Fall has long been my favorite time of year. I love all seasons, but there's something about fall... maybe the invigorating crisp air. Maybe the sound of the band playing in the background during college football games. Maybe it's just the leaves turning.
I'm extra excited this year because, for the first time since departing New York City in 2005, I have a real fall to enjoy. After five years of wondering if I need to put shorts on for Thanksgiving dinner in North Carolina, the weather in Seattle is gloriously stereotypical fall. The leaves are turning, I can see my breath the moment the sun goes away. Fall isn't a group of decorations here. I've already worn several sweaters this fall. Amazing.
I think one reason I love the season, though, is the smells. This happens outside with the cool air, the wet fallen leaves and the like. But inside, especially in our home, is where things go to another level.
My wife is a fantastic cook and this time of year means soups and stews that just don't seem to be in place in the summer. But I'll let her blog about that if she chooses.
Me? I bake. For all the football watching and carrying on, I spend a good chunk of every weekend with a Kitchen-Aid mixer and my hands covered in some manner of flour. This started when I was about two years old and mom would bake cookies. Tell me there's something more exciting for a child of that age than cookies.
After years of watching her bake, I started doing my own. You'd be surprised how baking something in a college dorm can get you a crowd. Or the reaction making a girlfriend in New York her own birthday cake can get you. Mothers, teach your sons to bake... but I digress...
Anyhow, fall is probably my favorite time of year to bake. Because you really have the full battery of ingredients at your service. Plus, the smells of spices in things just, you know, work well for this season.
The fun started here a few weeks ago when Sarah whipped up the first batch of pumpkin bread. I followed suit with "Harvest Pumpkin Bars" from King Arthur Flour's compendium. Google them now if you aren't familiar. King Arthur cookbooks are great not only for recipes, but also for the chemistry of baking. Read up and you find their recipes very easy to tweak to your own tastes. One of those tweaks, swapping a fraction of regular white flour with whole wheat flour, is something I do all year, but fall recipes are extremely well-suited to the swap. The usual effect of using some whole wheat is a darker color. Fall baking products are already dark.
This month has featured spice sugar cookies and, just now, I whipped up a batch of molasses cookies. Gingerbread, possibly my seasonal favorite, will be coming along soon enough.
I may one day, years from now, choose to open a bakery somewhere. Wherever it is, it will be in a place with a real fall season. I could say this is because people want these recipes in the fall, but I have to admit, it's totally selfish. I love this time of year and the foods that come with it.