Dessert

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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Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies

Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

To say I have been feeling uninspired would be an understatement. Ever since our fridge stopped working 2 months ago (it was finally replaced. That’s correct, we were without a working refrigerator for almost 2 months) I have just not been itching to be in the kitchen like usual. I think of a recipe and start to research, and I feel like I see it in twenty places and it doesn’t seem worth me developing it myself. When I do think of a recipe that I can’t seem to find, I can never quite get myself to actually make it. Other things intrude into my kitchen time. I decide I would rather paint or read or nap.

So I decided to wade back in with someone else’s cookies. Deb Perelman’s cookies, to be exact. I feel like since she started doing press for her most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, she has been on fire. There was a time when I would go to Smitten Kitchen and nothing would quite catch my eye, but these days? These days I feel like everything she posts is just for me. I kid you not, a couple of weeks ago I googled “Korean short ribs instant pot” and the next day – THE NEXT DAY – she posted exactly. what. I. was. looking. for. It was bizarre, I felt like she was a god that had heard my prayers!

Her siren voice was calling and I decided to answer in the form of these peanut butter filled chocolate cookies. I agree, it’s a weird thing when a blogger posts another blogger’s recipe. But I needed to get back in the kitchen, and these were the ticket. I had a sunny afternoon alone in my house, so I turned on my favorite baking Pandora station and enjoyed myself for the first time in a while. Sometimes all it takes are some really good cookies, you know?

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Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream

Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A week before Christmas I almost cut off a large chunk of the tip of my thumb. I won’t get into the gory details, but here’s what I’ll say: don’t rush, and be careful when it comes to the combination of frozen produce and very sharp new knives. Ok? The next day, our refrigerator broke. It took two days to get someone to come look at it, and now we are waiting until January 8th for a part to come which will hopefully (please please please) fix it. In the meantime, we had two coolers outside plus a very mini fridge in our basement, plus a kind-of working refrigerator that our friend graciously gave to us. Did I mention that we were not only hosting Christmas dinner but also had my in-laws staying with us for the week?

Anyway, we got through all of this just fine. We got through it well, in fact. There were no stitches or trips to the emergency room, just lots of gauze and finger cots and trips up and down our basement stairs and re-freezing ice packs. And at the end of all of this (well, technically it’s not the end since our fridge is still busted and my finger is still bandaged up), an ice cream maker appeared on our doorstep. It was one of those times when you rack your brain to remember, “What the heck was my latest Amazon purchase?” But no, it was just my wonderful father-in-law. Maybe it was an additional Christmas present or a very nice host gift. My mother-in-law is one of my only family members who religiously reads this blog, so I’m sure she’ll show this to him, and hopefully, it will make him smile.

Of course, then I had my in-laws in mind when I was thinking of what recipe would be the first in my newest kitchen addition. I was researching and researching recipe ideas, feeling frustrated that I couldn’t quite find what I wanted, and then this one popped into mind. You see, my mother-in-law was the one who got me drinking rooibos tea. I had tried it before, but it wasn’t until my regular trips to Chicago, sitting around sharing a pot, using her cute little strainer, that I started really liking it. It’s now a staple in my tea collection and one that we drank a lot of while they were here. And because I can’t leave anything alone, I decided to add tahini, bringing a sweet nuttiness to the earthy flavor of the tea. You can make this without the tahini, and it would be good. But I recommend trying the combination – I think they suit each other.

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Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Miso Caramel Apple Cake

Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

We decided not to go to a pumpkin patch this year. I have some regrets, but mostly we wanted to spend our time doing things other than driving half an hour to a patch just to pick a pumpkin, something we easily could have done at our local grocery store. I’ve been really impressed by the homes in our new neighborhood. There’s one down the street that has no fewer than seven of those large inflatable, light up creatures: two spiders on their roof, one weiner dog with a mask, a couple pumpkins, and more. They even hung a little ghost from the telephone wire! There are pumpkins galore, gravestones, lights, and those faux cobwebs everywhere. I like how Halloween has really been embraced and so many people decorate and get in the holiday spirit. I like that it has such a sense of humor about it, a lightheartedness.

What did we do instead of the pumpkin patch? Well, we did get pumpkins, and we carved them. We got a skeleton named Gary who looks like he’s emerging from our garden beds. We threw a murder mystery dinner party. And tomorrow we hope to be handing out a lot of candy (seriously, we have two very large bags) to kiddos dressed up in costume, hauling pillowcases or plastic pumpkins or whatever the kids use these days. And as for the adults? We’ll likely be munching on this cake (if there’s any left by then), sipping mulled wine or mulled cider spiked with rum, maybe watching Stranger Things (if we don’t finish that by then too) or The Nightmare Before Christmas or some other movie that is equal parts Halloween and nostalgia. Sometimes certain holidays can be weird as adults, but I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

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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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Peach Parfait | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Parfait Parfait: Peach Parfait with Graham Cracker Crumbs

Peach Parfait | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Peach Parfait | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Parfait | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

We give each other a hard time in my family. Really. Nothing is off limits, and boy do we know how to push each others’ buttons. My sisters, for example, can get me more angry than anyone in the world. But the other side of this is that when we give each other compliments, it really is the most heartwarming thing. Getting a sincere compliment from my sisters or my parents is one of those things that gives me the warm and fuzzies. But back to the giving each other a hard time thing. My dad has all these -isms. These things he says and we give him quite a hard time for. I won’t share all of them here because he might kill me (if he happens to read this post), but one of my favorites that is relevant to this story is when he says, “You know, it wasn’t actually that hard.” This is almost always in reference to some intricate, fantastic dish he has cooked. It goes like this: either we are on the phone or sitting down to dinner, and he tells me all of the steps it took to make the dish in front of me or that he made for dinner last week. And then, no matter what I say, he follows it up with, “You know, it wasn’t actually that hard.”

When I was in Seattle last month, he and I were at the store shopping for dinner, and he mentioned he wanted to pick up whipping cream for leftovers of a dessert he had made a couple days before that, you guessed it, “wasn’t actually that hard.” I, of course, did not believe him. Especially when he claimed it was called a parfait parfait, which in his often jumbled speech, became farpait farpait. Imagine the two of us, wheeling our cart up and down the aisles of the store, giggling and spouting “farpait farpait” at each other – it was a sight. But we got home, ate dinner, and then were treated to this dessert. The sautéed fruit topped with salty, sweet, buttery graham cracker crumbles, and freshly whipped cream convinced me quickly that this dessert was worth whatever effort it required. It was so tasty that I made it for a dinner party last week to find that he was right: it really was one of the simplest desserts I’ve ever made. Did you hear that Dad? YOU WERE RIGHT.

The beauties of this recipe are two-fold. First, it can be easily adapted with whatever seasonal fruit you have on hand. In the coming weeks, I’ll be making it with plums, then apples, then maybe even some grapefruit wedges, rhubarb, berries, you get the idea. Second, having this graham cracker crumb on hand, I’ve found is both tempting and useful. Being able to just sauté some fruit and whip some cream and voila, dessert, is pretty great. Plus it isn’t so bad sprinkling a tiny bit on my morning yogurt, fruit, and granola either.

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Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Peach Pie with Rye Crust

Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peach Pie with Rye Crust | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Breaking your routine every once in a while is a good thing. Shake it up. I thought after returning from our journey this spring that I would want routine forever and ever. But routine has gone out the window these last months. It might have something to do with the total eclipse, or the cast of characters streaming through our guest room. Some days I love this. A touch of the unknown – What will our guests want to do today? When are they coming and going? – is mixed with feelings of comfort and pride as we show people our home, our city, our community.

One routine I have missed is baking. Granted, between the lack of air conditioning in our apartment (I’m working on it, Mom) and our big west and south facing windows, I don’t often want to turn on the oven. But something inspired me. Something big, the size of softballs. Skin the mottled colors of sunsets. A scent you could smell wafting through the air as we strolled through the farmers market one cloudy Saturday morning. How can you go a whole summer without making a peach pie? I was feeling the same pangs of guilt as last summer when I made only one strawberry-rhubarb pie. I had barely even eaten a perfect peach this summer, much less baked it in between layers of buttery crust.

Another routine that has been finding its footing again is my go-to pie dough. I used to stick with the one I had been making for years, then I switched to the one out of The New Best Recipe. But this summer has been the summer of The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, a cookbook that has been reawakening my love of pie. This is a take on their all butter crust, but I’ve subbed some of the all purpose flour with rye for a darker, earthier flavor. I would recommend trying it, but if you don’t have rye flour and don’t want to purchase some, you can just replace it with all purpose flour and still get a perfectly crumbly, wonderful crust.

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Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom

Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

There is something about home that is indescribable. We haven’t finished purchasing all the things we need for our new apartment yet, like shoe racks and lamps and soap dispensers. But still, this place feels more like home than any place I’ve lived in a long time. We picked the curtains and the plants, our art is hanging on all the walls, and I have all of my kitchen appliances in one place – no boxes, no storage, no knowing that one day I’m going to have to go through all these cookbooks to figure out what belongs to whom. Nope – it’s all ours.

And now that we have a table and enough chairs for a few extra bums to sit in, all I want is to have people over all the time. We’ve been pretty successful so far – having people over almost twice a week since we’ve moved in. It has reinforced my love of cooking for people, of making an excuse to get together. But why should we need an excuse? Isn’t good company enough? Add to that a home cooked meal and a bottle of wine and how could anyone turn you down? I feel lucky that we’ve gathered a little community who feels the same way, that there’s no better reason to be together other than it’s been a few days since we’ve last seen each other.

It helps that it’s spring – dusk drags its feet a little more each day, the tulips on our walkway have come and mostly gone at this point, and they’ve put up the annual rosé wine display at the local grocery store. It’s the time of year when people come out of hibernation, itching to wear their short sleeves and dig out their sunglasses, ready to get their hands dirty in the garden (we’re hoping to plant ours this weekend), antsy to go on evening strolls. For me spring means always having a pound of rhubarb in the fridge, ready to roast into a compote for topping ice cream or simmer into a syrup for mixing into cocktails or slice and bake into a galette. I would do the same if I were you.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerStrawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

My sister recently made me aware that my strawberry rhubarb pie recipe – the one that really inspired me to start this blog in the first place – wasn’t on this website. How could that be?! The time is right to tell you the story behind it, seeing as this weekend is Father’s Day and it’s rhubarb season.

Growing up, my father was a produce aficionado. He snacked on radishes like they were popcorn, and his perfect dessert was a bowl of the ripest berries. My dad’s love of fresh ingredients got me excited about food at a young age, and cooking became a pillar in our relationship. It still is – every time we talk we brag about dishes we’ve made, the latest cookbooks we’re itching to buy, and restaurants we’ve tried lately.

When I was in high school, we decided to spend a summer on a quest for the perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. We read probably a hundred recipes, and baked a pie a week. For the crust we experimented with vodka and leaf lard. To perfect the filling we adjusted our rhubarb to strawberry ratios and tried different spices like ground ginger and orange zest. We refined our technique for rolling out the dough, and watched through the oven door as juices bubbled through cracks in the crust. After cooling on the counter for hours, the first bite was always exhilarating. When we finally landed on the recipe, it was obvious as soon as we tasted it – the crust was tender and flaky, the filling was a soft rosy pink dotted with strawberry seeds, and there was a perfect balance between sweet and tart.

Five years later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We went through a trying year of chemotherapy and surgery. It was hard to see someone who loves food barely able to eat, much less enjoy eating. I’ll always remember when I was with him while he was getting a blood transfusion, and I went to the vending machine for a snack. I came back with a bag of Wheat Thins. He tried one and said it tasted good, so I gathered up all of my loose change and bought every bag in the vending machine so he could eat them. His recovery took place mostly in the late spring – the beginning of rhubarb season. The day he asked me to make him our strawberry-rhubarb pie, I knew he was back.

These days, I like to think that strawberry-rhubarb pie is my specialty. I’ve found a new dough recipe (the one you see below) that I like even better than the one my dad and I decided on twelve years ago. Making this pie is relaxing, almost therapeutic. Slicing up the fruit, rolling out the dough – all of it is a ritual that I treasure returning to each summer. Not only do I love making this pie, but it’s representative of my relationship with my dad and the things we both value: sharing delicious food with the people we love the most. It will always remind me of him, and the time we spent on the hunt for the perfect pie. Happy Father’s Day, dad. Here’s to many more rhubarb seasons.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Note: As is often the case with pastry type dough, the colder it is and the less you handle it, the better. I like to keep my shortening in the freezer so it is very cold, and the butter in the fridge.

Another Note: This pie is JUICY. It tastes delicious as ever, but I have never made a strawberry rhubarb pie that actually firmed up without tasting too much like flour or corn starch. I’d rather have a juicy pie that packs a punch rather than being muted by various starchy ingredients. The amount of cornstarch you add will be based on how juicy your fruit is – for example, if you bought your strawberries at the farmer’s market in the height of strawberry season, you’ll want to add more, whereas if you bought them at a big box grocery store in December, you won’t need as much.

Ingredients

Pie Dough

2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
12 Tbps (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
½ cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into chunks
3-8 Tbsp ice water

Strawberry Rhubarb Filling

4 cups rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 cup sugar
3-5 Tbl cornstarch

Instructions

Pie Dough

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse to distribute. Add the butter, pulse until evenly combined. Add the vegetable shortening, and do the same, pulsing until evenly combined. Your dough will start to clump together, but you will still have loose flour. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse. If your dough isn’t coming together quite yet, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. You want the dough to just start to come together. Dump the dough out onto floured surface and form a ball, cut it in half, and form two discs (roughly 1-1 ½ inch thick). Wrap discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. You can also freeze the dough for later use.

Strawberry Rhubarb Filling

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.

Preheat your oven to 450° F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with butter and dust with flour. Roll out your pie dough until it’s a circle about 12 inches wide. I like to set the plastic wrap that the dough was wrapped in underneath when I roll it out, as it helps lift it into the pie dish. Transfer your dough to the pie dish and ease it into the corners of the dish. Fill with the strawberry-rhubarb filling. Roll out the second disc of dough, and cover the pie. Trim off excess dough, pinch together the edges, and cut vents in the top of the pie. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, and then into the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450°F, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 50-70 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting | Serious Crust

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting | Serious CrustGraham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting | Serious Crust

I know, it’s fall. Or basically winter. It’s cold and blustery here in Portland. The gray and rain have settled in, and I personally am loving it. There’s lots of tea and squash in my life and that’s just my favorite. And yes, probably most blogs are (sensibly) posting all those rich fall recipes that you’ll make for Thanksgiving. This is not one of those recipes. It could be, I suppose, but then your family might get mad that there’s not apple pie AND pumpkin pie AND pecan pie. But they wouldn’t be too mad, because they’d be eating these graham cracker cupcakes. With lime buttercream frosting. How could you be mad?

My friend Mac’s birthday was on Monday, and when I asked him what kind of birthday treat he wanted, he gave me three options: coffee, peanut butter, or lime. What with all the rich, sweet treats that around this time of year, I wanted to go with something bright, something that got me excited about all the winter citrus that my grocery store will soon be carrying. So after a little digging around, these are what I made. You should think about making them too.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting

Makes 12-14 cupcakes | Adapted from Bon Appetit + My Recipes

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 12 graham crackers, pulsed in a food processor), plus 2-3 Tbsp for dusting
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lime
3/4 cup whole milk

Lime Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp lime zest (or the zest of one lime)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 16 oz package of powdered sugar
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1-2 Tbsp whole milk

Instructions

Graham Cracker Cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a small bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and lime zest, mix to combine. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk (which you’ll add in two additions), mixing to combine after each addition.

Put roughly 1/4 cup batter in each cupcake liner. Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, rotating halfway through. Allow to cool in the pan for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish.

Lime Buttercream Frosting

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, lime zest, vanilla, and salt until creamy. Alternate adding the powdered sugar and lime juice in three additions (so you’ll add roughly 1/3 of the box of powdered sugar, mix to combine, then add a tablespoon of lime juice, mix to combine, x3). Then add 1 Tbsp of milk and mix to combine. If the frosting is still too thick, add milk a teaspoon at a time, beating after each addition, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Frost your cupcakes, and sprinkle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs.