I love Joanne Chang. Love, love, love her. And it’s not an unhealthy fixation, I promise. She’s a culinary genius of grand proportions. I own all her cookbooks and have been to her restaurants. Am I obsessed? A bit. But for good reason.
She’s the award-winning and beloved chef of Boston’s Flour bakery and is best known for her sticky buns—but that’s far from the limit of her talents.
We could all use a little less sugar in our diet. Some need to lower sugar intake for health benefits, and others are baking for their children, who should be discouraged from worshipping sugar. I, for one, am not ready to totally ditch the sweet stuff. Thankfully there’s Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery + Cafés in the Boston area. In her latest book, Baking with Less Sugar, she has completely reformulated Flour favourites with much less or zero refined white sugar.
The book’s five chapters tackle 60-plus recipes using minimal or no refined sugar. You’ll find the famous Flour banana bread made with only six tablespoons of refined sugar. Using natural sugar alternatives such as honey, maple syrup, chocolate, and fruit, make for more complex flavours and bring deeper, more interesting elements to the desserts. Keith’s Super-Snappy Gingersnaps derive some of their spicy snap from the bite of molasses, and a carrot layer cake is sweetened with apple juice. An entire chapter is devoted to chocolate, most intense when not tempered by the addition of sugar.
There is some inexplicable and subconscious comfort in being around good friends. Especially ones that are full of generosity, good humour and affability. Friends who will honour your birthday with a night centered around your favourite team even when it is not theirs.
Recently, I was feted with a Boston-themed soiree by these friends of mine and treated to a meal of staggering proportions, a ‘Best of New England’ menu accessorized with Red Sox napkins, balloons, plates and cups. The crab salad was fresh, fragrant, zingy, crunchy with equal parts sweet and creamy. The chowdah was the best I’ve ever had. And I’ve had plenty. The broth was clean and allowed the palate to fully access all the flavours of the ingredients with the corn and the chives providing a boost of flavour. The risotto was decadent and flawless. Hefty chunks of perfectly cooked lobster surrounded by tender rice in the most tasty of broths accented by a side of fresh greens.