Flour by Joanne Chang

Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: All Levels

Bringing her Boston bakery, Flour, to life for kitchens across America, Joanne Chang's cookbook is written for the perpetual learner. Chang leaves nothing behind the bakery counter, giving witty insight, flavor variations, and detailed descriptions with every recipe. 



While I have never been to Boston, Chang's cookbook gave me a great sense of not only Flour's personality as a bakery but also of Chang herself. A self-described learner and Havard graduate, Chang set up a book to cater to those curious about baking, no matter the skill level. Her short banter before every recipe is that of a careful instructor, giving new insight into the importance of every good baked at Flour. With detailed lessons and introduction pages for beginners, as well as challenging recipes for seasoned home bakers, Flour deserves its spot on the shelf. 

My favorite part of getting a new cookbook is deciding on what to make first. Flour, as a book, was there to help me decide every step of the way. I always try to make something new, seeing how written the cookbook's instructions are, and I also try to make something simple to evaluate quality. For Flour, I chose my recipes based on Chang's short but often witty introductions included for every recipe.  

Recipe One: Hazelnut-Almond Dacquoise

Final Product: 5/5
Recipie: 3/5



I picked the Dacquise not only because I have never made it before, but because this dessert was chosen very early on Chang's planning for Flour. While most offerings in the bakery are American, this French dessert stood out to Chang so much, she knew she had to include it. 

The recipe itself was fairly easy to follow, but the ganache and buttercream had to be made well in advance. My one large issue with the recipe was the proportions. It seemed like the recipe made way to much meringue and not enough buttercream. However, I was able to change tactics a few times to get the cake covered. 

The final product was gorgeous and tasting amazing. I want to travel to Boston to see how mine compared!




Recipe 2: Lemon Ginger Scones

Final Product: 5/5
Recipie: 5/5



Back to the basics with Flour's scone. Citrus is in season, so I picked up this next recipe to make some breakfast. Flour's step by step instructions and casual banter highlighted this recipe, making it simple and fun! I would highly recommend for any beginning baker. Another highlight of the book that goes well with these scones is the multiple flavor options. Chang makes sure many flavor combinations are highlighted with each base recipe.



Other Notable Recipies to Try:

• Sticky Sticky Buns (as seen on Food Network)
• Homemade Pop-Tarts
• Lemon Sherbet and Prosecco Sorbet
• Chocolate Cupcakes


This new book is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and I cannot wait to give you more cookbook reviews in the future. Check out Flour's website here and the cookbook here.  I'm adding Flour to my growing list of bakeries to try next time I make it out to the East Coast.  




Grahm cracker crust, chocolate cheesecake center, and a toasted marshmallow topping come together to put a twist on this classic dessert. Here's to finishing off summer strong.



Chocolate S'mores Cheesecake

Serves 8-10
Makes one 10" cheesecake
From: bon appétit

For the Crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (made from 9 whole crackers finely ground in processor; 1 packet)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Mix crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add melted butter; stir until mixture is evenly moistened. Press onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with at least 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake until set, about 9 minutes. Remove from oven; cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.


For the Filling:
9 ounces high-quality milk chocolate chips
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs


Stir chocolate in top of double boiler set over barely simmering water until smooth. Remove from over water and cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, and salt in processor and blend until smooth. With motor running, add whipping cream through feed tube and process just until blended. With motor running, add melted chocolate, then add eggs 1 at a time, blending and scraping down sides after each addition until mixture is smooth. Pour batter over crust in pan.

Bake cake until outer edge is slightly puffed and cake is barely set in center (center will look shiny and move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 55 minutes. Transfer cake to rack. Run small sharp knife around cake to loosen. Chill uncovered until cold, 8 hours or overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

For the Topping:
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 large marshmallows, cut into quarters with wet kitchen scissors
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
[optional toppings]
fresh raspberries
fresh blueberries
graham crackers
powdered sugar
chocolate


Whisk sugar, egg whites, 3 tablespoons water, cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to blend in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens and is hot to touch, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water and stir in marshmallows (keep water simmering in saucepan). Let stand until marshmallows soften, about 3 minutes. Set bowl with mixture over simmering water; using handheld electric mixer, beat until stiff shiny peaks form, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

Scrape topping onto cheesecake. Using offset metal spatula or pastry bag with fitted tip, spread topping to edges of cake, swirling decoratively. Let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Use a blow torch to lightly brown topping in spots.  Top cake with chosen optional toppings. Chill cake until cold. Remove pan sides. Place cake on platter.



With the sheer size of the city and the amount of options available. Navigating through London's food scene can be quite the challenge. If it's dessert you are looking for, keep scrolling to find some of London's best.


Dominique Ansel

My favorite bakery in London. Stop by for lunch, free wifi, and the monthly cronut flavor! Also, the bakery has an impressive case filled with amazing "London exclusive" desserts.



What to get: cronut, eton mess lunchbox, cookie shots, and caramel peanut butter mousse cake 
Where: Victoria

 Harrods

The worlds first department store knows how to put up a bakery case. Be sure to take a few laps around the food room before you order; you won't want to miss anything. 


What to get: pastries, cupcakes, large cakes
Where: Knightsbridge

Gelateria 3BIS

While I'm keeping most of my top ice cream recommendations off this list in favor of bakeries and other desserts, I had to add my all time favorite spot. If you are looking for more amazing ice cream, I've got an entire post for it!


What to get: dark chocolate, stracciatella, custard
Where: Borough Market

Crosstown Doughnuts

I happened to wander into this fantastic coffee/doughnut shop in Shoreditch one morning and haven't been able to stop telling people about it. With sourdough donuts baked fresh daily, fantastic flavors, and a {slightly} healthier mini doughnut option, this place is one for the record books.



What to get: sea salt caramel banana, apricot & lavender (pictured), yuzu & passionfruit
Where: Shoreditch

Cutter and Squidge

The perfect little bakery to try something you've never had before. Try their specialty invention, the Biskie, a cookie/cake hybrid filled with buttercream and a variety confections. I highly recommend pairing it with their ice cream!


What to get: biskie with ice cream, huge cake slices
Where: Soho

Pastéis de Nata

Find Pasteis de Nata, Portuguese custard filled tarts, at one of London's many markets! One of my favorites can be found in Portobello Market but these little bites can be found all around the city.


Maitre Choux

One of London's bakery staples and eclair heaven. Almost too beautiful too eat, Maitre Choux is a must for any traveler or local.  


What to get: anything! my favorite was the blackberry (pictured above)
Where: South Kensington
With "dancing" buildings and bike lanes wider than roads, Amsterdam is a city you have to visit to believe. While I highly recommend spending more than one day in the canal filled capital, European vacations require some quick turnarounds. So to make the most out of your day in Amsterdam, here is our one day food guide.


Breakfast:

Bakers and Roasters

If you are looking for an amazing breakfast head on over to De Pip district for Bakers and Roasters. Owned by a Kiwi and a Brazilian, the menu is creative, new, and approachable for all diners. While the restaurant is walk-in only, your wait wont be long on a weekday and well worth it on the weekend.







On the Go Recommendation: Stach


To make the most out of your time in Amsterdam, you may want breakfast on the go. Head over to Stach by the Rijksmuseum for a wide selection of on the go products such as stroop waffles, bakery goods, chia bowls, fresh juices, and sandwiches








Lunch:

The Pantry

The Pantry offers a quiet and laid back setting within the busy city to enjoy hearty traditional Dutch dishes. 


Dinner:

Incanto


Before checking out the bustling bars and nightlife of Rembrant Square, head around the block to Incanto for an amazing Italian dinner with perfect second story views. Truly in the spirit of Amsterdam, the restaurant is located in an old home up a twisted staircase, making the dining experience both intimate and modern.




Dessert:

Van Ness Cupcakes

For the best cupcakes in Amsterdam check out Van Ness!





Extra Day?

Consider taking a short train trip to the Zandvoort Strand and having lunch on the beach. Here is a shot from our beach lunch at Tent 6.







Nutella filled chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream. Moving right to the "need" category.


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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Yields one 9-inch cake with two layers
Servers 8-10

For the Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 cup milk, buttermilk, almond, or coconut milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350º F. Cut two parchment rounds to fit 9 inch cake pans. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans, place the parchment paper in the bottom, and butter and lightly flour the parchment. 

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and instant coffee powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well. Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter until well combined.

Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the chocolate cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely. Keeping the parchment paper on the cake, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze for at least three hours up to five days.

For the Frosting:

2 cups sugar
6 egg whites, room temperature
3 cups (6 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Fill a saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium/high heat. Place a metal or glass bowl on top of the pan. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl and whisk constantly for several minutes, until the mixture is hot to the touch and sugar has completely dissolved. When you rub the mixture between your fingers it should be smooth, not grainy.

Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric stand mixer and whisk on medium speed for several minutes. Once the mixture has cooled down completely, whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form.
With the mixer running on medium speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, until all the butter has been added and mixture is thick and creamy. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla and mix in until evenly distributed.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

¾ cup dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter

Place chocolate chips and butter in a small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly once the chips begin to melt, until you have a smooth, pour-able mixture. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

For Assembly:

Cake turntable
1 9-inch cake board
Serrated knife
Nutella or other hazelnut spread
Piping bag
Star piping tip
Preferred hazelnut or chocolate truffle 

Affix the cake board to the turntable with small pieces of tape. Remove cake from freezer, unwrapping the plastic wrap. Place the cake, parchment side down on the counter and level off the top with the serrated knife, rotating the cake while slicing for the greatest accuracy. Repeat with other layer. 

Place one cake layer in the center of the turntable. Spread Nutella over the cake. Stack the second layer, trimmed side down, atop the first. Frost with chocolate frosting reserving approx. 1 cup for decoration. Pour slightly cooled chocolate ganache over the top of the cake until just reaching the edges. Smooth over the side for a two toned look, or allow ganache to drip over freely. 

Place reserved frosting in a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe small swirls atop the cake. Place desired truffle atop the swirls. 


Allow the cake two hours to return to room temperature. After two days, store any unconsumed cake in the refrigerator. (If you have any that is.)

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While the cake does have a few components, it is not a difficult recipe and is well worth the effort. I highly recommend you do not skip freezing the cake as it makes frosting and assembly a thousand times easier!

Comment below with any questions or recipe photos!