Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Cookin'

I love Fall.  The smells, the sights, the sounds, the feel.  I love it all.  As soon as there is even a hint of it, I begin apple picking.  I start to check on my pumpkins and squash in the garden.  I take time to look up into the trees for signs of reds and yellows in the leaves.  I start to look on the ground for brown ones.  And I cook.  A lot.  Fall cooking is so much different for me than summer cooking.  Summer cooking is more pasta salads, grillin', and tossing things together.  When fall arrives the oven gets all the love and attention it has yearned for over the past few months.  As does my crockpot.  The apples made a new home in the crockpot for a few days.  Crockpot applesauce is the easiest.  Fill with cored and cut apples.  Add sugar if you like.  Some cinnamon and about a cup of water.  Turn on low overnight and the next morning you've got a vat of applesauce.  I usually start mine a couple hours before bedtime and right before I head up, I mash down whatever is in the crock.  I also check to make sure there'll be enough water so that it won't burn.  Don't be afraid to put in an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water if you're unsure.  If you let the apples cook a little longer, the water will evaporate.  Burned applesauce, however, is hard to recover from. 
Squash.  Butternut.  Acorn.  Sweet Dumpling.  Yum. 
Sweet Dumpling Squash
Slice the Sweet Dumpling Squash in half and take out the seeds and stringy bits.  Fill with a generous dash of cinnamon, a small dash of nutmeg, a couple pinches of brown sugar, pat of butter and drizzle with maple syrup.  This is the only way my boys will eat squash....because it tastes like candy.  Diabetics...Beware!
A local mushroom picker stopped by my csa and dropped off some gigantic wild mushrooms.  They were absolutely amazing to look at.  At $10lb I had to buy one.  Mine was a good pound and a half.  It was a little intimidating at first.  Then I grabbed that sucker and took hold.  I said to it, "you'll be fabulous in butter!"  Isn't everything?  I took about 1/2 a stick of butter and threw it into a skillet.  Then I added pieces of the mushroom, some garlic and scallions, because they were in my csa share.  I was feeling frisky, so I doused it with some vanilla bourbon I had brewing.  I had a bottle of bourbon, added some sliced vanilla beans and it's been sitting in my basement for months now.  I digress.  Back to mushrooms.  I added a bit of salt and then after stirring off the alcohol (which really doesn't happen as fast as people think.  It actually takes a lot longer than a few minutes for all the alcohol to go away.) I added some half and half, because I didn't have cream. 

Mmmm...mushrooms, garlic and scallion...ready to get sauced!
I received some freshly picked cranberries and baked a cranberry coffee cake.  Holy cow it was yummy!
I don't have pictures, but it was me.  I made an apple cake, but somehow forgot to add in the sugar.  
Apple cake.
It was still applelicious and I sprinkled sugar on top to add some sweetness. 
Loaf after loaf of bread has been baked.  And donuts.  I had no idea I could make my own an oven. 

Chocolate glazed donut
I bought a donut pan.  I got a recipe off the world wide interweb.  And I tweaked it.  The thing with donut making is that you already have an idea of how a donut should taste.  We like our donuts sweet and sticky.  The cakier donuts are not our cup of tea. 

Baked Chocolate Donuts...adapted from Lara Ferroni

2 cups unbleached flour
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup whole milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Grease donut pan with butter.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix dry ingredients well to make sure that the baking soda and powder get evenly distributed and are not cakey or clumpy. 
In another bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
Add to the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stirring gently to combine.  Don't over mix or your donuts will be rubbery.  And no one wants to eat a rubber donut.
Fill each cup 3/4 full.  I use a piping bag, but it can get messy and my hands hurt.  You can also use a spoon.  Make sure not to cover the hole.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  The donuts should be springy when touched.  Turn out onto a cooling rack or plate before glazing.  Sometimes we glaze, sometimes we sprinkle with sugar. 

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