At long last, Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston, Ma. has written her long awaited book Flour featuring recipes from her bakery and café. I met Joanne many years ago when I was in Boston touring for one of my books. I fell in love with her bakery and was enchanted by her as well! In fact, on my next book tour, I chose Flour Bakery as the location in which to do a radio broadcast. The station had requested a bakery so that they could have bakery-like sounds in the background! Joanne and I come from a suprisingly similar dessert background. She grew up in a traditional Chinese household and, as she writes: "rarely had the chance to indulge my sweet tooth." I grew up in a traditional Jewish household but with a nontraditional mother who had been the only woman in her entire dental school. I also rarely had the chance to indulge my sweet tooth. Joanne and I also share a passion, not just for baking, but also for analytical thinking and precision. (Unlike Joanne, however, I do not have the advantage of a degree in applied mathematics and it does not come naturally to me so I have to struggle and work hard to get all those numbers I include in my books to be accurate!) I was struck immediately by the physcial appearance of the book. It is an upscale four color production, with stiched binding (so it will not come apart!) but instead of a paper dust jacket, it has a far more durable laminated hard cover, aka case, with beautiful colored photos printed directly on it. I suspect this will be the future of cookbook publishing as it will stand up better to frequent use, for which this book is surely destined. Joanne's writing style is very appealing. It is both succinct, informative, and entertaining. She has her own confident voice which reflects her knowledge, expertise, and enjoyment of her baking profession. And how has she dealt with the tricky volume/weight issue? As a professional baker there was no way she was going to eliminate weight, but when writing for the general public, not all of whom have as yet gotten on the much beloved by me scale bandwagon, she had to include volume. So volume comes first and in parenthesis comes the weight but only in grams. Now that scales so easily switch between ounces and grams there really is no need for both and we professional bakers all prefer grams. I'm really tempted to do the same in my next book except that when purchasing certain items such as butter, it's somehow easier to go by ounces and my readers have, by now, become accustomed to the charts that so readily accomodate all three systems. The book has many enticing full page color photos such as the exquisite Black Sesame Lace Cookies which I know I will try in the near future. Also dear to my heart are the well-thought out and beautifully organized sections on technique, equipment, ingredients, and tips. Now on to the recipes! There are many I plan to try, including one acknowledged to be adapted from my Sourcream Coffee Cake (I'm dying to see how adding crème fraîche instead of sourcream enhances the cake) but the first one that called my name was the French Lemon Poppy Pound Cake. The Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake in the Cake Bible was my signature cake so I was most curious to see what François Payard's take on it would be like. Joanne worked in his bakery and credits him with this recipe and all important technique but admits to having tweaked the ingredients. She generously has allowed me to print the recipe here:
French Lemon-Poppy Pound Cake Makes one 9-inch loaf Pound cakes are traditionally made with a pound of butter, a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, and a pound of eggs, hence the name. When properly made, the result is a dense, velvety cake with a tight crumb. But the key is knowing how to make it properly. I can't tell you the number of times I've attempted a classic pound cake recipe only to pull a tough, unimpressive loaf out of the oven. When I worked at Payard, I learned a new approach to making pound cakes that borrows a page from the genoise playbook. First, you whip eggs and sugar together until they are as light as a feather. Then, you gently fold in the flour and leavening agents. And finally, you whisk together melted butter and heavy cream and combine them, quickly and gently, with the batter. You end up with a cake with the warm, rich, buttery flavor and incredible texture you want. This is my favorite way to enjoy pound cake: laced with copious amounts of fresh lemon zest and nutty poppy seeds. 2 cups (240 grams) cake flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (1 3/8 sticks/156 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to slightly warm 1/4 cup (60 grams) heavy cream, at room temperature 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons) 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon) 3 tablespoons poppy seeds/28 grams 4 eggs/200 grams 11/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
Lemon Glaze 1/2 cup (70 grams) confectioners' sugar 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/2 to 1 lemon) Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, or line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and poppy seeds. The mixture should have the consistency of a thick liquid. If the butter hardens into little lumps, heat the mixture gently until the butter melts again. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and granulated sugar on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy and lemon colored. (If you use a handheld mixer, this same step will take 8 to 10 minutes.) Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture just until combined. Fold about one-fourth of the egg-flour mixture into the butter-cream mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg-flour mixture just until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and springs back when you press it in the middle. (Note from Rose: In my oven I needed to tent it loosely with foil after the first 45 minutes of baking.) Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. To make the lemon glaze: While the cake is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and enough lemon juice to make an easily spreadable, smooth glaze. When the cake has cooled for at least 30 minutes, pop it out of the pan and place it on the rack. Spread or spoon the glaze over the top of the still-warm cake, letting the glaze dribble down the sides. The cake can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for to 3 days.
Same Recipe, Different Flavor Vanilla Bean Pound Cake: To make a fragrant vanilla pound cake, omit the lemon zest and juice and poppy seeds from the cake batter and leave off the lemon glaze. Split 1/2 vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the seeds from the pod into the butter-cream mixture. Whisk well to distribute the seeds evenly. Proceed as directed, then lightly dust the cake with confectioners' sugar just before serving.