pastries I’d been making over the previous few years were historic French recipes that had been passed along from generation to generation through the centuries. I had baked cream puffs countless times at Rialto; at Payard I learned the exact same recipe from François, who had learned it from his father, who had learned it from his father, and so on. At the same time I was revisiting classics like puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), pastry cream (crème pâtissière), and almond cream (frangipane), I was also learning an entirely new vocabulary for pastry items, since my well-worn pastry dictionary focused primarily on American desserts.

    We fashioned showstopping St. Honoré cakes and croquembouches out of cream puff dough. I labored over delicate sheet cakes imprinted with stunning chocolate designs and layered them with crème bavarois and fruit gelées. I pulled sugar into balloons and flowers and manipulated chocolate into bows and ribbons. The Payard way of looking at pastry was markedly different from the approach I’d learned at Bentonwood and then at Rialto, and that’s when I discovered that pastry can be as much of an art form as it is a source of gustatory pleasure. I threw myself into my new world and soaked up as much as I could.

    Working at Payard after my stint as a restaurant pastry chef reminded me of how much I love bakeries, and I began dreaming of opening my own. I relished the creativity-verging-on-obsession of making even the simplest sugar cookie delectable. I reveled in huge batches of scone dough and got caught up in the steady rhythm of producing dozens and dozens of tart shells. It thrilled me that the item I was baking that morning was going to be devoured by someone a few hours later, and that the cake I was decorating that afternoon would ring in a birthday celebration with family and friends that evening. I reminisced about my time with Rick making fruit-laden muffins, saucer-sized cookies, and seemingly countless loaves of bread. The tradition of French pastry with the precise recipes and fanatical attention to artful appearance was a terrific learning experience, but I knew I wanted my bakery to be resolutely American. I dreamed about bringing all of the pastries I’d fantasized about while I was growing up to life and serving them in a warm, bustling, friendly neighborhood bakery.

    So after a year at Payard, I moved back to Boston to begin planning my own bakery. My now-husband, Christopher, suggested I call it Flour after I described to him what I was envisioning. He knew I wanted a simple, iconic name that would speak to the straightforward focus I was planning.

    While I was searching for the perfect space for Flour, I needed a job, so I became pastry chef of the wildly popular Boston restaurant Mistral. By now, I had much more confidence in my abilities and used the time to polish my craft and focus on baking what customers really wanted. I was extremely lucky to work for chef Jamie Mammano, who has figured out how to give his customers what they want while still doing what he wants: use excellent ingredients in upscale classic dishes, jazzed up with modern twists.

    We took tiramisu and made it special by serving it parfait style. Customers clamored for our apple tart with puff pastry and Tahitian vanilla anglaise—basically an apple pie in a fancy suit. I couldn’t make enough of our molten chocolate cake, and I added my own touch by serving it with home-made hazelnut ice milk. I spent almost two years at Mistral satisfying the sweet tooths of countless customers until I left to open Flour.

    “Make life sweeter…eat dessert first!” Flour’s motto came to me quickly. I’d spent too much of my childhood oblivious to the world of desserts; once the door was opened to me, I made up for lost time by choosing to indulge in desserts above all else whenever possible.

    I found a diamond-in-the-rough location on the outer edge of Boston’s South End, then an up-and-coming

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