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Flour power

Chef Joanne Chang '91 explains the science of sweets to a packed house (Harvard Gazette)

By Sarah Sweeney, Harvard Gazette

Joanne Chang '91 was an applied math concentrator at Harvard. Now the chef behind Flour, a chain of bakeries in Boston and Cambridge, she returned to campus to give a lecture on Science & Cooking. (Photo by Jon Chase, Harvard Staff Photographer.)

Joanne Chang

Before a packed house, Joanne Chang '91 demonstrated a simple baking technique with caramelized sugar. (Photo by Jon Chase, Harvard Staff Photographer.)


When Joanne Chang ’91 was approached by a cable TV network in 2006 to host a show about the science of sweets, she was thrilled. The owner of the landmark Flour Bakery and graduate of Harvard College, where she was an applied mathematics concentrator, Chang always enjoys discussing her pastries, but she loves talking about them at the molecular level best.

So she was disappointed when out jumped celebrity chef Bobby Flay, challenging her to a cook-off of her famous sticky buns for his show “Throwdown.” There would be no science TV show. It had all been a ruse.

But Chang got her moment in the sun Monday evening at the Science Center where, to a packed house, she delved into the basis of sweets as part of the Science and Cooking lecture series sponsored by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Reassuring the crowd that there was cake waiting to be had after the lecture, Chang whet the audience’s appetites with pictures of her breads, cakes, pies, and creampuffs.

“You start with a certain number of ingredients. But based on portion, temperature, time, you end up with fantastically different products,” she said.

Most recipes use the same ingredients, she said, meaning butter, sugar, and eggs — and of course flour, the night’s star ingredient. Chang explained the differences between all-purpose, pastry, and cake flours, which vary in their levels of gluten...

Read the entire article in the Harvard Gazette

Topics: Cooking, Applied Physics