On Saturday, the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) hosted another one of its annual Celebrity Chef Series at the Fairmont Copley Hotel in Boston’s Copley Square. As I immensely enjoyed two parts of the series last winter, Chef Laurent Poulain from the Fairmont Copley and Chefs Thomas Frost and Christopher Chafe from Bermuda Fairmont Hotels, I was excited to attend the series once again. And since the celebrity chef was one of Boston’s very favorite chefs, Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang, I felt incredibly lucky to be able to purchase a ticket before they sold out.
When I arrived, the chef was in the demo kitchen getting set up, and I had a few minutes to read the menu and wine pairings for the afternoon. All of the recipes that were included in the event are in Joanne Chang’s new cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café. The wine pairings were provided by United Liquors.
Then we got right into the demo, the first “course” being Flour Bakery’s famous sticky buns, the very same ones that beat Bobby Flay in his Throwdown. At times it was difficult to hear over the whir of the Kitchenaid mixer, but it was interesting to hear from Joanne Chang herself about the process of making this gooey treat. She shared some baking tips, such as the importance of salt in bringing out the “real” flavor of desserts. As she neared the end of the demo, servers with white gloves passed each participant half of a sticky bun and poured us our first wine, Chambers Muscat.
I should preface the rest of the post by saying that my sweet tooth is really tiny. My palate really can’t handle a lot of sweet, and when I signed up for the event, I had it in my mind that there would be a course or two from Joanne Chang’s other restaurant, Myers + Chang, not thinking that this would be an event to showcase the bakery cookbook. It was a complete lack of research and/or reading on my part.
Flour’s sticky buns are beloved by many people, and I can see why. They have a delightful caramel flavor, and while I do enjoy the sticky buns, I can only eat two or three bites before being overwhelmed with sweetness. I can’t imagine eating this for breakfast! It would literally send me into a sugar crash.
Unfortunately, the wine pairing for the sticky buns was even sweeter. The Chambers Muscat, a wine that received 95 points from Robert Parker, had a deep pinkish-amber hue, and it was sweet. It was so syrupy that it completely coated the sides of my glass, and two sips made my teeth hurt. I think the wine ruined the course for me; had it been paired with a nice, Champagne or sparkling wine with a yeasty, biscuit flavor instead, I think there would have been a nice balance with the caramel and sugar of the sticky bun. This combination was incredibly cloying, at least for me.
The second course of the day was a Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata, a dish that should have definitely been served first due to its delicate flavors and much lighter texture. As Joanne Chang worked on the crust for the crostata, she shared with us her secrets to making a flaky pie crust. Just as she did on the Today show recently, she showed us to push the pie crust dough out like going down a mountain.
As she spoke, the next wine was poured. I won’t lie; when I saw a Champagne flute at my place setting, I was quite happy.
This course was the antithesis of the first. The wine, Langois-Chateau Brut Cremant Rose, made with Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, was perfection. It was not at all sweet, with a yeasty nose and flavors of fresh strawberries and some minerals and nice tiny bubbles.
It went perfectly with the crostata which was light and flavorful, made with roasted pears that had been seasoned with spicy ginger and tart cranberries. This is my kind of dessert, and it would have been perfect to start the afternoon with a more subtle dessert and wine and to perhaps save the sticky bun and Muscat for the dessert after the dessert.
By the time the third course rolled around, I was really hungry, but not for dessert. The room was also really hot and I wasn’t feeling the best, so I decided to head out. I did miss Chocolate Cupcakes with Magic Frosting, paired with Chapoutier Banyuls from the Rhone region of France. Luckily, I have the recipe for the cupcakes, and I will definitely make them myself very soon.
Joanne Chang was a huge hit with everyone in the room. She encouraged all of us to ask questions and to be interactive during the demo. If you have been to either Flour or Myers + Chang, you know yourself how amazing the food is. There is good reason she has become so successful.
While I would have liked to have seen a savory course thrown in for good balance, I still really enjoyed the portion of the event I attended. For $60, the BCAE really puts on quite a spread with an informative demonstration and a wine or spirit pairing. It is the perfect way to spend a winter afternoon.
Have you gotten the Four cookbook yet? Would an afternoon with three desserts be something you would like?
Tags: baking demo, BCAE, Boston, Boston Center for Adult Education, Cabernet Franc, cooking demo, crostata, dessert, dessert and wine pairing, Fairmont Copley, Flour Bakery, Food, Joanne Chang, Loire Valley, Muscat, sticky buns, wine