Breakfast

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

This spring has been flying by. Every time I think “Those flowers won’t bloom for another few weeks,” it feels like they open up the next day. Baby plants are coming up in our garden already. Can you believe that? The spring rains are dousing Portland, but with that comes the lush greens and bright pastels, the mildly warmer weather, and of course, the rhubarb. I started another ceramics class last Friday, and when our instructor made us share an interesting fact about ourselves, mine was just rhubarb. Simple as that. I am certainly the class weirdo. But the time of year has arrived when I always have some in my fridge.

My sisters, who both have important people in their lives avoiding gluten (as do I), requested that I create a gluten-free version of this poppy seed rhubarb bread (which I really hope to re-photograph soon). I’ve done very little gluten-free (GF) baking in my life, partially because I strongly dislike the anti-gluten movement – the people who avoid it because it’s the trendy thing to avoid – when gluten and the grains that contain it actually provide lots of good, healthy nutrients. But, as I have known more and more people diagnosed with Celiac Disease, it seems like it is time to wade into the world of GF baking. Another thing I have found so sad about GF baking is that often the pastries I have seen are simply depressing – soggy, structurally unsound, chalky messes. This all changed, however, when I visited my sister in New York last fall. She had been singing the praises of Alice Medrich’s book Flavor Flours, and when I stayed with her we baked two recipes from it: some linzer cookies and I think some gingerbread. They were delicious. Perhaps my favorite thing about them was that, rather than hiding the lack of traditional AP flour, these recipes embraced the flours they used instead, making the flavors of buckwheat or teff or rice flour an integral part. Instead of being the random flavor of the flour you needed to use for the right texture and structure, the flavors played a role in the ingredients and flavor combinations. It makes perfect sense that the book was called Flavor Flours.

I had been thinking of getting a copy of this book for quite some time, and then I realized that not only would it be fun to cook from, but it would be a good tool for me to learn about GF baking and to create my own recipes that are edible for that many more people. So hopefully this is the first of many. If there’s a recipe here you’d like to see a GF version of, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. In the mean time, enjoy this GF version of what has become a favorite spring recipe.

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Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables

Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

As I recover from my lack of cooking, I am easing back in with my favorites, my go-to’s, and things I realize I should have shared with you.

I think it was around Thanksgiving that I first had some variation of this bowl. It’s a simple equation, really, and one you’ll find all over the internet. Cook a grain (or combination of grains), top with vegetables and/or proteins, and season with sauces. What I like best about them is that with minimal effort, you can feed yourself anywhere from four to six meals with only about two hours of effort. They have become a go-to in our house: I add a soft boiled egg at breakfast or crispy baked tofu at dinner. I add greens to make it more of a salad, or whatever roasted vegetables I might have lurking in the depths of my fridge that need to be finished up, or some smoked salmon from the farmers market. The point is, this is endlessly riff-able and endlessly people-pleasing.

Here are a few other recipes I use for topping my grains and sauces:

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Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread

Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

It has been a time of changes around here lately. Just as the fall weather peeked its head in Portland, Jonah and I were off to Chicago, where summer raged. There we got married: in his parents’ backyard, under the chuppa, crying and laughing and dancing. It was everything that a wedding is supposed to be. The days before and after were packed with events, with tooling around the city seeing friends and gathering with family. The sense of joy and celebration, the high from all the love, felt like it would last forever.

And then, two days after the wedding, it came to a halt: we got a call that Jonah’s grandmother had passed away. At the wedding she had looked so beautiful and strong. She sat chatting with the other grandmothers and blowing bubbles. She stuck to her values, walking right past the dance floor and saying to my now sister-in-law, “Did you see that? I’m a good Mennonite.” The morning after the wedding, we sat with her and unwrapped a beautiful quilt that she had been saving for us, called “Around the World.” We hugged and kissed her goodbye and said we’d see her at Christmas. You see, Jonah’s grandparents lived in a small town in Minnesota and, despite over seven years together and many Christmases with his family, I had never been. Jonah wanted me to see it, to see the town covered in snow, to take part in the holiday traditions his family holds so dear. I told him that this would be the year to go, since I didn’t know how much longer Grandma would be with us.

We balanced the rest of our time in Chicago – friends distracted us, even continued the celebration while being sensitive to the loss. We made plans with Jonah’s family – when was the service? Should we go straight from Chicago? We decided, in the end, to fly home on our previously scheduled flight, and then flew out to Minnesota a couple of days later. I didn’t know what to do, how to help. In situations like this, when I feel helpless, I turn to the kitchen, to something I can have some control over. I went back to my traditions: when we celebrate, we eat; when we mourn, we eat. The slight nip in the air in those two days at home settled in my belly, and while I picked the last hauls of sungold tomatoes from our garden, I started to crave soups, roasted chicken, and squash in all forms. So I decided to bake this pumpkin bread. It is a bread of changes too: pale gold butter becomes a caramel, nutty, liquid. A soft, sparkly batter turns into a moist, dense loaf with a perfect crunch on top. It may not have been much, but it was what I could offer. Grandma, I promise to keep my new family well-fed.

When we heard the news, I emailed our wedding photographer to see if she could send any photos of Grandma from the wedding. She sent a handful of beautiful pictures, but this for some reason stands out to me. That’s her on the right, talking to Jonah’s other grandmother, as they watch the dancing.
Photo credit: Anna Zajac.

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Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines | Serious Crust

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines | Serious CrustBrown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines | Serious Crust

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a batch of baked goods disappear so quickly. I just wanted to warn you right off the bat. Whether you’re making these buckwheat madeleines for you and your honey at home or to take to a fête, you should know either way that they won’t be around for long. I think it’s because they dance on the edge of sweetness and toe the line between a soft, cakey middle and crunchy browned edges. The outside is a tiny bit sticky from a spoonful of honey, and so when you finish eating one you have to lick your fingers, which only reminds you of the comforting flavors swirling around your tastebuds.

I spotted the recipe for these madeleines in my dad’s copy of My Paris Kitchen, which, yes I’ve been pining over and no I don’t have yet (but I may have just ordered). David Lebovitz has long had a home in my kitchen. I believe his lemon curd was the first one I ever made, and I’ve churned plenty of his ice cream recipes. When my dad got his cookbook, he almost immediately sent me the recipe for the leeks with mustard-bacon vinaigrette, which are delicious and you should definitely make them. I think I love his writing so much because I used to dream of packing up my life and moving to Paris, where I would use my 6 years of French lessons to make French friends and shop at French markets and cook French meals and it would all be so perfectly French.

But sometimes that isn’t quite how real life goes. You do sensible things like go to college and have roommates and get a job (or a few) instead of living the dream life in Paris. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have French inspired food and toss little French phrases around with other French speakers. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t brown butter in your kitchen so the house smells like nutty, toasty heaven, whisk that brown butter in with buckwheat flour and honey, and fill the molds of a madeleine pan with the batter. And it doesn’t mean you can’t break one of the madeleines in two while it’s still warm, the inside springy and spongey and the edges perfectly crispy. And it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t eat three (or four…) in the span of 10 minutes.

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites, equaling about 1/2 cup (hint: keep the remaining yolks to make a citrus curd later)
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional – I didn’t use these)

Instructions

In a pan over medium heat, cook the butter until it’s the color of a perfectly cooked marshmallow or toast. The butter will foam and spit, don’t be afraid. When it’s brown, pour into a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg whites and honey and whisk until combined. Add about a third of the brown butter, and mix until combined, then slowly add the rest of the butter while mixing. If you’re using the cocoa nibs, add them now and mix until they’re evenly distributed.

Brush your madeleine pan with butter, and fill the molds about 3/4 of the way full with batter – about one tablespoon. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the madeleines spring back lightly when you touch them in the middle. Thanks to the buckwheat flour, you can’t really rely on color here too much, but you’ll kind of be able to tell when the edges are looking a little on the golden side. Allow to cool in the pan for about a minute before popping them out onto a cooling rack. I recommend eating them warm (or at least the same day) with a cup of coffee or tea.

Gingerbread Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler Gingerbread Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Ah, the holiday season. The time of year when we are surrounded by twinkling lights, ugly sweaters, and sweets. Oh the sweets! I love and hate it at the same time. Rather than a big Christmas dinner, my family opted for the age old Jewish tradition of Chinese food and movies. Don’t be fooled though, we did do a few Christmas-y things. My mom, sisters and I would usually spend an entire day in the kitchen making Christmas cookies for the mailman and the neighbors, but we didn’t make any really for ourselves (ok, that’s kind of a lie, we definitely ate a few during the packaging process).

The one thing that really sticks out in my mind as something we made during the holiday season was gingerbread. And I’m not talking about the houses made of stale candy, or the too-crunchy cookies. I’m talking about the almost-savory snacking gingerbread cake: gingery, perfectly spiced, moist, and a little bit sticky. In a season full of too-sweet cookies and candy, this cake is perfectly the opposite kind of treat. My mom used to make it, and I always remember her in her pajamas, eating it late at night between the dessert and midnight snack hours, usually dolloped with cream cheese and accompanied by a mug of tea. I love this cake because it takes me back to those nights when it was cold outside, but it was so warm in our kitchen, and full of the smells of holiday baking. When I told Jonah I wanted to make some of my own (which I had never done before), he said he’d never had this kind of gingerbread. I think this recipe convinced him.

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks (plus some more for greasing the pan)
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups AP flour (plus some for dusting the pan)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (ground will work, but fresh is better)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Optional: powdered sugar, whipped cream, or cream cheese for serving

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the parchment and sides of the pan.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add baking soda (it will foam! don’t be scared!). Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in the butter until melted. Next add the brown sugar, molasses, and ginger and mix until combined. Set aside until no warmer and lukewarm.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the eggs and then the molasses mixture, mixing until the ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared 9×13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick (or skewer or knife or whatever you’re using) inserted comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack and, once cooled, cut around the edges and invert the cake onto the rack, and then onto a serving plate, where you can cut into whatever shapes you’d like and enjoy it alongside some tea or coffee.

Citrus Cardamom Pound Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Citrus Cardamom Pound Cake

Citrus Cardamom Pound Cake | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerCitrus Cardamom Pound Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I have been wanting to make this recipe for a few weeks now. You see, it was a few weeks ago that New Seasons, my local (and great) grocery store had a citrus tasting over the weekend, and they lined up all these samples of all this crazy citrus, some of which I’d never seen before, and let you eat all of it, and encouraged you to take pictures so you could remember what you liked. Anyway, they had yuzu, which I had been itching to use, and these wonderful bergamot oranges, and sweet oro blanco grapefruits. I loved it.

Fast forward a week to when I think of this recipe and run to the store, and they’re out of yuzu, which is what I had initially wanted to use instead of meyer lemon. A few days later, they had run out of bergamot oranges, which was my plan B. So after a few days of disappointment, I realized – you know that whole lemon saying? Well, life gives you lemons and life taketh those lemons away. Point is, you can use whatever citrus you can access. The meyer lemons are bright and sweet. The yuzu would’ve been earthy and mellow. The bergamot oranges would’ve been herbaceous and mild. No matter. All would work equally well, I’m sure.

When I finally did get around to making this bread, I made it as a dessert to take to the coast for a girls’ weekend. We ate it for dessert with some port. But it tasted just as good, if not better, the next morning with a cup of tea, as we watched the rain stream down sideways outside. It’s a cake that will remind you that there is sunshine and brightness, even if it’s on your tongue instead of out the window.

Citrus Cardamom Pound Cake

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup greek yogurt (normal yogurt will work fine)
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs at room tempterature
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbl Meyer lemon zest (from ~1 large meyer lemon)
2 Tbl Meyer lemon juice (from ~1 large meyer lemon), divided
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

Butter and flour a bread pan, and preheat your oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt into a bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together milk and yogurt, and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high until it’s light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. Then add vanilla, lemon zest, and 1 Tbl lemon juice. Mix to combine.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and top with the sliced almonds. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until it passes the clean toothpick/knife test.

While the cake is in the oven, make the glaze: whisk powdered sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. When the cake is done baking, let it cool in the pan for 10 min. Gently remove from pan and put on a cooling rack over a pan or some parchment paper. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, and allow to cool the rest of the way. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of milk.

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger // Serious Crust

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger // Serious CrustBanana Bread with Miso and Ginger // Serious Crust

I heard people were getting worried. In the week before I posted the recap of Feast last week, at least two people said to me, “I was looking at your blog, and noticed you haven’t posted in a month! Is everything ok?” Which at least means they hopefully like coming over to this little corner of the internet. Mostly though, it has just been a wildly busy month. But hopefully things are calming down a little bit, and as we settle into fall, I can get back to more cooking and writing.

A few weeks ago we cleaned out our freezer to make room for a giant tub of Salt & Straw ice cream, and discovered that we had so many frozen bananas. You know, every time a banana or two gets overripe, you throw it in the freezer, thinking “Oh, I’ll use it soon.” But you always forget. Anyway, I saw this pile of bananas and thought to myself, ok, the time has come. But of course I didn’t want to make just a traditional banana bread. So I took a standard banana bread recipe from Food52 and added a couple things: miso and crystallized ginger.

If you’ve never baked with crystallized ginger before, I highly recommend it. My family likes to put it in apple pie at Thanksgiving. It lends a nice bit of spiciness, and makes you feel a little bit healthy about whatever baked good you’re eating. What is it about ginger that makes everything it’s in seem healthy? How misleading. In this bread, you’ll find little zings of it as you munch on this moist quick bread, a perfect combination of sweet and savory (thanks to the miso).

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 large or 4 small ripe bananas
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbl butter, melted and cooled
4 tsp white miso (optional)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan (5×9 inches).

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add the egg and sugar, stir to combine, then add the butter and miso. Mix until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. In two additions, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to overmix. Gently fold in the crystallized ginger. Pour into loaf pan.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick (or wooden skewer, which is what I had on hand) inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool for ~5 minutes in the pan, then remove onto a cooling rack. This bread is best served warm and fresh. If you’ve got some leftover, store in the fridge for best second-day results.

Easy Energy Bites // Serious Crust

Easy Energy Bites

Easy Energy Bites // Serious Crust

So these energy bite things have been popping up in my life for a while now. I’ve seen them everywhere: favorite foodie websites, blogs, Pinterest (duh, everything is on Pinterest), and on my sister’s Facebook. I tried a batch inspired by Sprouted Kitchen that was peanut butter heavy, but they weren’t really my jam (but maybe peanut butter is your jam, or jelly, as it were). After talking to my sister, she inspired me to try her version. And they were great. They were fruity, jammy, chewy, and a little nutty, similar to Larabars.

The beauty of these is that they could not be easier to make. Also, people have found them really impressive, even though they took a mere pressing of buttons to make. The other beauty of these is that you can make them using whatever you’re in the mood for. On this particular day, dried apricots and cherries were calling my name. But I also wanted a little decadence, so I threw in some semi-sweet chocolate chips. The possibilities are endless. And I like that.

Easy Energy Bites

Note: you will need a food processor to make these. You could try them in a blender, but I’m not making any promises about what might happen.

Ingredients

1 cup nuts (I used almond) – toasting optional
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup dried fruit (I went for half apricots, half sour cherries)
Optional: 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate, or cocoa nibs

Instructions

Get out a large piece of wax or parchment paper.

Combine the nuts, dates, whatever dried fruit, and chocolate (if you’re using it) in a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the ingredients, stopping to separate the dates if they clump together. Now, turn the food processor on for 30 seconds or so. Everything should break down every more to crumbly pieces. Scrape down the edges of the bowl. Process again for 1-2 minutes until a paste starts to form and the ingredients clump together into a ball. Dump the paste/dough onto the piece of parchment or wax paper, and press it with your hands until it forms a square, roughly 8×8. Wrap up the dough, and let cool in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

Once the dough is chilled, unwrap it, slice it into bars of whatever size. You can individually wrap the bars if you’d like, but I stacked mine in a tupperware and stored them in the fridge. Note that they don’t necessarily need to be kept in the fridge, but doing so will help them maintain their shape and firmness. Room temperature bars will be softer and pastier.

Berry and Buttermilk Scones // Serious Crust

Berry and Buttermilk Scones

Berry and Buttermilk Scones // Serious Crust

Berry and Buttermilk Scones // Serious Crust
Berry and Buttermilk Scones // Serious Crust

Tis the berry season. I feel like everywhere I go, I’m seeing piles of raspberries, blackberries, even some late season strawberries. I baked these scones about a month ago, but I haven’t quite had time to post it. The time is now! Amongst all the food my mom sent home with us from the beach, were a pint of marionberries and some buttermilk.

The weekend we came home, we had a three hour band practice, and I knew I was going to need some sustenance. And who can resist warm, freshly baked, delicious scones? No one. So I whipped some up in the morning, and brought them to band practice.

I feel like my bandmates are still not used to my bringing baked goods. When I bring them, they’re there to share. Why would I bring a basked of a dozen scones all for myself? I wouldn’t. With a little nudging, I finally got the guys to snack on some. They were still warm, and smelled like sugar and berries. They were really delicious. I only wish I’d had some lemon curd to slather on them.

Berry and Buttermilk Scones

Ingredients

3/4 – 1 cup fresh berries (I used marionberry, but raspberry or blackberry would work well too)
4 3/4 cups flour
1 Tbl baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup plus 1 Tbl cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks.
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter
brown or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix in the sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Using a pastry knife or a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients. You want the butter to be evenly mixed into the dry ingredients, in about pea-sized chunks.

Add the buttermilk and the berries, and mix the dough gently with a wooden spoon until it holds together well. If it seems a little dry, add a little more buttermilk to the dough, a couple tablespoons at a time. Flour a cutting board or countertop, and turn the dough out onto it. Pat the dough into a rectangle about an inch and a half thick. Using a circular cookie cutter (or a water glass, if you don’t have a cutter), cut out as many circles as you can, gather together the scraps, pat them out, and repeat. Place on the lined pan, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar (brown or turbinado).

Bake scones for 20-35 minutes, until the tops are golden brown at the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to cool for a few minutes until they’re nice and warm, but won’t scald your mouth. Serve with butter, lemon curd, jam, or any other toppings you like.

Chocolate Banana Bread // Serious Crust

Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Banana Bread // Serious Crust
Chocolate Banana Bread // Serious Crust
Chocolate Banana Bread // Serious Crust

Let’s talk about the beauty of roommates. After living with just Jonah in a studio apartment, we have been lucky enough to find the greatest housing situation either of us have ever really had. We live with two other couples, all of whom are friends from college. Six people may seem like a lot, but when it’s three couples, it’s really not that many. Each couple has our own bathroom (score!), and while the kitchen is small, we’ve almost never had everyone trying to cook at once.

The other fantastic thing about roommates is that they eat things. My roommates are wonderful about sharing food. Sure, borrow a banana. Let’s all make brunch, I have potatoes, you have bell peppers, frittata sounds great. One of the things that always used to stress me out about baking for this blog is that I always have all these sweets to pawn off on other people. Living with five other people means that I don’t have to look too far for someone to eat the rest of those cookies, or give me their opinion of this bread. And when I say things like, “I really feel like baking. Should I bake something?” their answer is usually, “Is that even a question that people ask?”

Jonah was away traveling the world, as he is wont to do, and I was home, wanting to bake. There were many contributing factors to my making a very slight variation on this chocolate banana bread from Pastry Affair. First, it had been a little cool out, and I wanted something less summery, a little chocolate, and cozy. Second, there was a can on the back of my pantry shelf, hidden from view, of cocoa nibs that I hadn’t used in a very long time. Third, we had some awfully ripe bananas. So this bread seemed like the perfect choice.

I like that this bread is chocolatey without being too sweet. I like the crunch of the cocoa nibs, almost like adding walnuts (which you could totally do also). I like that the banana isn’t overpowering at all. I like this bread.

Chocolate Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Note: If cocoa nibs are not your thing, or you don’t happen to have them sitting around like I do, feel free to substitute some chopped walnuts or pecans. Alternatively, if you’d like your bread to be a little more dessert-like, feel free to use chocolate chips.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cacao nibs

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a loaf pan. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, mixing after each addition, then the vanilla extract and bananas. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture and mix again – no pockets of flour or clumps of cocoa powder here! Add the milk, mix, and the cocoa nibs, and mix again.

Pour the batter into the greased pan. If you’d like to sprinkle a few additional cocoa nibs on top, go for it. Bake for about an hour, give or take 5 minutes, or until your bread successfully passes the toothpick test (or if you’re like me and can never find toothpicks, the sharp knife test). Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing it to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. A slice of this bread is best served warm, accompanied by a glass of cold milk.

Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread

Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerRhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Update: It is spring (nearly summer, really) 2018, and I thought this recipe could use a little love. It is one of the recipes I most frequently make from this here blog, and I think perhaps that may go for some other folks too. You’ll find one new ingredient and some new instructions that help the rhubarb distribute more evenly throughout the loaf instead of floating to the top the way they used to do, but it’s still perfectly moist.

Hi, my name is Annie. I have a problem. The problem is rhubarb. I seemingly can’t stop thinking about it, can’t stop talking about, can’t stop cooking with it. Between the baked rhubarb at Passover, the rhubarb bourbon soursthe rhubarb themed weekend finds post, and now this poppy seed bread sprinkled with rhubarb, I’m starting to worry myself. But oh well. It tastes too good to stop.

A couple weeks ago, I was wanting to make some poppy seed bread, but I wanted it to be not just your normal old poppy seed bread. I prefer almond poppyseed to lemon poppy seed, so I knew I wanted to lean that way. I also knew I wanted to add fruit. And once I thought of the tartness of the rhubarb combined with the nuttiness of the almond and the poppy seeds, I knew I had to try it.

If you’re interested in a sweeter flavor combination, try subbing strawberries for the rhubarb. But really, you should try it at least once with rhubarb. I swear, it’s really really good.

I first made this recipe for a brunch with my roommates, and between the six of us we finished a whole loaf. In one sitting. It wasn’t even hard. The second loaf quickly disappeared over the next two days. The house smelled incredible, even up on the third floor, and even out on the second floor deck. This bread is a perfect quick bread for the spring (and summer) – it’s unique and dotted with fruit. I recommend bringing it to a friend’s house for brunch: it gets it out of your kitchen (yeah, it’s that dangerous), and they will think you are brilliant.

Poppy Seed Bread with Rhubarb

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

1/4 and 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into a half inch dice
1.5 cups AP flour
1.5 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups olive oil
1 1/2 cups milk, preferably 2% or whole
2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 Tbl poppy seeds
2-3 Tbsp turbinado sugar (optional)

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two bread pans. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb with 1/4 cup of sugar to coat. Set aside.

Combine the remaining sugar, flour, bread flour, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs and olive oil. Mix on medium speed with the whisk until emulsified, 1-2 minutes. Add in the milk and two extracts and mix again until smooth. With the mixer running, add the poppy seeds to the bowl. When they look to be evenly distributed, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, reaching all the way to the bottom – you wouldn’t want any part of the batter to be missing poppy seeds! In two batches, mix in the dry ingredients, mixing until smooth and uniform.

You’re going to pour the batter into the 2 pans in 3 batches, so start by simply pouring enough to heavily cover the bottom of each pan. Leaving any juices in the bowl, split half of the rhubarb between the two pans (so 1/4 of the rhubarb in each pan). Pour more batter on top of this (but not all!), add more rhubarb, then finish by covering all the rhubarb with the rest of the batter. Scatter the turbinado sugar over the batter.

Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top, and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the pans, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, and gently turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely, 20-30 more minutes. Slice and enjoy.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I like being home. Traveling the world is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I will happily go on adventures like the one to Vietnam any time. But there is something about coming home to your own bed, your own shower, and your own kitchen. I feel like I need to give all my kitchen tools little hugs and tell them I’ve missed them. Which, at this point, I’ve basically done, because I’ve been cooking up a storm this week.

Portland, however, is being slightly less welcoming than my kitchen. Mostly just in its weather-related mood swings. Seriously, this whole week has been days of sporadically alternating sunshine and rain. Sometimes each lasts 5 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s making it awfully hard to cook. What I’m going to make is always determined by my mood, which is often influenced by the weather. Between the rain and sun breaks, I can’t decide if I should be making spring recipes or winter recipes.

This cinnamon raisin bread is the perfect balance between spring and winter, though I already know I’ll be making it year round. It’s homey and warming thanks to the springy crumb and the way it fills your kitchen with the most comforting smell. But the raisins and cinnamon bring a little fruitiness and fun to the mix, a little surprise if you will. This isn’t just plain ol’ bread, you know. This has a beautiful swirl of cinnamon sugar and beautifully juicy pops of fruit throughout it.

This recipe made two loaves, and I thought for certain I’d freeze one loaf, because my roommates just don’t usually eat that much bread (unless it’s beer bread). But I was wrong. In two days, we are down to half a loaf left. Everyone has been enjoying this bread, toasted, slathered with butter, or raspberry rhubarb jam, or nutella for breakfast and dessert and a snack here and there.

Point is, make this bread and your house will smell like heaven, your friends will love you, and you’ll be perfectly toeing the line between the seasons.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

2 1/4 tsps (1 package) dry instant yeast
2 1/4+ cups warm water
3 Tbl and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 Tbl salt
3 Tbl butter
6 -7 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins
canola/vegetable oil
1 Tbl cinnamon

Instructions

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or not. If you don’t have one, this can easily be made with the strength of your own two arms.) combine 1/2 cup warm water, the yeast, and 1 Tbl of sugar. Set aside and let sit until it’s foamy. In another bowl, cover the raisins with warm-hot water, at least 2 cups. This step is optional, but it will plump the raisins, making them a bit juicier in the bread. After about 3 minutes, pour 1 3/4 cups of the raisin water off into a measuring cup and discard the rest. Pour the raisin water into the mixing bowl with the yeast, in addition to 2 Tbl sugar, the salt, 2 Tbl melted butter, 3 1/2 cups of flour, and all of the raisins. Mix with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined, adding up to 3 more cups of flour until the dough is smooth enough to handle, but still moist. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook, and knead for about 7 minutes (10 minutes if you’re kneading by hand). Dump the dough out onto a floured surface, coat the mixing bowl with canola or vegetable oil, and put the dough back into the bowl, turning it to coat, and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set the bowl in a warm spot (I like to turn on the light over my stove and set it under that) and let it rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbl of cinnamon and mix well. Butter two bread pans. When the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl onto a floured surface and punch it down, then divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangle that measures roughly 16 by 8 inches. Once rolled out, sprinkle the dough with 1 Tbl of water, and half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the dough up starting from the short end, and pinch the seam shut. Drop the roll of dough into one of the greased loaf pans. Repeat with the second half of dough. Brush the top of both loaves with the remaining 1 Tbl of melted butter, and cover them again with a clean dishtowel to let them rise for another hour in a warm spot.

About 15 minutes before your bread is done rising, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until the loaves look beautiful dark brown on top. Remove the loaves from the pans (beware, as cinnamon sugar may have oozed and become rather sticky – aprons are your friend) and set on a cooling rack. I recommend slicing into one of these bad boys when it’s still pretty warm. You can toast it and put a nice layer of cream cheese on top, like I did with my cinnamon raisin bread when I was younger, but a little butter will do nicely as well. Enjoy.