Feast or Famine.

Have you noticed my absence?  Maybe not.  I have never felt like the popular girl, never the one that everyone would notice is suspiciously missing from the school picture.  I'm more like the girl buried in the back of the yearbook, my photo included with the rest of the yearbook staff photos.  True story. (Except that I was also included in those high school picture days.  If our school had given perfect attendance pins I'm quite certain I would have received one.)

The truth is, I feel like this space online immediately reflects my home life, the things made, decorated and eaten.  And I've been so busy lately that I feel like I have to make myself pause to catch my breath.  I'm still making and eating, but it's last minute and inspired and not worthy of recording.  Gone are the days (at least for now) of watching over sprouting wheat berries and growing microgreens in the dining room.  Fall bread baking has picked up, a few loaves make their way onto Facebook or flickr, but most are only enjoyed privately, a few make their way out the door to others that I've baked for.

Whenever I start to get that rare feeling that I don't know what to do with myself, work comes in by the wheelbarrow load, and that is exactly what has happened to me lately.  I do my civic duty as a poll worker, which for the upcoming presidential election includes early election voting shifts at our city hall.  I bake treats for church parties.  I help out with some catering and shifts at a cafe a friend owns.  And make time for a visit from my Mom, some trick-or-treating, attending birthday parties, and just today a walk up to the Kiddo's school to share lunch.

I have also started revealing to people that I have been "hired" to write a small cookbook on canning and preserving!  It's my first real writing and photography gig, and I have a short deadline.  Any free moments are spent reading tech-heavy books on digital photography to improve my photos for this project.  I'm thankful to know just enough people in just the right areas of expertise to be able to shed welcome glimmers over my overwhelming naivety in all aspects of such an endeavor.  This is indeed the best schooling I've yet to receive.

mango & toasted coconut tart (GF)

But I confess that I'm not used to being so busy, not used to having to schedule in my laundry-doing and bathtub-scrubbing.  Take for instance this gluten-free shortbread that I was trying to master.  It began 2 weeks ago, when I had ripe mangoes to use up and wanted to concoct a fruit dessert to share with a neighbor.  Using a base recipe, I replaced the tart crust's flour with a GF version of homemade flour I lifted from a recent read:  Artisan Gluten Free Cookbook.  I really enjoyed reading this book, and intended to make all kinds of things from it for a full report.  That will have to wait I guess.  All I was able to manage was the all-purpose flour blend, which upon first trials seems to be very nice. 

My tart crust went unaltered from the original Gourmet recipe except the GF flour addition.  I froze the crust for a couple of hours, and popped it into the oven - docking it with a fork about 20 minutes after it began baking... when I remembered that such things need to be docked.  I glanced in at it and it was puffing up and actually, that was a happy accident, since I then took a stainless measuring cup and pushed the tart back into shape, creating a much neater finished appearance.  

What I didn't enjoy so much was the mango filling, which I set with 2 teaspoons of gelatin and premium non-homogenized heavy cream.  It was a bit vegetal; I couldn't help be feel that it would have been better served alongside some basmati rice.  I tried to help it with more lime zest, and additional whipped cream, but it remains one of the things I'll revisit another day when time abounds.

The crust, however, was genius.  A melt-in-your-mouth toasted coconut shortbread.  I googled "shortbread".  Wiki told me that shortbread is 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour. I never knew that!  And sure enough when I made the time to weigh out my next trial, it was exactly the 1-2-3 ratio.  I needed to add 1/2 teaspoon of water to help my gluten-free version come together.  Unfortunately in my haste I made the cardinal mistake of shortbread: I forgot to get it nice and cold before baking.

Instead of something well defined to cut into wedges, I got a really good tasting, giant cookie with butter-crumbled edges.  Delicious, but messy and I still haven't had the time (or the stomach space) for another trial.  (The "failure" was undeniably great on top of some maple syrup sweetened ice cream I nabbed from The Green Market Baking Book.)

For the record, I used 44g. sugar, 88 g. butter (which was just about 7 tablespoons), and 130 g. GF flour (of which the GF flour weight was added to the 1/2 c. toasted coconut weight).

toasted coconut
toasted coconut shortbread3
toasted coconut shortbread2

I had hoped the shortbread would be sturdy enough to stand up to some preserves.  I cracked up the first jar of blueberry citrus preserves since jarring it up this Summer, and had to settle for it on some bare naked sourdough.  I'm not complaining.  I do feel like I have to rein in my sweet teeth; it seems all this talking about jam somehow ends up with me eating sweets again with gusto. 

blueberry preserves

So please forgive me if I seem absent.  I've even been behind on reading my favorite blogs. (But after hitting publish, I am making time to read about this savory fig and goat cheese danish that I noticed this morning...)  I won't give up on the gluten-free toasted coconut shortbread either.  I just need to catch up a little, and enjoy the business of working hard for the next while.  I know all too soon I'll feel the deep Winter chill of famine.  Fortunately for me, I'm equally happy with both.

More Adventures in Gluten-Free Baking

I somehow feel like it's my personal goal to bake gluten-free treats that taste so good no one has any clue they are gluten-free.  It's not because I have trouble with gluten, and it's not because I'm vying for blog clicks and cashing in on a trend:  it's purely because baking is an adventure and gluten-free baking is the biggest adventure of all.

It's been awhile since I tried my first experiments with GF baking.  It began when I realized that my Vita-Mix could easily turn any whole grain into flour.  Since I run a fairly "whole food" kitchen, I already had tons of  raw material to work with - and the only thing standing in my way were a few minutes of prep time and the mess involved when grinding up lots of miscellaneous grains at once.

I've gotten a little smarter since I've discovered I love baking with GF ingredients, and I made a shelf in my pantry for all of my supplies.  Instead of grinding what I need when I need it, I can usually reach for a quart jar and then only occasionally run into the need to refill it.

GF baking pantry shelf

What exactly is on the shelf?  I keep jars of sorghum flour, brown rice flour, teff flour, tapioca flour (also called starch), potato flour, xanthan gum, a gluten-free AP mix that I make up according to this recipe, and a canister of coconut flour that a friend gave me and I haven't tried it in anything yet.  I personally have not yet found much difference between brown rice flour and white rice flour, so I only keep brown rice - and a nice bonus is that it is available in bulk at my co-op without being prohibitively expensive.  (Purchased rice flour is also much more finely ground than what I can produce in my Vita-Mix.)  Now that I've got a basic GF pantry going, it's easy to keep things in stock - and grind things from my other whole food staples like quinoa, millet, and oats on an as needed basis.

And, can I add that sorghum flour is my most favorite flour ever?  It's absolutely worth the expense, and I adore the texture and flavor it gives baked goods.  In fact, there was a whole cup of it in the blueberry muffins I decided to make yesterday...

GF blueberry muffin

These muffins, admittedly, were best fresh from the oven.  In fact, all of my tasters didn't suspect they were GF at all, and the texture was exactly like that of a regular blueberry muffin.  When I tried one this morning, the texture had changed a little, but was still very good - especially with a cup of coffee.  I should have tossed the frozen berries with a tablespoon or two of the floury mix to keep them from congregating towards the bottom of the muffins... I'll remember next time.

When I want muffins, I usually decide last minute - so waiting on butter to come to that magical room temperature isn't always an option.  I used coconut oil to great effect, it's 10 tablespoons by weight (the weight of butter),  I've given you the gram measurement.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl)
  • 142 g. coconut oil, soft room temperature
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1 c. sorghum flour
  • 1 c. tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 c. + 2 T. plain yogurt (I used full-fat)
  • 1 c. blueberries, not defrosted if frozen
Preheat oven to 350.  Ready 18 muffin liners in muffin tins.

Mix the brown rice, sorghum and tapioca flours, the baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  (Toss the frozen berries with a tablespoon of the flour to keep them from sinking to the bottoms of the muffins.)

In a large bowl, mix the coconut oil, sugar, and orange zest with a hand mixer until just well combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add half of the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.  Add 1/2 c. of yogurt and mix until just combined.  Add the rest of the flour mixture, then the rest of the yogurt, mixing after each addition as previously described, taking care not to overmix.

Fold in the blueberries.  Portion into the muffin liners, about 2/3's full, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  They should just be starting to brown around the edges, and a tester should come out clean from the centers.

I considered juicing the orange I used for zest and mixing it with enough powdered sugar to make a glaze.  They didn't need it, but would be pretty and perhaps more dessert worthy if you do it.

GF blueberry muffins.

For a picnic last Sunday, I baked up some GF brownies - and I have to say they were better than any brownies I've ever made before.  They were also adapted from a Gluten-Free Girl recipe taken from Alice Mendrich, so I knew before I even began that they would be amazing.  What I didn't know is that they would age well.  I saved one a full 4 days to test this theory, and they were even better than when fresh.  I didn't bother with a double boiler to melt the butter and chocolate, and I didn't bother with the cold soak to stop cooking either - I just made sure to heat the chocolate over low heat and watched not to over bake.

Gluten-Free Brownies (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl/Alice Mendrich)
  • 8 T. butter (1 stick), cut into 8 pieces
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate (I used Callebaut), chopped
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/4 c. tapioca flour
  • large handful of raw walnuts, broken by hand over the batter
Preheat oven to 400.

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter together with the chocolate.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper (I use 2 pieces that overlap in a criss cross, so that I can lift them out easily).  In a medium sized bowl, blend the sugar and eggs for a full 3 minutes - until the sugar starts to break down a little and the mixture looks thickened.  Add the vanilla and salt and blend in well.

Add the flours, and use a spatula to blend in thoroughly.  Scrape in the melted chocolate and butter mixture, and fold in well until no streaks remain.  Crumble some walnuts over the batter and fold them in too.  Then, spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the pan isn't jiggly when tapped, and fudgy crumbs cling to a tester inserted into the middle of the pan.  I started checking at 20 minutes - and they were perfect within 24 minutes.  Remove pan from oven to a cooling rack, and let cool completely in the pan until room temperature before slicing.

Store any leftovers tightly wrapped (I used foil, since we were picnic-ing).  They will remain very good for several days.

gluten free brownies

Like all alternative kitchen adventures, GF bakery can have the connotation of being healthier.  These two examples of baking are not necessarily healthier for you, but they are proof that GF bakery can taste amazing and fool anyone who may have the predisposition to think that by their very nature, GF bakery tastes rubbery and awful.

In general, I'm baking a lot more thoughtfully these days.  I'm not baking just for the joy of baking as I usually do;  I have successfully stopped eating so many baked goods personally.  So I'm making the most of each opportunity I have at my oven: taking care to ensure that no matter your dietary need, there can be a quality, homemade baked good made to amaze you.  If you happen to have a GF challenge for me, let me know... maybe it will be my next gluten-free kitchen adventure!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Bread.

It almost felt too good to be true, when I woke up this morning two hours before anyone else even started to stir. Even the accidental clanging of loaf pans as I tried to quietly dislodge them from their slumbering place didn't bring any little feet running to see what the noise was. Better still was the cool breeze blowing in the windows, gorgeous dark grey storm clouds ominously layered across the sky, just waiting for the cue to empty themselves over my depressed and wilty tomato plants.

Yesterday, the new King Arthur Flour catalog came in the mail. I perused it before bed, as I always do when a new one comes. Rarely do I order, but there is some solid information in the King Arthur catalog, and they always include a few recipes that are worth the time and effort. One for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread caught my eye, and I started to scheme in my dreams of a gluten-free version. When I bounced from my bed, I got right to work - happy with my end result and feeling quite productive all before 7 a.m.

GF chocolate banana bread

The last GF quick bread I made was so delicious it was difficult to keep around more than 2 days. This one will also meet that same fate. My loaf pans are wider, leaving me with (in my opinion, not as attractive loaves) a shallower bread, but the texture and flavor is so wonderful it's hard for that visual afterthought to matter. It's a deep chocolate flavor, not too sweet because I slashed the sugar content and didn't add any chocolate chips, but fully ripe with banana and a touch of cinnamon. A future note will be to add a little espresso powder or perhaps even ground coffee. A java jolt may be a very good addition.

I always feel the need to stress that I am not gluten-free myself, or in need of keeping to a gluten-free diet. But more often than not, I wish I was. Everything baking experiment ends up enchanting me far more than the conventional glutened counterpart. Maybe it's the thrill of a new challenge, or the appreciation of a tender crumb. Maybe, it's because it is a truly healthful alternative to traditional baked goods. This bread just feels healthy, like you are doing yourself a favor by enjoying a slice.

GF chocolate banana bread

You may wish to up the sugar content. I am fully reformed in my sugar consumptions for the most part, and have taken to preferring things decidedly unsweet. I tested this out on the Kiddo, who loved it as it was. I also ate a slice augmented by soft butter and sprinkled with additional cinnamon sugar, which wasn't a bad way to go either. I have a feeling the texture of this bread gained some density as the day wore on. I'll know for certain tomorrow, but either way I don't think a bit of fudge-like intensity is a bad thing.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour's August 2012 catalog)
  • 2 c. gluten-free all purpose flour (I used this method and mixed my own)
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. xanthan gum
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 oz. coconut oil (I used room temp, just softened oil, not melted)
  • 1/4 c. sugar (up this to 1/2 c. if you prefer it sweeter)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 bananas (8 oz.)
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt (4 oz.)
  • up to 1 c. or so of optionals (nuts, chocolate chips, seeds, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 330. (Yes, it's lower than 350 and not a typo. I read here that perhaps baking at a slightly lower temperature is good for helping maintain the integrity of the loaf. That link is also a great resource template for vegan GF quick bread baking!) Line a loaf pan with a crumpled sheet of parchment paper. (You can use reused parchment for this, and may be able to get a couple of bakings out of the sheet you crumble as well.)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.

In a larger bowl, mash bananas and add the coconut oil, sugar, egg, and yogurt. Mix well to combine thoroughly.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and use a spatula to make sure everything is well mixed. Add in any optionals, and spread evenly into prepared loaf pan. (I sprinkled the parchment lined pan first with cinnamon sugar, and then sprinkled a little more on top of the unbaked batter as well. It adds a little extra sweetness and crunch.)

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

GF chocolate banana bread

Today was such a departure, weatherwise, from the whole of our Summer that I finally cleaned my oven. The little bit of residual warmth actually felt good in context of the cool breeze and overcast sky. Just like that, I felt the pang of Autumn, the way I do every year and somehow still feel surprised by it. Just a few weeks remain until the calendar turns and school begins for an eager 1st grader, and I gain an official year on my life. Just this evening, I was considering that my birthday is the perfect excuse to make whatever sweet I desire, and I wonder if this year it may just be gluten free? We'll all have to wait until September to find out.

GF chocolate banana bread

Just so you know, King Arthur is a deep love of mine. Their website and on-demand staff is just plain amazing, and they never would ask me to tell you so. I am able to find their flour locally, and it consistently performs so well and tastes so good that I make excuses that I don't source more local or organic flour. I haven't yet tried their gluten-free flour, but I'm sure it is also consistently good.

Country is Country: Gluten-Free Alabama Bread

Technically, this is a week of vacation for me. Working from the home and now as a "private contractor" (or maybe I should say and coin the term: private culinary contractor?) at a small area cafe should afford me ample time to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. After all, with such a flexible schedule, I should be able to slip off for a walk or a nap as I please, shouldn't I? But so often that isn't the case, especially now in the heat-soaked Summer with school out and a busy new 6 year old to keep entertained.

alabama bread

I usually try and make the 180-mile journey to my Parents farm more often than I have since gas prices have spiked. I like to drive it without stopping in part because it's only a little more than 3 hours, but also in part because it reminds me of the days when I drove incessantly. Gas was around $1/gallon, and I remember one year logging more than 25k on my Buick. Now when I stop the engine and step out onto the dry, gravel driveway the thing that strikes me first is just how absolutely quiet it is. I don't live in the biggest or loudest city, but city is city and country is country. Country makes me breathe in deep, immediately calm down and think more clearly. Country is what feels like home.

home always has something with poppyseeds in it too.

My mom has been experimenting with eating much less sugar and gluten. In attempt to alleviate some symptoms in a persistent health issue, she noticed that she felt better, had more energy and even was sleeping a little better when she cut way back on those two components of her diet: two components that we usually eat far more of when we're together.

Before leaving my city home, I mixed up a big batch of gluten-free all purpose flour mix using some on-hand flours and starches. (I used this recipe base, substituting teff, quinoa, and millet flours for the sweet rice flour. Shauna also has a more recent post here with a great explanation of GF flours and starches and how to combine them for GF ap flour.) I had just read a recipe by one of my favorite (local) GF bakers Annie Wegner-LeFort called Alabama Bread, and I couldn't wait to bake one up. I had some blueberries and my Mom had some raspberries, and this bread took no time to make its way from bowl to parchment lined loaf pan.

alabama bread batter

Gluten-free baking is something I will be excited about for a while. I love the textures and contrasts of alternative flours, and there is never a fear of overmixing. I haven't figured it out completely, but I now understand a little more about the structure of gluten-free bread. I think it's better to bake in a "taller" pan, helping the loaf rise a bit more than it might without the extra inch or so. My Mom has 4 inch by 10 inch loaf pan that worked perfectly. I'd like to invest in a duo of those pans, they make a perfect "tea loaf" slices that aren't too big. I lined my pan with parchment so I didn't need to worry about getting the loaf out, and I think every extra caution is worth it when working with gluten-free baked goods.

alabama bread

From the little research I tried to find on "Alabama Blueberry Bread", I found that it is usually a bread that gracefully bridges the gap between loaf and cake. "Breakfast Bread" is how Dorie Greenspan would probably define it: the bread that you can convince yourself is healthy enough to begin your day with, one very comfortable with a cup of coffee alongside. I wondered if blueberries are actually native to the south, and I found that Southerners probably would use Rabbiteye blueberries. The article I read also noted (interestingly) that "as increasing numbers of Northerners move south, the demand for blueberries will increase."

Perhaps even more southern is is the ample addition of pecans, which I prefer to stand over the bowl and crumble in by hand instead of chopping. There is something calmly therapeutic about crumbling a pecan by hand. If you keep a shaker of cinnamon sugar at the ready for toast as I do, you can use it to sprinkle the bottom of the pan before adding the batter and also dusting the top prior to baking. It makes for a nice, gently crisp, sugar topping.

Gluten-Free Alabama Bread (adapted slightly from Annie Wegner-LeFort)
1 loaf, easily doubled
  • 1 1/2 c. gluten-free ap flour
  • scant 1.2 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. xanthan gum
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. cloves
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T. grapeseed (or other vegetable) oil
  • scant 1 c. blueberries
  • scant 1 c. raspberries,
  • 1/2 c. more or less pecans, crumbled in by hand

Preheat the oven to 350, and crumple a piece of parchment paper to crease it thoroughly then line a 10x4 loaf pan with it.

Place flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and spices in a medium bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center and grate the lemon zest into it. Add the eggs and oil, and beat well with a fork. Once well beaten, mix in the dry ingredients. (Switch to a spatula, if necessary.)

Once the batter is well mixed, fold in berries and pecans to distribute evenly. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar, and bake for about 1 hour until a tester comes out clean.

Try to wait until cool to slice, but that will probably be impossible. Apparently, the loaf should store well in the fridge for several days at least - but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to let you know if that is accurate.

alabama bread

There is also a reason that nearly every recipe I perused made two loaves instead of one. We polished up 3/4 of the loaf before the end of the day. Next time, I will definitely make two. The last of the loaf will go today for sure - 24 short hours after coming out of the oven, and 24 hours less until I have to leave the country again for a while. Meanwhile I'm soaking up the quiet life, enjoying the first of the rain I've seen in more than a month, and enjoying the final days of my sugar binge. Happily, at least some of my sugar consumption is gluten-free!

Rhubarb Redux, and Kuchenish is a Good Word.

I could eat my weight in rhubarb. This year, I have found several neighbors who grow it but don't eat it, and I will never understand why some detest its spunky flavor. One or two such haters live under my roof. When I read aloud yesterday that rhubarb can be good for cutting cancer risks and improving conditions after some types of cancer, my Husband (who has had cancer) said he'd rather have cancer than eat rhubarb. The prolific neighborhood rhubarb has an outlet in me for the perennial crop, and I probably went a little overboard for the holiday weekend - baking up gluten-free, rhubarby treats all for me.

gluten free rhubarb crisp
gluten-free rhubarb crisp.

I think every pan of rhubarb dessert I've ever made has a corner mysteriously missing before the pan has been out of the oven 5 minutes. It's hereditary; I am not sure I could help it if I tried, though admittedly I haven't tried very hard. I usually wait until I have rhubarb-loving company to make rhubarb desserts, but I was tired of waiting - and when one of those neighbors gave me some fresh rhubarb, I decided to make myself some low-sugar, mostly wheat free experiments. They were both so good that I have to record them for the future.

rhubarby notes.

When I bake for myself, I often use little scribbled sheets of notepaper, a general idea of the baked good I want to come up with or a crib note for future endeavors. In the case of the adapted crisp, I used a common big spoon from my silverware drawer, which I measured and found to be the exact same as a standard tablespoon measure. That discovery just made my personal baking that much easier.

gluten free rhubarb crisp

This crisp was inspired by La Tartine Gourmande, which has been on my library shelf for the past few weeks. I have read some of Beatrice Peltre's blog of the same name, but never realized until I was looking through the desserts chapter of her book that the recipes were all gluten-free. I'm not sensitive or allergic to gluten (that I know of) , but do believe that we all can benefit from less wheat, so I figured I would grind up some alternative flours and give it a go. I loved it.

Rice flour (at least rice flour made at home) is always a little gritty, but I don't mind this, especially in a crisp topping where the crunchiness is appreciated. The day after, the rice does soften up a little bit, but I still really liked the combination of sweet rice, slightly bitter amaranth and almond. The topping to filling ratio of this crisp leaned heavily in the topping's favor. Exactly how a crisp should be if you ask me. I made all of my flours in the VitaMix, but it is increasingly easier to find alternative flours at co-ops, other natural food stores, and traditional grocery markets.

Gluten Free Rhubarb Crisp (adapted from La Tartine Gourmande)
1 8x8 pan, about 6-8 servings if you're lucky

  • 12 oz. rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 apple, unpeeled, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon, more to taste
  • squeeze of lemon juice


  • 40 g. (1/4 c.) almond meal
  • 50 g. (1/3 c.) rice flour
  • 40 g. (1/3 c.) amaranth flour
  • 50 g. (1/4 c.) brown sugar
  • pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of ginger
  • 6 T. cold butter (3 oz. or about 85 g.), cubed
  • 35 g. (1/3 c.) rolled oats
  • large handful of chopped almonds, about a heaping 1/3 of a cup

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter an 8x8 baking dish, preferably glass, and set aside. Mix filling ingredients in a bowl, and stir well. Spread into the baking dish in an even layer. Save the dirty bowl to mix the topping.

To make the topping in a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, salt and spices and pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse pebbles. Pour into the bowl used to make the filling, and add the oats and chopped almonds and mix well by hand. Spread evenly over the top of the filling. (You can make the topping by hand by crumbling the butter into the flours with your fingertips or a fork. Aim for the same, pebbly consistency.)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until well browned and bubbly around the edges.

rhubarb kuchenish

After the success and rapid decimation of the crisp (yes, I pretty much ate it for breakfast, snack and dessert for 2 days solid), I turned my thoughts to the Rhubarb Kuchen of my youth. Kuchen is probably my all-time favorite dessert if you don't count chocolate cake, and it wasn't until I ate the crisp that I thought about altering it.

This is one recipe I've never thought about altering before. Tigress altered it last year, and did a good job of it, but it was still heavy on the refined sugar and leaden with kuchen-trademarked amounts of butter. I don't have anything against butter, but I was craving a more virtuous, breadfast-y version of kuchen, one that I didn't need to feel bad about eating all myself. I found my answer in dates.

rhubarb kuchenish
I really loved adding chia seed to the topping.

I simmered whole, dried dates in water and let them cool to make a near sugar-free version of rhubarb kuchen. Really, it's only kuchenish, because there is no bottom layer, but if you eat it with yogurt or ice cream, you'll hardly miss it. I have now made 3 rhubarb desserts in the past 4 days, but to my defense, there is still a nearly full pan of the last kuchenish left.

For the first attempt, I used whole wheat flour along with the oats but I liked it just as well using amaranth flour. For the second test, I also increased the volume and used frozen rhubarb from last year since I have to make room for the new crop. The fresh rhubarb is preferable, but the frozen still makes a respectable result. If using frozen rhubarb, I would recommend using an additional egg to add to the creaminess of the filling.

rhubarb kuchenish

Rhubarb Kuchenish (adapted from our family recipe of Rhubarb Kuchen)
bake in a 8x8 pan for thicker, longer baking dessert or 9x13 for thinner, shorter baking one

  • 12 oz. (about 1 c.) dried dates
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 6 c. rhubarb, measured after chopping to medium sized dice
  • 2-3 eggs
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional


  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat (or amaranth) flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 oz. (4 T.) butter
  • pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 2 T. chia seeds
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional

To make the filling, simmer the water and dates in a covered pan for 10 minutes or so until soft. Cool to room temperature, then puree using a food processor, food mill, or immersion blender (that's what I used). Mix with the rest of the filling ingredients, and spread into a buttered baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350.

Make the topping by crumbling the butter into the flour by hand or with a food processor. Then add oats and the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine well. Spread over the filling in an even layer, and bake until golden brown and bubbly around the edges, 40-60 minutes depending on the size and depth of your baking dish.

kuchenish bite

Stored in the refrigerator, both the kuchenish and the crisp will keep several days - if not a week - but I know that is wishful thinking for me. I am reminded why I have been dutifully staying clear of baking desserts for myself. I crouch over a piping hot dish of fresh-from-the-oven rhubarb with fork in hand, burning my mouth to shovel those first few bites in, to examine if rhubarb made with dramatically less sugar is just as beguiling as the real thing. It is, I think. I feel a little better knowing that if I eat a whole pan of rhubarb dessert, it has just a trace of refined sugar in it. If you make one, let me know what you think, will you?