The Heralding Day of Autumn

Autumn2014.2

I woke up last week and discovered that magically, in the deepest black of the night, autumn had subtly made her arrival.  The morning sky was grey and foggy, sprays of yellow and red crept into the verdant tree line, and the air was cool, intoxicating, and begging for me to inhale it all voraciously.  I smiled and my soul laughed.  This is my season and regardless of whatever storms are brewing, I feel my most powerful, most grounded in the autumn.

I took LM out to a local park on this glorious day.  He enjoyed exercising his physical limitations on a playground while I watched in awe of how strong his little body has become and how eagerly it collects every bit of mud and dirt it can possibly find.  We walked around the lake looking for deer and observing the new colors of wildflowers dancing in the brown, summer-burned fields.  They are not as ornate as the spring wildflowers yet are lovely in their own right.  The forest was anything but silent as acorns made their descent from towering branches.  They “pop” as they hit limbs and twigs on their gravitational ride downward; their tiny percussions echo, piercing the woods with an elegant staccato.  Then, as if enticed by the little symphonic beats, the rain began to fall pattering the leaves and puncturing the glassy lake with rippling little circles.

Fall2014.1AppleBlondies2

The rain was still drizzling by the time we arrived home a little muddy yet invigorated.  Hot cocoa was in order as was baking something autumnal.  This impromptu baking urge required something simple and comforting.  Ah – Apple Blondies!  A household favorite enjoyed only once, or twice, a year.   Imagine buttery blondies with their thin, crunchy exterior giving way to a soft, melt-in-your-mouth interior with sweet apple in each bite – perfect for the heralding day of autumn.

 

Apple Blondies

½ cup + 1 tablespoon Butter, melted and cooled

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

½ teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon Baking Soda

1 cup Sugar

1 Large Egg

2 Large Apples, peeled, cored, cut in half, and sliced

Use one tablespoon of the melted butter to grease a 9 x 13” baking pan**.   Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  In another bowl, beat together the sugar, egg, and melted butter until pale, about two minutes.  Fold in the flour mixture.  Pour the batter in the pan and spread to the corners.  Place the apple slices on top of the batter, overlapping slightly, and pressing gently into the batter.

Bake the blondies in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 30 – 40 minutes.  The blondies will be lovely golden all over and the apples just starting to brown at the edges.  Cool the pan on a wire rack for half an hour and then cut into bars.

 

– Martha Stewart (Original Recipe here)

 

*When it comes to baking, I usually prefer McIntosh or Granny Smith. For these blondies, being they were a made on a whim, I used Galas.  They aren’t as strong in flavor as the other apples but do just as well and hold up nicely.  Do you have a favorite baking apple?

** The original recipe calls for an 8 x 11″ pan.  I do not own one and find a 9×13″ with a shorter baking time is fine.  If you want a thicker blondie then try out the smaller pan and aim for the full 40 minutes.

Autumn2014.3

Advertisements

Autumnal Farewell

Lake2

‘Your eyes that once were never weary of mine

‘Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,

‘Because our love is waning.’

 

And then she:

‘Although our love is waning, let us stand

‘By the lone border of the lake once more,

‘Together in that hour of gentleness

‘When the poor tired child, Passion, falls asleep:

‘How far away the stars seem, and how far

‘Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!’

 

Autumn - Bridge PumpkinLeaves7

Pensive they paced along the faded leaves,

While slowly he whose hand held hers replied:

‘Passion has often worn our wandering hearts.’


The woods were round them, and the yellow leaves

Fell like faint meteors in the gloom, and once

A rabbit old and lame limped down the path;

Autumn was over him: and now they stood

On the lone border of the lake once more:

Turning, he saw that she had thrust dead leaves

Gathered in silence, dewy as her eyes,

In bosom and hair.

 

‘Ah, do not mourn,’ he said,

‘That we are tired, for other loves await us:

‘Hate on and love through unrepining hours;

‘Before us lies eternity; our souls

‘Are love, and a continual farewell.

Mushrooms1

I am emphatically captivated by autumn:  The gold and crimson leaves shocking the grey skies;  the smell of nutmeg and roasting squash filling my kitchen; brisk morning walks invigorating the body and awakening the spirit; dark evenings spent reading  a good book.   As of late, Yeats has been my read of choice, rekindling my love for poetry.  “Stolen Child” is has always been a favorite.  I’ve read and re-read it so many times that the words have rooted into my memory, and yet, I still always cry a little at the end.

However, this year “Ephemera,” has entranced me, emphasizing another aspect of my beloved autumn: Growth and Renewal.   I find this season of celebrating life and harvest irrevocably intertwined with the acknowledgment of death as its partner.  As the leaves fall, making way for impending winter, I remember that to grow with dignity and evolve with grace I must accept the ending of things with just as much elegance and fortitude as preparation for future challenges.  Whether it is a habit or expectations that I lay to rest, a relationship, or a chapter in life, I can never realize my greatest potential by carrying with me all of my past.  Our memories should propel us to greater things ahead, never should they imprison us in the shadows and ghosts of a long-gone reality.  Before us lies eternity, and as we move toward eternity, we must live presently in our continual farewell.

Cake EsspressoFall9

Even if it is a little mourned, a farewell should be celebrated.  I prefer to celebrate with cake.   Perhaps you find it odd that I discuss poetry, philosophical musings, and then proceed to  cake as though it all goes together.  Is this comprehensive?  Does it all flow?  I’ve given up on order and structure a long time ago – not only is it boring, but is an expectation that is rarely fulfilled.  Life is moves rapidly, chaotically, one most bathe in every depth and dimension of it.  Soak in the color of the autumn!  Vow to self-refinement!  Read intelligently!  Love ardently!  Celebrate in the little things, trinkets, and tidbits of time that connect the dots of our existence!  Eat cake!

This Pumpkin Cake is a celebration in and of itself.  It  is anything but pretentious, reveling in its own simplicity and brilliance.  You could serve it plain with a dusting of sugar, but the Brown Butter Frosting is a religious experience, transforming this cake from delicious to transcendent.  I actually broke into a little fit of enthusiastic, and for some reason, slightly diabolical laughter when I first tasted it. The Brown Butter adds a smooth, nutty, buttery fullness that plays well  with the cotton candy-like sweetness of the frosting complimenting perfectly the simplicity of the cake.  This is best served with strong coffee and stimulating conversation.

____________________

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

For the Cake

8 tablespoon  Unsalted Butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1 2/3 cups  All-Purpose Flour, plus more for the pan

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

¼ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

¼ teaspoon Ground Allspice

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

½ teaspoon Baking Soda

1 ½ cups Sugar

2 Large Eggs

1 cup Pumpkin Purée, canned or fresh

½ cup Whole Milk, warmed (110 degrees)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9” round cake pan and line with parchment.  Butter the parchment and then coat the pan with flour, tapping out any excess.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs and beat until combined.  Add pumpkin purée and milk, beat until combined.  Add the flour mixture, beating on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 40 – 55 minutes, until the center is springy to the touch or cake tester comes out clean.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool and let rest in the pan for 20 minutes.

Unmold the cake onto a plate and let finish cooling before frosting.

For the Frosting

8 tablespoon Unsalted Butter

2 cups Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

2 tablespoons Whole Milk

Place a tempered bowl in a fridge to chill.  In a small saucepan, melt butter over low to medium heat.  The butter will begin to foam then crackle, turning brown and develops the nutty aroma.  The whole process takes about 10 minutes.  Pour brown butter  into the chilled bowl and set aside.  (You can complete this step earlier in the day, keeping the brown butter at room temperature until you are ready to make the frosting.)

Pour the brown butter into a mixing bowl, add the confectioner’s sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, and the vanilla.  Beat on medium-high until smooth.  Adding the remaining tablespoon of milk, little by little, until a spreadable consistency is achieved.  Use immediately.

Cake3 - Pumpkin

– Original Recipe from Martha Stewart (here).  For everything you need to know about making Brown Butter, view this post from one of my favorite blogs, Poires au Chocolat.

 

 

-This poem is titled “Ephemera” (1895) by William Butler Yeats.