And all of a sudden, it’s fall.
I can no longer ignore the flutter of leaves falling continually throughout the day, the early sunsets and the chill on the porch when I grab the newspapers each morning.
I have to face the fact that summer is over, but every year it’s always so hard for me.
Luckily, I can console myself with the fact that at no other time of the year does it make as much sense to crank up the oven and start baking as it does right now.
And man have I been busy, like a squirrel gathering nuts on the advance news of an apocalypse.
Let me show you.
In the past five days there’s been homemade focaccia.
What a treat it is right out of the oven!
This batch didn’t have its usual laudable loft but it was crispy on the outside with a meltingly tender and moist crumb.
I served the focaccia with a big batch of meatballs and an endive-fennel salad (with an anchovy dressing) and it was the perfect meal on one of those lazy football afternoons — the kind where every commercial break has people popping the top off the crockpot and go fishing for another meatball.
I’d also been promising Charlotte that we would use some new Wilton pans I’d bought; she’d seen a Pinterest recipe with an ombre layer cake and she wanted to try it out.
I made one batch of a vanilla cake recipe and divided the recipe in four, tinting each part slightly differently.
The cake batter is then placed in the four very shallow pans and they bake for about 15 minutes.
Charlotte and I made my favorite cream cheese frosting while the cakes cooled, and then went off in search of one of our favorite annual neighborhood events — the Hood River Fruit Sale.
Every year the good people from Red Barn Orchards in Hood River come to our neighborhood and set up shop on a corner, selling their wonderful varieties of apples, pears and honey at the lowest prices around (all fruit, mix and match for 75 cents a pound or 40 pounds for just $25.)
They usually come for two weekends, and this upcoming weekend they’ve added one last day for sales this year. If you live in Portland, come by this sale at 37th and Thompson between 9 and 3.
The sellers are wonderful, it’s fun to bump into beautiful you know and the fruit is spectacular..Curious about a certain variety you’ve not yet tried? Just point to any kind and they’ll let happily let you sample it on the spot.
There were several different kinds of pears
and apples, including two of my favorites, Red Striped and Granny Smith.
This year I bought 80 pounds. Eighty.
I like to have them on-hand for kids lunches, after-school snacks, and for making crisps, coffee cakes, braises, shrubs and more.
Got an apple recipe you absolutely love? I’d love to see it!
Now with the larder fully stocked, Charlotte and I started to ice the cake.
Two layers, it all looked okay.
The third layer with frosting, still holding up okay.
It wasn’t until the fourth layer that I started to realize that I was having an architectural problem.
I know, I know, not pretty.
I’m not sure if what the problem was, but it looked like it was going to collapse. Damn.
I frosted the cake, and used some yogurt containers as a buttress in the fridge — and hoped for the best.
After a night in the fridge it did settle and flatten out a little bit, but I can’t say it was my prettiest cake, but it looked decent enough to serve.
We cut up the cake (it was delicious if a little lopsided) and brought some back over to the good folks at the Fruit Sale, figuring they could use a little brightening up on such a gray/drizzly day.
Next time I may trim the cakes so that they are entirely level before frosting and add more very cold frosting in between. I will also experiment with the saturation of the colors as I think our top third and fourth layer were a little too close in color.
But it’s a fun cake to make — and I’m already daydreaming of all the lovely pastels I can make.
And then there was one more big baking adventure.
Right now, take a look at my favorite cookie
I’ve talked about these Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies before — and here’s the recipe if you want to make it.
This time I mixed it up a little bit; I used really good Oats from Bob’s Red Mill (and not just generic quick cooking oats)
and I loved how they added this beautiful chew and texture to the cookies.
I also used three different kinds of chocolate: semi-sweet and jumbo milk chocolate chips as well as chopped bittersweet chocolate.
This made the cookies all the more interesting.
The batter smelled so promising — and they baked up beautifully, golden and fragrant.
I had a number of thank you cards to write so I dropped those off with these cookies.
Wouldn’t you be so happy to see a handwritten note and some sweets outside your door?
Are you too feeling a little blue about the suddenly gray and drizzling weather?
Make up a batch of these and I promise you the world will seem just a little brighter
and a whole lot sweeter.