Tag: snacking cake

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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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


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


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.