Baking, like cooking in general, is very much dependent on availability and quality of ingredients. And baking seasonally will not only guarantee the highest quality bakes, but also ensure that your creations are warmly received by their intended audience. There are a rare few that enjoy pumpkin pie at any other time than November. Gingerbread cut-outs just don’t make sense in May. And who eats strawberry shortcake in February? Well, I would. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Especially with a baking-powder biscuit and vanilla freshly-whipped cream. Only fresh strawberries, of course, but if you must use frozen, try adding a little mint or basil to the frozen berries as they thaw…sorry, I digress.
Autumn is the kick-off to a long season of great baking opportunities. The weather cools, so you can turn on the oven without sweating out the whole house. People like eating soups and stews, so you can get bread and rolls going into overtime. Fall is one of the few times of year I like raisins, especially when mixed into Barmbrack, an Irish tea loaf for Halloween that is positively filled with them. And the apples! And the pumpkins & squash! Thanksgiving pie! But really, Fall is just a warm-up to the high season of baking: Winter. Winter holidays are centered around baking, from Christmas gingerbread, bûche de noël, and fruitcake to Hanukkah’s sufganiyot donuts, challah, and even kugel. Flavors deepen and get spicier, textures become rich and heavy, and there never seems to be enough room in my stomach.
I love baking in the fall and winter, especially as families gather to share in the warmth of fireplaces and afghan blankets. Curling up with a freshly-baked cookie, a hot mug of tea, and my three-year-old to watch Room on the Broom is the height of bliss. Cinnamon toast made from freshly-baked bread after a long afternoon outside prepping the garden for winter tastes divine. And tucking into a flaky apple pie after dinner while family members set up euchre games, while drinking cups of tea or drams of smoky Scottish whisky, could be the culmination of the perfect evening. Imagine that slice of apple pie with a boozy bourbon caramel sauce. Don’t you just feel cozy now?
Break out the plaid scarves and puffy vests, the pie pans and cookie cutters. It’s time for Fall baking!