In January, all seven Flour Bakery + Cafe locations began the WHOLEflour line.
Their effort to embrace whole grains in a big way started as a small menu change. Joanne Chang, winner of the 2016 James Beard award for Outstanding Baker and co-owner of Flour Bakery + Cafe, a seven-store retail operation in Boston, sought to add a whole grain breakfast cookie and a muesli to the menu, as well as update their 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,” Chang says in an exclusive interview with Bake. “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.”
The end result is an innovative new project called WHOLEflour, ushering in a major commitment to whole grains by one of the most influential retail bakeries in the country. The recent introduction of the WHOLEflour line of cookies, brownies, scones, croissants and more began in January across all seven Flour Bakery locations.  
“Today's consumer is knowledgeable and curious and opinionated about what they eat and put in their bodies,” Chang says. “Offering products with whole grains is hugely important. In the same way we've added vegan and gluten-free options to our menu, now we have whole grain items and our guests appreciate these and benefit from them.”
It’s been 18 years since Chang opened her first Flour in Boston’s South End, featuring breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies and tarts, as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. Over the past decade, she’s successfully opened bakery branches in almost every part of the metro area from Cambridge near MIT to Harvard Square and Back Bay.
Chang is part of a new breed of retail bakery owners who came up through the restaurant industry. An honors graduate of Harvard College with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics, Chang left a career as a management consultant to enter the world of professional cooking, starting as garde-manger cook at Boston’s renowned Biba restaurant. In 1995, she became pastry chef at Rialto restaurant in Cambridge and then moved to New York City in 1997 to work in the cake department of the critically acclaimed Payard Patisserie and Bistro. Returning to Boston a year later with dreams of opening her own pastry shop, she brought her French and American training to Mistral where she served as pastry chef until the summer of 2000.

Products such as a vegan carrot ginger muffin will be a part of the WHOLEflour line.

Today, at Flour, she remains as committed as ever to bringing the most flavorful products to her customers in new and interesting ways. Adding more whole grains to sweet goods and pastries presented her team with a unique challenge. 

“We had some great grain flours in house already,” Chang says. “We've tried simple 100% substitution of a whole grain flour for all purpose, which works for some items like our brownie and the double chocolate cookie. And we're playing around with 50% whole grains for items like our croissant and brioche.”
Every item is tested and compared to the original (for those items already on the Flour menu) in both blind and non-blind taste tests. They start with a small batch and “if we like it, we slowly scale up to ensure it works in large batch production,” she explains.
“In 2018 we are looking forward to start working with Maine Grains for more interesting flours and exploring more ancient grains,” Chang says. “We are also trying to source more seeds and fruits we don’t currently use — ingredients that have a lot of color or that you may not buy for yourself at home.”
So far, the list of WHOLEflour products includes the following:
Double chocolate cookie made with 100% rye flour
Vegan carrot ginger muffin made with 100% khorasan flour
Apple snacking spice cake made with 100% khorasan flour
Breakfast cookie made with whole wheat flour, pepitas, sunflower seeds, millet, flax seeds, coconut flakes, oats, bananas and maple syrup
Brownie made with 100% spelt flour
Whole wheat apple scone and currant oat spelt scone made with over 50% whole grain flour
Updated trail mix to “commuter mix,” which includes pepitas, mulberries, goji berries, cashews, almonds and coconut flakes
Power bar made with cashews, chia, cherries, maple, almonds and cacao nibs
“Later this month we're excited to release our whole grain croissant, almond croissant and whole grain sausage and cheese croissant,” Chang said in mid-January.