Podcast: Joanne Chang

Joanne Chang

Joanne Chang | author | Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

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I first met Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery, in Boston, last spring. Neither Joanne nor Flour were the object of my visit: I was there to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. But the moment I walked in and was met by the sweet, yeasty aroma of pastries well baked, I was hooked. The line, even at that off hour of the morning, was long. I was having a hard time deciding what to eat while I waited for my friend and finally narrowed it down to two choices: Homemade Pop-Tarts and Homemade Oreos. Seeing how fast the Oreos were flying out of the display case, I opted for them.

Sublime, is all I can say. They were four times the size of their less-than-stellar packaged cousins, and 1o times as tasty. The filling had nary a one of those impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. Nothing but butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. And the cookies were crisp and rich with a dark, almost smoky chocolate flavor.

Buy the Flour cookbook

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To flip through Joanne’s cookbook is like tripping lightly through our childhoods–or those of us of a certain age who grew up in the States. A Taiwanese-American raised by immigrants in a home bereft of anything sweet, Joanne lusted after the treats that filled her friends’ lunch boxes. (Why does that sound familiar?) Determined to make them herself, she marched into her mother’s kitchen at an age when she could barely see over the stove and began experimenting. Fast forward a few decades and Flour is the result—both the bakery (of which she has three) and the book.

During our chat, Joanne traced her attachment to deeply American treats, her desire to best what was on supermarket shelves, and the struggle to leave behind a Harvard education in mathematics in order to pursue her love of all things floury–much to the stunned silence of her parents. And we discussed what it was like to beat Bobby Flay at his own game on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” He and his team were convinced they could top Joanne’s amazing sticky buns, but to no avail.

And, yes, at the end of our podcast, that’s me getting a little too intimate with some of her treats. If I ever lose my job in the food world, our engineer at the recording studio assured me I just might have a future in over-dubbing adult films. Take a listen.

Flour Recipes

Homemade Oreos
Milky Way Tart

Have a question for Joanne about Flour the cookbook or Flour Bakery? Or want to leave her a message? You know what to do below.

Hungry for more? Chow down on these:


Comments
Comments
  1. Julia says:

    I was lucky to take a class with Joanne soon after moving to Boston in October of last year. Not only did I learn quite a bit, but I also saw what a lovely human being she is. I had never been to Flour before the class, but I left wanting to support her bakery, even if only because she seemed so genuine and down-to-earth. I’ve been to her South End store a few times now, and I have to say that the quiches might be as good or better than her sweets. Personally, I really like the ginger molasses cookies! I applaud her for following her passion because it’s a brave thing to do when you’ve got an education behind you in a totally different field and everyone is looking at you like you’re crazy. She made the right choice, and now we’re the lucky ones who get to indulge in all her treats.

    • David Leite says:

      Julia, you’ve given me an idea. I’m planning on going up to the bakery for a lesson–perhaps we can turn it into a class. I think I’ll have to talk to Joanne!

  2. Nancy G says:

    This is without a doubt the BEST Bakery ever. For many years I pined for the perfect banana bread…then I found it…Flour’s of course, and now I make it for myself, my family and as a special treat for those I care to share with. Thank you so much for todays column…Love to you all.

    • David Leite says:

      Nancy, I couldn’t agree with you more. I can’t want to go up soon for my private baking lesson with Joanne.

  3. Rick Casner says:

    I know I’m late to the game here but I really, really like the idea behind taking something from the store and just making it ourselves. Re-invention, re-construction, whatever. It is the difference between canned corn and fresh & I’ll stack my chicken pot pie up against ANYTHING found in the frozen food aisle. I’m no baker but homemade Oreos… How far is Boston anyway???

    • Allison Parker says:

      Never late when it comes to a great comment. I guess how far Boston is depends on where you are, doesn’t it? When it comes to homemade (well, great bakery made) Oreos… it’s never close enough for me. And I can probably speak for everyone here at LC when I agree with what you say: that there’s something incredibly wonderful about homemade anything. (Not that we’re too proud, mind you—we’ve all had our weak moments of junky indulgence, I’m sure. I’ll fess up first.)

      • Rick Casner says:

        Well…ah, Jeez…now that you mention it. I’m not exactly raising, butchering, and roasting my own free range chickens for that pot pie. The “star player” is rotisserie chicken tracked down and captured at my corner grocery store. Just don’t tell anyone.

        There’s also that shepherd’s pie made from Boston Market: meatloaf mixed with sides of corn & mashed potatos & topped with cheese that fooled ‘em for a few years…

  4. nancy G says:

    Flour is my favorite cookbook right now. I have always respected Joanne Chang from her days posting recipes in Fine Cooking Magazine. Her creme brulee from the magazine is phenomenal. All of the recipes that I have tried have made sense and are easy to follow. I want to go to the bakery but am rather far away :-(

    • David Leite says:

      Nancy, I get a hankering, too, every now and then, for the bakery. I never seem to get to Boston often enough.

  5. Rtiedemann says:

    The pop tarts are so easy and what a treasure they are, the kids love them small and easpecially big! Have made them a number of times. My favorite was the raspberry, also did the apple cinnamon and made some with lemon curd. Love this wonderful baking dream of a cookbook.

  6. Susan Parker says:

    Oh man. I discovered Flour two summers ago while on a trip to Boston. And I didn’t get to the bakery despite having “found” it. Then while I was on a trip to Boston last week, I made sure my hubby and I went there for breakfast. It was AWESOME.

    I then found Myers + Chang noted on their web site, so we went there for dinner that night. It was also AWESOME. When my hubby went to take care of the business he was in Boston for, I walked to Flour for breakfast.

    I hadn’t picked up any goodies to bring home so I picked up a hat, a t-shirt, a cookbook, a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting (OMG – tasty my hubby pronounced it), and a loaf of the golden raisin pecan bread. I hauled all this home on the plane that night. I finished up the loaf yesterday for breakfast (makes great toast).

    On the crack about not being able to pronounce the real Oreo ingredients, please. I know you’re trying to compliment the bakery, but have you actually READ the ingredient list for the Oreo? Off-topic, I know.

    I adore Flour!! Thanks for the podcast!

    • David Leite says:

      Susan, I see you’ve become addicted, too. It’s a great bakery Joanne is wonderful. Glad you enjoyed the podcast.

  7. Helene says:

    David, I have to admit that after listening to this podcast I did ordered her cookbook and this is a great acquisition. Now I would like to bake all her recipes and also visit her someday :)

    • David Leite says:

      Hélène, Joanne is a marvelous woman and a helluva baker. If you’re ever in Boston you should swing by her places. (Right after swinging by NYC to say hello to us.)

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