Can you hear the angels singing? The day has finally come where eating cookies for breakfast is not only acceptable, but wholly encouraged. Today, we introduce you to the Breakfast Cookie. Yes, that’s its name. Born in Boston to the wildly popular Flour Bakery (of sticky bun fame), the seedy, wholesome cookie filled with dried fruits and warming spices is the latest genius creation to emerge from pastry chef Joanne Chang’s masterful mind.
We spoke to her recently about Flour’s latest foray into whole-grain baking, the inspiration behind the Breakfast Cookie, and what wellness means to this busy-busy pastry chef and businesswoman.
HANA ASBRINK: First of all, thank you for giving us a legitimate excuse to start our day off with a cookie. What is this beautiful creation?
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JOANNE CHANG: I know that people often don’t have time for breakfast, so I wanted to create something easy to eat on the run and full of whole grains and nuts and seeds, because that’s what I personally love to eat. I saw a picture in Bon Appétit of a breakfast cookie and wondered if we could come up with something similar. We tested this for weeks, adding a bit of this and that and continuing to improve it so that it was not too sweet but still a little sweet, crunchy, filling, and full of flavor. I love this cookie—it’s everything I hoped it would be.
HA: What do you normally have for breakfast?
JC: I have the same thing for breakfast every morning! I eat a multigrain roll from Flour with English breakfast tea. (I have the breakfast cookie as a pick-me-up snack usually later in the day.)
HA: Tell us about the WholeFlour initiative and how it came about.
JC: It started as just a small menu change: We were going to add a whole-grain breakfast cookie and muesli to our menu and then update our double chocolate cookie with rye flour. January is always a slow month for pastry (those darn resolutions!), so we were also brainstorming some healthy options to entice guests to keep coming to Flour.
I started to do some in-depth research on whole grains (since we were adding them to a few items already) and learned a lot about how the simple addition of whole grains to your diet has huge health benefits. This would not have worked had the new whole-grain options not been amazing, but once we started down the path of making things with whole grains, we found them to be more flavorful and interesting and delicious. So we decided to create a sub-menu of items that feature whole grains. I would like to definitely continue after this year. Our goal is to get about half of our products made with whole grains, and this year we are on track to hopefully get to about one-third.
HA: What trends are you seeing in bakery offerings?
JC: I’ve seen a lot of trends towards more fun bakery offerings: mashing up two pastries (starting with the Cronut, for example) and adding a lot of whimsy to the pastry counter. I’ve also seen a huge increase in guests requesting pastries that are made with allergies and special diets in mind, whether gluten-free, low/no-sugar, vegan, or whole grain. People are much more aware of what they are putting into their bodies, and they appreciate when foods are made with more wholesome ingredients.
HA: I’m curious to know what you, a busy entrepreneur and pastry chef, do to stay balanced when you handle the general craziness of multiple restaurant operations. What does wellness look like to you?
JC: We have a truly incredible team that works tirelessly to ensure that the bakeries and restaurant are running well and our guests and team are happy. I spend a lot of time working closely with the managers, listening to them, sharing my perspective and goals, entrusting them with our vision. They are how I’m able to “do it all”!
I try to stay very organized, and I have a schedule that I follow each day that keeps me focused. Wellness for me is getting enough sleep, exercising every day (go for a walk, do yoga, take a class, lift weights), trying to eat well when I’m not gorging on pastries, drinking lots of water, and spending time with my husband, Christopher Myers. I prioritize all of these things; they are necessary for me to be productive and effective at work. One thing that helps keep me centered is biking from location to location in the nice weather. The time on the bike is relaxing, and I can’t do anything but bike, so I get to clear my head a bit.
Yes, I feel like my life is totally crazy, but I have so many people around me who are completely dedicated to Flour and Myers+Chang. I try to give them as much control and responsibility as possible, for my own sanity but also for their growth and job satisfaction.
HA: With all those incredible sweets in your life, I'm curious what your favorite savory food is? I know you always speak highly of your mother’s Taiwanese home cooking.
JC: I could eat pizza every day for the rest of my life. I love sushi as well. But my mom’s Taiwanese cooking is what I crave; it’s a reason we opened Myers+Chang—so that I could eat this food all the time. And we pretty much do!
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