Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cooking with Flour: Great Eats from the Flour Cookbook by Joanne Chang

For my birthday a few years back, my present was a loaf of focaccia from Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery in the South End. To most people that might seem like a, well, lame present. But I was thrilled. A twenty five minute drive into Boston isn't quite worth it on weekend mornings. Instead, I had a perfect loaf in my freezer, ready to be made into warm panini and grilled cheese sandwiches. Other mornings we just slathered the bread with Nutella and were in breakfast heaven. Thus began my obsession with Flour. And that love has transferred to my two sons who know the bakery by name and adore going there after trips the Children's Museum.
I eagerly anticipated the publication of Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe, and enjoyed the chance to attend the celebratory party at the Flour Bakery in Cambridge. Then, two days later, a package showed up on my doorstep: a copy of the cookbook from the publisher. That night my sons and I used an entire box of sticky notes marking the recipes we couldn't wait to try.

There are a number of aspects about this book that I appreciate. First, it is challenging for a baking book to walk the line between being clear enough for inexperienced bakers and captivating for someone who bakes regularly. Joanne Chang does it by offering just enough direction to guide new bakers and use techniques to interest a seasoned cook. Though I have baked for most of my life, I have never heard of "fraisage", thought about the power of creme fraiche or brushed butter on already baked biscuits. Anyone could easily bake fantastic cookies by following her just explicit enough directions. The introductions to the recipes provide context that makes the book personal and interesting. At the same time, the book doesn't read like an advertisement for Flour.
This is definitely not a low-fat, low-cholesterol cookbook and unapologetically so. With the exception of the Heart-Healthy Dried Fruit Scones, these are treats to have on occasion. But when you do, you will be glad you indulged, for example, with the scallion-cheddar scones above!

Ironically, I still haven't made it to the focaccia, though it is next on my list. I also hope to make the Banana Bread, Brioche au Chocolat; Rosemary Shortbread; Nutmeg-Spice Cake with Creamy Rum Buttercream; Deep, Dark, Spicy Gingerbread with Coffee Glaze; Brown Sugar Popovers and Parmesan and Black Pepper Whole-Wheat Focaccia. My sons just want me to bake the Chocolate Cupcakes (for the recipe, click here!) and Blueberry Muffins!

Here, though, is the run-down from this week:

Apple Snacking Cake: My sons and I transformed these into delicious muffins, perfect with fresh from the orchard apples. The recipe was perfect with my toddler and pre-schooler as sous-chefs. They dumped in the ingredients, mixed, stirred and placed raisins in the muffin tins. And they gobbled the warm muffins up, grinning completely.

Pumpkin Muffins: I was a bit too lazy to candy my pumpkin seeds, but these had the same sweet, rich quality as our apple muffins above.

Granola-I regularly make granola and love a new recipe. This one is heavy on the honey, which I enjoyed. However, at 350 degrees, mine started to burn. Once I lowered the heat to 300, it roasted to a toasty brown and is delicious. For a nice write up and the recipe, you can check out this post at Delicious Dishing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies-As Joanne Chang writes, these are a twist on the Toll House recipe and are a thinner style. My kids adored them. Next time I would add a bit more salt. I also definitely recommend following Chang's advice to let the batter sit for overnight in the frig.

Homemade Oreos-I love the cookie part of this recipe. It has both sweet and salty notes and isn't too rich. I am not a buttercream fan, myself, but friends ate these quickly, declaring them, "fantastic."
Double-Chocolate Cookies -this unusual recipe has you grate unsweetened chocolate into a rich batter of semisweet chocolate. The result, a beautifully balanced, not too sweet cookie perfect for chocoholics.

Cheddar-Scallion Scones-These alone are a great reason to buy the book. While, sure, you can go to Flour to taste them, in minutes you get your own warm version fresh out of the oven. Not only are they ridiculously simple, but they freeze beautifully. I can also envision swapping out the cheddar and scallion for, say, ham and gruyere. My friend felt ambivalent about the addition of cumin, but I think it created a more complex taste.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Parsley and Sage-these were just as easy as the scones. (In fact, we whipped both up simultaneously). Again, they are so good still hot and topped with melted butter and parsley. I felt that the sage was a bit overpowering, but could see these at the Thanksgiving table with turkey. I also hope to make the recipe without the sage for my sons to eat with eggs.

You can purchase the cookbook (and try tasty treats) at The Flour Bakery and Cafe: 12 Farnsworth St, Boston; 1595 Washington Street, Boston or 190 Mass. Ave in Cambridge or you can purchase it at your local bookstore.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you are baking up a storm! I only purchased one book as a Christmas gift for my mom so I'm hoping she'll love it as much as you do!