Tag: brown butter

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

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


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)


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.