Pastry Love by Joanne Chang

Pastry Love is the fifth cookbook written by Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery and Cafe in Boston.  It was published in 2019, and there has been a lot of buzz about it online ever since.  Deservedly so.  It’s a very impressive set of recipes, made possible by collaboration with the many bakers and pastry chefs she employs.  A little corner of my heart warms every time someone’s contribution is mentioned.  Even more than that, she talks about things her employees have taught her, which is refreshingly humble and self-assured.  

Part of the story she tells is that she initially opened new locations (there are nine Flour bakeries in Boston) to create growth opportunities for her staff.  This tracks with her personality online and in print, which is all warmth and kindness.  Looking at the Flour website, she seems like a great employer—medical, dental, and vision; paid vacation and sick time; maternity and paternity leave?  It’s wonderful to see, especially in the food industry, when employers treat their staff with kindness and respect and take their role of job creation seriously. 

Now, moving on from how much of a fan I am of Joanne Chang, the cookbook.  I loved it.  This book inspired me to make things like honeycomb candy and English toffee, that I had never made before.  The pecan sandies, to die for— so light and crisp and buttery and perfect.  The brown butter cinnamon rolls were fantastic—I made a half recipe, and they were gone within an hour. I really appreciate her frequent incorporation of whole grains, even more so because the whole grain recipes I made were absolutely delicious.  The whole wheat maple-blueberry scones are genuinely wheaty—but also cakey, and so good that my husband and I ruined our appetites for dinner after we ate three of them in ‘the interest of testing.’  The multigrain English muffins were, according to my own taste buds and our 4 year old neighbor Cal: “The best English muffins ever.  The best English muffins ever.  Ever!  EVER!”    

I made: Whole wheat maple blueberry scones (p. 69), Brown butter cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting (p. 97), Vinal Bakery Multigrain English muffins (p. 143), Pecan sandies (p. 160), Lemon polenta cookies (p. 165), Jessi’s caramel popcorn cookies (p. 191), Plum (but with pear) frangipane tart (p. 230), Almond joy tart (p. 233), Almond panna cotta (p. 355), Vanilla mint marshmallows (p. 408), Christopher’s honeycomb (p. 411), Butterscotch caramels (p. 413), English toffee (p. 419).

Would make again: Whole wheat maple blueberry scones (p. 69), Brown butter cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting (p. 97), Vinal Bakery multigrain english muffins (p. 143), Pecan sandies (p. 160), Plum (but with pear) frangipane tart (p. 230), Vanilla mint marshmallows (p. 408), Christopher’s honeycomb (p. 411), Butterscotch caramels (p. 413), English toffee (p. 419).

Standout Star Recipe: Really tough to choose—there are so many that are so good.  But, after careful consideration, it’s a tie between the Vinal Bakery multigrain english muffins and the Pecan sandies.  

Equipment and Ingredients 

Easy to find and fairly cheap ingredients.  Probably better to have a stand mixer, though, or else you will need to have a good sense of how to navigate not having one.  

Are these recipes difficult?  

Most of the recipes came out perfectly the first time—a couple candy recipes needed some adjusting for me, but it was no big deal.  See below for details.  There are some recipes that are more involved (looking at you, breads and laminated doughs), but there are loads that are very simple and quick.  The payoff is big with this book—delicious finished products.  

Tips and Advice 

  • Read the ‘Tips to be a better baker’ at the beginning of the book.  Great reminders, even for experienced bakers.  Also, if you have time, go through the other introductory sections.  In the ‘Ingredients’ section, I was surprised and very happy to find a recipe for homemade crème fraîche.  Will definitely be trying it—crème fraîche is delicious, but expensive!  
  • The kosher salt that is used in these recipes is Diamond Crystal.  If you are using Morton’s kosher salt, use half as much as called for in the recipe.  Do the same if you’d like to use fine sea salt.  
  • Christopher’s honeycomb (p. 411): the recipe gives visual cues, but to be sure, check with an instant read thermometer and cook the sugar syrup to 300° F.  
  • Brown butter butterscotch caramels (p. 413): For me, taking the caramel to 252° F was too far, the caramels were inedibly hard.  245° F and they were perfectly soft.  

Is this food delicious? 

Yes, yes, yes!  Even if you already have your favorite recipe of pecan sandies or scones or what have you, I absolutely recommend trying these versions.  I was very happily surprised many times.  

Is it Family Friendly?

Goodness, yes, the whole family will love you if you get in to this book.  Unless anyone from the family is trying to lose weight, in which case it may turn into a love/hate type of deal.  There are also a bunch of recipes that children could help with.  My advice for that is to read the recipe twice, have all the equipment out and ingredients measured and in bowls and then invite the kids in the kitchen.  At least, if your children are little bouncy balls of pure destructive (creative?) energy, as are mine.  

Tone of the Book 

This book is all about sharing!  There are vegan recipes, gluten free recipes, whole grain recipes—basically, something for everyone in your life for whom you would like to make a delicious treat.  The recipe notes are mostly about what makes the final product so delicious, and/or the story how the recipe came to be in the book and on the menu at Flour.  

Design 

The design is beautiful, and there are photos accompanying every single recipe.  Practically, though, my biggest gripe with this book is that the text is too light!  It took me a while to realize what was making it hard to find my place in a recipe, but that’s it.  It’s a little hard to read.  On top of that, a lot of the recipes are on two pages, so it’s necessary to keep flipping back and forth, which, grrrr.  It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but it is something you have to deal with as the reader/baker.  

Is there practical advice for home cooks?

Yes.  Imperial and metric weights are given, and there is plenty of advice for making food ahead and storage.  

Healthiness of recipes/ adaptability to dietary needs

This is a baking book, and does not really fit in to a low calorie diet, but there are quite a bit of whole grain recipes and some nods to special diets.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a vegan, because most of the recipes do contain milk products and/or eggs, but you can definitely find delicious things to make for the vegans in your life.  

Who wants this book?  Is it a good gift?  

This is a great book for anyone who wants to get in to baking.  There is so much here.  There’s something for every experience level from beginners to old hands.  

TLDR: Pastry Love by Joanne Chang is a fabulous baking book.  Warm, lovely feeling to it, and absolutely delicious baked goods will result.  Pick it up for yourself or gift it, you won’t be sorry.   

Vinal Bakery Multigrain english muffins (p. 143)
Pecan Sandies (p. 160)
Whole wheat maple-blueberry scones (p. 69)
Brown butter butterscotch caramels (p. 413), covered in chocolate

Brown butter cinnamon rolls (p. 97)
Plum-frangipane tart (p. 230), with pears
Salted almond english toffee (p. 419)

Vanilla-mint marshmallows (p. 408)

Find Pastry Love, published in the U.S. by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, wherever you buy books, or order it from Amazon!  If you love this book, and want more from Joanne Chang, check out: 

Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets and Savories

Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar

Myers + Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery

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