Gloriously and unusually spiced with garam masala and ginger, this moist, dark, sweet loaf starts with roasted squash and ends with a lashing of crunchy poppy and black chia seeds. Inspiration came from the squash bread I tasted at Kelsie Kerr’s Standard Fare Kitchen and Pantry in West Berkeley.
My version includes buckwheat flour and is gluten-free and entirely whole-grain, if you choose brown rice flour instead of white rice flour along with the buckwheat flour therein. At first, I admit that I was intrigued but uncertain about the hints of cumin (one of the spices in garam masala) in a sweet baked good—then I couldn’t get enough of it. I made one loaf with a somewhat cumin-forward garam masala from my favorite local purveyor, Oaktown Spice, and another with homemade garam masala from Nik Sharma’s book, Season. Nik’s blend is lighter on the cumin and a tad more generous with the cardamom. Both loaves had fans and both disappeared in a flash.
Although it’s called "bread," this loaf is actually a quick bread, sometimes called tea loaf—but really a cake baked in a loaf pan! (I used to think this bread versus cake conceit was understood—that banana bread and pumpkin bread and persimmon bread and gingerbread were all actually cakes shaped like breads—but maybe not?) —Alice Medrich
1 hour 20 minutes
(113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
(200 grams) sugar
large cold eggs
(120 grams) white or brown rice flour
(40 grams) buckwheat flour
ground garam masala
salt (I use fine sea salt)
(17 grams) poppy seeds
(10 grams) black chia seeds
(170 grams) roasted butternut squash, pureed or simply mashed until smooth (see Note)
Line the bottom and all four sides of an 8.5 x 4.5–inch (6-cup) loaf pan with parchment paper (https://food52.com/blog/13618-the-fail-safe-way-to-line-a-baking-pan-with-parchment-paper).
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 350°F (if your oven is convection, adjust the temperature according to manufacturer's instructions and check for bread's doneness early, as well).
Combine the butter, sugar, and eggs in a mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes—or 3 to 4 minutes with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed.
Add the rice and buckwheat flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, garam masala, ginger, poppy and chia seeds, and squash puree. Beat on low speed, just until all of the ingredients are evenly blended. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan on a rack.
Note: A 2 1/2–pound squash will make enough puree for at least 3 loaves of this cake. Leaving skin on, slice a whole (or partial) butternut squash into rings 3/4 inches thick and remove the seeds and membrane. Lay rings on a greased baking sheet and roast in a 425°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the squash is browned on the underside (this makes for a richer flavor). Flip and continue roasting slices for 5 to 10 minutes, until very soft when pierced with a fork. Let cool and peel skin from the rings. To avoid using extra equipment or getting out your food processor, simply weigh out 170 grams of peeled squash and put it into the mixer bowl you intend to use for the batter. Beat until smooth. Scrape the squash out the bowl and set aside. No need to wash the bowl before proceeding with the batter.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).