How do I celebrate fall? By dusting off my cookie sheets, measuring cups, and mixer and baking to my heart’s content.
Now that summer is over and the temperatures have cooled down, the baking ban that dominated my kitchen from June through August is lifted. I am now fully involved in making up for lost time. Even as I type this, butter and eggs are warming on the counter, waiting to be used for some as-yet-to-be-decided delectable creation.
I love to bake – especially early in the morning or late in the evening when the house is quiet and still. Precisely measuring ingredients, smelling the vanilla and spices, listening to the whir of the mixer, sampling the batter or dough, and pulling a beautifully delicious something from the oven is very therapeutic for me. (And heaven knows I’ve been needing therapy on an almost daily basis lately.)
Baking is also a tangible way I give love to my family. I get real pleasure from watching Mr. Whimsey and the kids scarf down my cookies or devour a pie. As hokey as it sounds, I really do mix love into my baked goods. Make no mistake, though. Whipping up cookies and cakes is rarely just a sacrificial act. I make what I like to eat and get as much pleasure out of indulging in the goodies as anyone.
Most of the things I’ve been making this fall are new-to-me recipes. They have all been labeled a “Keeper” (the official stamp of approval) by my family. I thought I would share some of the results of my baking madness. It is absolutely my intention to cause some mouth watering and stomach growling.
Fresh Peach Cookies
Peach season runs well into September around here. I found the recipe for these cookies in Martha Stewart’s Cookies. Regardless of how you or I or anyone else feels about Ms. Stewart personally, we all must acknowledge that she has some rockin’ cookie recipes. Three of my all time favorite cookie recipes come from her magazines and that’s why I finally broke down and purchased her book. I made these peach cookies late one evening, after the kids were in bed and the house was quiet and sleepy. As expected, they were delicious and made the house smell wonderful. Because of the fresh fruit, Martha suggests the cookies only be kept for two days. We really struggled to finish off the three dozen cookies before the expiration date. Somehow, after significant soul-searching, we found the strength to accomplish the task.
Strawberry and Basil Scones
Yes, I know that fall is not strawberry season. But the grocery store has been getting really delicious strawberries from out-of-state (probably Florida or California) and they’ve been on sale. Obviously, I was meant to buy them and make scones. I pay attention to destiny when she calls. The recipe called for fresh basil, which I did not have, so I substituted dried basil instead. Also, the amount of basil seemed excessive to me so I skimped a bit. The scones turned out just fine but the next time I’ll make sure I have fresh basil and I’ll use the correct amount. Basil and strawberries go together amazingly well – much to my amazement. The scones are not overly sweet which makes the strawberry bits really pop with flavor in your mouth. These were a hit at breakfast.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake
This recipe came from Gingerbread: Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream, and Candy By Jennifer Linder McGlinn. Because it is the fall, I wanted to do something with pumpkin, but not the same old cookies or bread. This recipe is fabulous – moist, rich and spicy. The pumpkin and gingerbread flavors are nicely balanced and create a deep dark color. I was supposed to add crystallized ginger to the batter but I didn’t have any lurking in the pantry. Personally, I thought the cake was great without it. Yes, we did add vanilla ice cream as suggested by the author. Of course, it was good. But I liked the cake alone and even ate it for breakfast a few mornings. I am a grown-up – I can do what I want….
Brown Sugar Cookies
I enjoy reading the food blog joythebaker.com. The woman who writes it is cute and funny and she presents some really good recipes. When I saw the recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies, I knew I had to try it. Brown sugar gives cookies a moist, chewy texture and a mild caramel flavor that I really like. When Joy suggested adding toffee bits to the batter, I was totally in. These cookies are evil. Period. They taste so good on your tongue. But, watch out! They are very rich and will make your belly hurt if you eat five or six at a time. (Trust me, you will want to.) We ate the majority of them as soon as they came out of the oven – mostly because they were so yummy and partly because self-control is not highly valued in our home. The cookies that were left had to be rationed so that everyone had an equal opportunity to experience these morsels of the gods. I’ve already decided Brown Sugar Cookies will be a part of teachers’ Christmas gifts this year.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that is found on the back of the chocolate chip bag has been used in my family for generations. No lie. My Nana used it. My mom uses it. And now I use it. I grew up shelling and chopping the walnuts for these treats. By now, I have the recipe memorized. It’s just a really good formula for a standard cookie with chocolate chips and walnuts. I always use salted butter for this cookie dough because I like the sweet/salty combination it creates with the chocolate chips. I also don’t chop the nuts too small – I like big pieces in these cookies. There’s no need to shop around for a better recipe. For me, this cookie is the perfect symbiosis of delicious flavors and nostalgia that doesn’t require any improvement.
Are you hungry yet? Man, I am. I quess it’s time to stop typing and get baking. Hmmm…….What sweet thing should I make today?