Dessert

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.

Continue reading “Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom”

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.

Italian Plum Galette | Serious Crust

Italian Plum Galette

Italian Plum Galette | Serious Crust
Italian Plum Galette | Serious Crust
Italian Plum Galette | Serious Crust
Italian Plum Galette | Serious Crust

There is a tree outside of our house. Technically it’s in our neighbor’s yard, but much of it hangs over the winding pathway that leads to our front door. It’s a plum tree. Or a prune tree. You see, I’m not totally sure what the difference is. I think all prunes are plums, but not all plums are prunes. So maybe they’re prune plums. Right?

It’s funny actually, because when I was growing up outside of Seattle, my neighbors had a plum tree. And they told us we could pick as many plums as we wanted, I think mostly because they felt bad that the plums would fall and rot in our driveway. But my sisters and I used to go out in the driveway and fill up bowls and bowls of plums. We’d snack on them, bake with them, and make plum chutney. So I think I have a soft spot for plum trees in neighbors’ yards.

Either way, there’s a plum tree, and the plums are small and oblong, and when you cut them open, they still look kind of green even when they’re ripe. And all summer, I waited. I waited until their skins turned from green to purple, for their flesh to soften. And then I waited for Jonah to be home so that he (and his 6’6″ self) could pick them for me. I don’t do ladders.

I planned a plum galette. Simple, rustic, pretty even. I made a whole wheat crust, I ground almonds to spread in the bottom, and I even spread the plum slices in those lovely concentric circles. It was nice. It was summery. And it tasted pretty darn good.

Italian Plum Galette

Ingredients

Galette Dough

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 tbsp vegetable shortening, preferably cold, cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup ice water (plus more if needed)

Plum Filling

1/4 cup almonds (or 1/4 cup ground almonds)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp AP flour
14-18 Italian plums OR 6-7 regular plums cut into 1/2 inch slices
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp brown sugar

Instructions

Galette Dough

To make the dough, mix the AP flour, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and shortening, and mix until the biggest pieces of butter are no larger than a pea. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of ice water. Drizzle this mixture over the flour and butter mixture by the tablespoon. Mix until combined and the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and doesn’t come together, add more ice water by the tablespoon. Collect the dough, form it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to two days.

Plum Filling

Preheat your oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet, preferably rimmed, with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine the almonds, granulated sugar, and AP flour and process until you’ve got a coarse meal. If you’re using ground almonds, simply combine it with the granulated sugar and flour in a bowl. Set almond mixture aside.

In a bowl, combine the sliced plums, lemon zest, and brown sugar, tossing to coat evenly. Set aside.

Remove your dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough to a 14-16 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the rolled out dough to the parchment lined baking sheet. Spread almond mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch edge all the way around. Pile your plums and their juices on top of the almond mixture (or gently arrange them in concentric circles), and then gently fold up the edge of the dough over the plums. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the plum filling is bubbling and the edges of the galette crust are golden brown.

Allow to cool for at least an hour before digging in. I recommend topping with ice cream (I think cardamom would be good if you can get your hands on it) or fresh whipped cream. Enjoy!

Chai Truffles

Chai Truffles | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerChai Truffles | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Let’s talk about chocolate. Everyone likes it. Everyone. If you don’t like chocolate, I think you might not be a human with feelings. And there is nothing quite like biting into a piece of chocolate that is fudgy, a little melty, and dark enough that it’s got that hint of sharpness to it.

Some of my favorite chocolate to eat is Theo Chocolate, based in Seattle. Jonah and I went on a factory tour a couple summers ago, and man was it a) interesting thanks to our awesome guide and b) delicious thanks to lots of samples. They have a chai flavored bar that is crazy good (so are all of their flavors, really), which I think is subconsciously why I chose to try these chai truffles. Well, that and I had been really wanting to make some easy truffles, and of course I can’t just have a plain chocolate flavor, can I? So with the advice of baker friend Caitlyn and a little research I got to work.

Chai Truffles

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tbl chai blend tea (I used Highland Chai from Tea Chai Te here in Portland)
9 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, ~70% (I used Scharffen Berger)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt
~1/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions

In a small pan on the stove, bring the cream and chai blend to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  While tea is steeping, roughly chop chocolate and put it in a heat proof bowl. After 10-15 minutes, uncover the cream and put it over low heat again, bringing it to a simmer.

Strain the cream into the bowl with chocolate, discarding steeped tea. Let sit for about 3 minutes, allowing the hot cream to start melting the chocolate. Add spices and a pinch of salt, and whisk together until chocolate is melted and thoroughly combined with the cream. Taste, and add a touch more spice or salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight, until the ganache is firm.

When ganache is firm, prepare to get covered in chocolate. Gloves are not a bad idea. Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Put the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl. Scoop rough 1/2 tablespoons of the ganache and roll into balls, then roll the ball in the cocoa powder, and set on lined plate. Repeat until the ganache is all rolled into beautiful little truffles, and refrigerate again for at least an hour. Enjoy.

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.

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust
Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust

During the holiday season, all I want to do is make cookies. All of the cookie recipes I’ve been eyeing throughout the year, this seems like the time to make them. I want chocolate cookies, I want mint crinkles, I want pecan shortbreads, I want soft sugar cookies decorated with frosting designs, I want ginger snaps. Maybe this is why I always add a layer this time of year? Maybe.

I recently bought a bottle of rosewater (mostly because there’s this dish in Jerusalem (the cookbook)- swordfish with harissa and rose – that I had once and I’ve been wanting to make it again), and it had been sitting on my pantry shelf, looking pretty but also lonely. And then I came across this recipe for “Pistachio Rosewater Snowball Cookies” in the latest issue of Kinfolk Magazine. They sounded like a beautiful twist on what some people call Mexican wedding cookies or Russian Tea Cakes or any other number of cookies: nutty with pistachio, and aromatic and floral from the cardamom and rose.

After making the recipe from Kinfolk, I made a few small changes to the recipe, and I wanted to share them with you. I thought the original was a little heavy on the rosewater, and a little light on the cardamom (though my roommates and Jonah really enjoyed them as they were). They’re buttery and crumbly. They’re sweet but with a unique flavor with them. And they smell beautiful.

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes

Note: I found rosewater with the cocktail mixers at my local grocery store. It might also be in with the extracts in the baking aisle. If not, you can find it online.

Second note: Before you invest in making this recipe, you should definitely read through this recipe, and know that 1) pistachios are pricey, especially if you buy them already shelled and 2) there is a lot of kind of annoying pistachio prep. You’ve been warned.

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
2 cups plus 2 Tbl all purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp rosewater

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment, or butter them.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and blanch the pistachios for 1 minute. Drain them, and place them on a clean dish towel. Fold the dish towel over the pistachios and rub off the skins. (There may be some stubborn ones that you need to peel off.) Spread them in a small baking dish and roast them in the oven until they’re just dry, about 8 minutes. Set them aside and allow them to cool. When they are cool, pulse in a food processor or blender until they’re finely ground, but definitely not a paste. Transfer them to a small mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour, cardamom, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the rosewater, and mix it in. With the mixer on low, add in the pistachio flour mixture and mix just until a dough forms, scarping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Roll the dough into 1-1.5 inch balls. Arrange at least 1 inch apart on the pan, and bake until they’re just golden on the bottom, ~20 minutes (mine took a little less). While the cookies are baking, pour the remaining cup of powdered sugar into a wide bowl. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool from a minute or two, and when they’re cool enough to handle, roll them in the powdered sugar. Allow to cool the rest of the way on a wire race.

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious CrustMiso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust

Almost a year ago, there was a piece in the New York Times. I’m not sure where I found it – most likely someone posted it on Facebook – but it struck a chord. It’s called “When a Food Writer Can’t Taste,” by Marlena Spieler, a James Beard Award winning food writer. In the article, she writes about how a car accident, in which she broke both arms and sustained a concussion, completely demolished her ability to taste and smell.

Now, that sounds horrible no matter who you are. But when a food writer loses the senses that bring her the most joy and allow her to work, it’s devastating. Her descriptions of tasting what had once been some of her favorite foods are heartbreaking: “Cinnamon drops, a childhood favorite, were bitter, horrible.” “Bananas tasted like parsnips and smelled like nail polish remover.” “Gently sautéed mushrooms seemed like scorched bits of sponge.” Luckily, the nerves were only damaged, not severed, meaning that she would, in time, recover. She created her own rehabilitation plan, eating and tasting a huge range of foods, forcing herself to taste things like chocolate over and over again, starting with milk chocolate and slowly upping the cocoa content. Things she hadn’t particularly loved before – fish, especially – became a daily craving.

In the end, she recovered most of the way, and though her senses still occasionally go haywire, she can enjoy food to an incredible extent. But I’d like to focus on a specific part of this story: about halfway through the article, she tells us how, though she used to “lack a sweet tooth,” her sweet tooth now couldn’t be ignored. She lists a few things she baked, and they all sound delicious, but one jumped out at me: miso sticky toffee pudding.

When I studied abroad in London, I became a fan of sticky toffee pudding. It’s not pudding like we think of in the states. It’s a cake that is sweet but not too sweet, drenched in a warm toffee sauce that seeps into the cake, resulting in a moist, warm, absolutely fantastic dessert. Now I have looked for a recipe for Spieler’s mystical dish, and I am not the only one. The day after the article was published, someone tweeted at Spieler asking for the recipe. There’s a Chowhound thread asking if the recipe can be found anywhere (yes, I commented). But I couldn’t find it, and it seems, neither could anyone else. There are recipes for miso toffee, and for sticky toffee pudding with miso ice cream, but not this exact dessert. So, after talking with my baker friend Caitlyn, we decided to make one ourselves.

We decided to adapt David Lebovitz’s sticky toffee pudding recipe, and really, there were only a couple simple changes to be made. (In retrospect, I should’ve used Spieler’s sticky toffee pudding recipe, but I never happened upon it until I was sitting down to write this.) The resulting dessert is sweet, salty, caramelized, strong, and unique. Its flavors are perhaps a bit confusing at first, but I think the way they swirl around your tongue, combining to create a balance of sweet and savory is a fun adventure.

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding

Note: I have made this recipe now with both red and white miso paste. While I personally liked the white miso better, Caitlyn, Jonah, and Caitlyn’s boyfriend Dylan liked the red. On one hand, I think the deeper, more caramelized flavor of the red miso was nice, and on the other, the white provided a little more brightness, while bringing the same level of saltiness. Both are good, so it’s up to you which you use.

Ingredients

Toffee Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup muscovado sugar (if you don’t have that, demerera or dark brown sugar will do)
2 1/2 Tbl molasses (we used Blackstrap)
2-3 tsp miso paste (start with two teaspoons, and add up to another teaspoon to taste)
1-2 Tbl toasted sesame seeds

Pudding

6 ounces pitted dates, snipped into small pieces
1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt, preferably fine
4 Tbl unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Instructions

Toffee Sauce

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and butter an 8 1/2 inch porcelain soufflé dish, or something of a similar size.

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cream, muscovado sugar (or other dark brown sugar), molasses, and miso to a boil, stirring often to melt the sugar, and keeping a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn. Lower the heat and let simmer for about five minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened and coats the spoon. Try your best to break up any chunks of miso. Pour roughly half the sauce into your buttered baking dish, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the toffee sauce, and place the dish in the freezer. Set the pan with the rest of the sauce aside for serving.

Pudding

In another medium saucepan, bring the dates and water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and ginger. Set aside, but keep slightly warm – leaving it on low heat isn’t a terrible idea.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl (you can use an electric mixer), cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla, stirring to combine. Add half of the flour mixture, then the date mixture, and then add the rest of the flour mixture, stirring between each addition. Be careful not to over-mix the batter.

Remove the baking dish from the freezer and pour the batter in over the toffee and sesame seeds. Bake for 50 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Allow it to cool slightly before serving. To serve, warm the toffee sauce, spoon portions of the pudding onto plates or bowls, and top with the warm toffee sauce and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream will make a nice topping. I’ve also topped mine with some homemade anise-cardamom ice cream (based on the anise ice cream from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop).

According to Lebovitz, if you’re making the pudding in advance of serving, bake it without the toffee in the bottom of the dish. Close to serving time, poke the cake about 15 times with a chopstick or skewer, and distribute half the toffee sauce over the top. Cover with foil, warm in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes, and then follow the serving instructions above.

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.

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.