Joanne Chang’s second cookbook, “Flour, Too,” is just as appropriate on your coffee table as it is on your kitchen counter. Published 12 years after opening four Flour Bakery + Café locations, the pages of this book are littered with vibrant photographs, pulling you into each recipe with your mouth already watering. As Chang writes in her introduction, “when customers fall in love with our food, they fall for it hard.”
A classic chicken potpie features a stunning pate brisee that emerges from the oven golden and flaky enough to make you turn a blind eye to its butter content. This is not a cookbook for diet-conscious eaters – although lighter, healthier fare can certainly be found within its pages– but rather a guide to high quality, soul-nurturing meals. This time consuming but straightforward pie is worth every buttery calorie.
Chang’s recipes are written in meticulous detail that makes sense for a chef who first studied applied mathematics and economics at Harvard College. Her step-by-step instructions are so explicit that a novice can follow along as easily as an experienced cook. Dishes vary from the sweet and savory pastries that distinguish her bakeries, to recipes for their signature sandwiches, soups, and salads. Snack ideas for homemade pickles and scallion pancakes, and the chainlet’s popular raspberry seltzer follow entrees like beef short ribs and polenta, mushroom and leek lasagna, and buttermilk-fried chicken.
While many of the desserts are complex and require specialty ingredients – vanilla sugar shows up in several recipes – Chang’s careful instructions make it possible to create even the most grand confections. Making pavlova with plums and figs, French macaroons, or triple-chocolate mousse cake may seem intimidating, but Chang breaks each recipe down into so many simple steps that you will spend more time reading her directions than actually creating the dish. This detail can be tiresome for experienced cooks, but ultimately leads to consistent outcomes.
Maple-apple upside-down buttermilk cake, which features a maple syrup reduction layered with apples and dense, moist cake, is so exceptional you’ll soon be standing in line for a second slice. To achieve the desired springiness, follow the directions precisely. Beating the butter and sugar together for six to seven minutes may seem like a long time, but it transforms the batter. A word to the wise: if the syrup doesn’t reduce enough it may leak out of the pan as it bakes. To avoid a mess, place the cake pan on an old baking sheet in the oven.
Another standout are brown sugar-oat cherry muffins, which Chang has been known to bring with her to book signings. These hefty, rich pastries are eye-rollingly good, with a crispy brown sugar topping. With creme fraiche, whole milk, and butter, how could they be bad? This unique recipe requires the batter to sit overnight, but the extra effort is worth it. Hearty enough for breakfast and sweet enough for dessert, these little cakes must sell a lot of books.
Chang’s recipes emphasize the quality ingredients that Bostonians love at her Flour bakeries. As she writes, “Just because something is simple doesn’t mean that it can’t and won’t knock your socks off.” Prepare to do the dishes barefoot.
Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets & Savories
Author: Joanne Chang
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Number of pages: 304 pp.
Book price: $35.00
By: Kari Pierce