Click here for the Magazine. Updated May 10, 2013
September is the monthly equivalent to Mondays when the fun ends and life begins. With Labour Day, the summer vacation officially ends, much to all of our dismay, the days begin to get noticeably shorter and of course, the intense 30 something degree days all but cease to exist. Yes, in September, the dream of summer time freedom dies, and reality sets in.
Thankfully, September does have a major redeeming quality; something that is not depressing in the least — the produce! September is the time when some of our best and most beautiful fruits and vegetables come into season. The booths at the farmers markets are at their fullest and even the big chain supermarkets stock their shelves with as much local-grown stuff as ever.
In terms of veggies, you name it and it’s in season: tomatoes, squash, peppers, leeks, fennel, corn, potatoes, eggplant, broccoli, rutabaga, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and beets. For fruit, apples, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, pears, peaches, plums and raspberries all dominate the shelves of grocery stores and markets alike.
The fall is certainly Quebec’s prime season. With so much local produce at its peak, it would be a shame not to cook in the month of September so I say take advantage. As a Food Network fan, one of my favorite hosts Anna Olson, when counseling her audience on how to formulate a recipe, she often recommends her own adage “if it grows together, it goes together.”
These wise words hold especially true come fall time. How often have you seen recipes combining apples with cranberries or plums, or pears and peaches with blueberries? Where one fruit provides sweet flavor and firm texture, the other provides tartness and more delicate texture. Combining fruits for your desserts will surely result in many a yummy treat.
Here a few of my all-time favorite fall time desserts.
Apple and Plum Cake
I don’t know one person who didn’t grow up eating apple cake. A classic German style apple cake usually consists of 3 parts: the wet, the dry, and the apples. Most apple cake recipes that I have seen called for oil as the fat component of the recipe. Most of the time, for this recipe and for other recipes calling for oil, I will use Canola oil; high in Omega 3, yet light in flavor and relatively low is price, this oil makes for the ideal cooking oil. However, I have been known to switch things up. Whether due to boredom and curiosity, or because I was out of everything else, I have made several recipes including apple cake and banana bread using olive oil. Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils one can consume, so if you don’t mind the slight presence of an olive taste, I would suggest experimenting with it. Otherwise, other possible options are Sunflower oil or Coconut oil.
For the apples, I like to use at least two varieties of apples. I usually go for a combination of Granny Smiths which are firm, hold their shape and are very tart, and Cortland or Royal Gala which are more on the sweet side and will cook down slightly during the baking process. Some chefs will suggest using only apples that keep their shape, but I personally enjoy the contrasting texture of having some of the apples sort of bake into the dough. But that’s just personal preference. Feel free to use any type of apples you like. Another key step in make apple cake (for me) is to toss the apples in a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. When making apple cake, I usually prepare the apples first so that they have time to absorb the sugar spice mixture.
Regardless of the type of oil or apples you choose, the assembly for apple cake is always the same: half the batter on the bottom, the apples, then second half of the batter. I have tried just mixing the lot together; it came out okay, but not as good as the classic way.
Blueberry Crumb Cake with Streusel Topping
A crumb cake is a cross somewhere between a cake and a pie. The batter for the cake is pretty standard; butter and sugar base combined with eggs and dry ingredients, though it is slightly less moist than typical birthday style cake. The pie element comes from the fruit and the streusel.
There are a few ways to make streusel topping. Some call for melted butter, others for cold chunks of butter, some only call for flour and brown sugar for the dry ingredients when others include oats.
I make my streusel by combining equal parts of oats to flour with some brown sugar, then mixing in melted butter. I have tried it with cold butter, but I didn’t find it made that great a difference, and it is less work to incorporate the melted butter.
I have only used blueberries for my crumb cake, but I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute the berries for grapes.
Port Poached Pears
For my first experience trying poached pears I was lucky enough to be dining at the Five Diamond restaurant Le Baccara at the Casino Lac Leamy. Paired with hazelnut mousse and hazelnut lace cookies, this was and is still the best dessert I have ever had.
Pears are typically poached in simple syrup ( equal parts water and sugar brought to a boil) because it retains the full flavor of the pear and is very inexpensive. Although a poached fruit is a very simple dish, replacing the simple syrup with port transforms it into an utterly luscious and extravagant dessert, worthy of finding its way to a Five Diamond restaurant’s menu.
You could use a good red wine sweetened with a bit of sugar in the place of port, but it’s just not the same.
Fall fruits are lovely and abundant and make for very comforting style of desserts.
If you have been meaning to get into baking, now is the time.
Click here for the Magazine. Updated May 10, 2013
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