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Christmas Baking: Homemade Oreos and Homemade Fig Newtons’ from Joanne Chang

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The incomparable Joanne Chang

Christmas Baking is as much a part of the holiday as decorating the tree or singing songs of Christmas.  And if you have children, it’s great fun to get them into the kitchen and bake a few cookies.  This year, the press has been full of stories of the demise of the Twinkie and the loss of Ho Hos.  To be honest, I was never a fan of either of these brands.  But if you told me Oreo or Fig Newtons were going out of business, I’d be incensed.  However, all of us who love pulling apart an Oreo to get at the frosting or biting into the gooey center of a Fig Newton would have a backup:  A brilliant baker named Joanne Chang has mastered these treats and shared her recipes for them in “Flour”, the baking cookbook named after her Boston bakeries. And another brilliant baker, namely Andrew, has baked them for us and shared his tips for making perfect home-made Oreos and Fig Newtons.  

        I don’t think anyone ever came back from China raving about the desserts they’ve eaten there.  But I do know that a Chinese-American baker who is hugely admired—not just in her hometown where she’s opened three bakeries in ten years—but all over the country since she published her first cookbook  “Flour. Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe” (Chronicle Books 2010).  Joanne Chang and the story of how she came to baking is one of those “only in America” stories that make us love the melting pot –even when it isn’t full of chocolate
      Joanne grew up without desserts.  Except for an occasional plate of orange sections, the Chang household didn’t satisfy any sweet teeth.  Instead, Joanne was introduced to America’s obsession through visits to friends’ houses where she met up with Chips Ahoy, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Jello Pudding and Duncan Hines cake mixes.  And of course, Oreo Cookies.
        Before Joanne started baking, she went to Harvard and graduated with honors in Applied Mathematics and Economics.  I can’t imagine what her parents thought when she quit her job as a Management Consultant to go off and cook professionally.  But she did. And the result is her burgeoning baking empire in Boston where you will now find three Flour Bakeries and Cafes.*  And then of course,  there’s the Chinese restaurant she opened with her husband, Christopher Myers, in 2007.  Called Myers+Chang, it’s in Boston’s South End (1145 Washington Street Boston, MA 02118 Tel: (617) 542-5200).
        Now it did occur to me to ask why on earth Joanne (and Andrew for that matter) decided to bake Homemade Oreos.  Andrew answered that he was sure they’d be better than the originals –richer, more chocolately, more vanilla in the filling, and way better than Nabisco. The only thing Andrew might change about Ms. Chang’s recipe is to double the filling.  This recipe isn’t doubled but it’s easy enough to do.  And here it is.

*Flour Cafe and Bakery locations are as follows:

Fort Point Channel 12 Farnsworth St., Boston MA 02210
617.338.4333 Mon-Fri 7a-7p; Sat 8a-6p; Sun 9a-4p

South End 1595 Washington St., Boston MA 02118
617.267.4300 Mon-Fri 7a-9p; Sat 8a-6p; Sun 8a-5p

Central Square 190 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02139
617.225.2525 Mon-Fri 7a-8p; Sat 8a-6p; Sun 9a-5p

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