The other night I was watching television, and had a sudden urge for piping hot cocoa. Not lukewarm, not kind of hot, but *piping hot* cocoa. It was a chilly night and nothing else would have worked for me at that time. There are certain beverages and food that work just right when the days are shorter and the temperature is cooler. I think we are all beginning to have the seasonal urges for hot drinks and warm and comforting baked goods. So let’s tie on our aprons and fire-up our ovens, because few things are better than baked goods fresh from a hot oven on a cool fall day.
Keep it Simple: Scratch or Not
Set-aside some time and make your “baking time” special. Go for the “from scratch” route if it really is a treat to be in the kitchen and you want to savor the time, or there is no shame in employing items like store bought pie crusts, caramel sauces, jams, spice blends, or canned pumpkin to save yourself some time. In fact, store bought piecrusts can be used for more than just pies, and store bought cookie dough can be easily transformed to bakery-worthy goods.
Other tips and shortcuts for easy fall baking:
Keep it Seasonal
Fall baking is all about ringing in the season with autumn spices, fall fruits and the ever-popular pumpkin. Spices are instant fall flavor enhancers–add cinnamon, ginger, clove, allspice, or nutmeg to almost any sweet to make it instantly fall. Fruits like apple, pomegranate, pears, cranberry, plums, figs, short-seasoned persimmons, and the lesser-known, yet equally delicious quince, all enhance our fall desserts with seasonal sweet and tartness. The best fall fruits don’t need much fussing over– simple baked apples, or poached pears, are fancy and straightforward for the season. For more complex fruit desserts include fall fruits in tarts, pies, bread puddings, or as a compote for ice cream or a fall inspired panna cotta.
If there is one food that defines the fall season it is undoubtedly pumpkin. Aside from traditional pie, try including pumpkin in anything from a Bundt cake recipe, to pumpkin whoopee pies. Pumpkins rich flavor pairs lusciously with creamy sweets like cheesecake, panna cotta, chocolate, and crème brulee.
Add a Little Decadence
The “Eating Season” is from Halloween through New Year’s Eve! Take advantage of all the wonderful flavors like chocolate, caramel, maple, and espresso; when January rolls around, we can all run to the gym.
For a fall afternoon sweet snack add chocolate to pumpkin breads, or try pumpkin chocolate brownies. Dress up after dinner pumpkin desserts like pumpkin caramel cheesecake, chocolate pumpkin pie, pumpkin chocolate mousse, or a pumpkin ice cream cake with chocolate almond bark. Caramel is the perfect match for fall fruits. For creamy and sweet caramel, try a caramelized apple fruit pie, pumpkin bread pudding with spicy apple caramel sauce, a trifle with roasted pears and caramel sauce, or a vanilla spiced caramel apple pear tart. Sweet syrupy maple stands better with nuts than fruits. As an alternative to pecan pie, have a hazelnut maple pie, or maple pecan tart. Pumpkin and maple are a great balance of rich and sweet. Simple recipes like maple pumpkin mousse and maple pumpkin pot de crème will leave your meals on a sweet and unique autumn high note.