Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Sweet as Honey Season of Apples

Without question, fall is my favorite season. I love the crisp feel in the air. Love the fall coats and boots in their earth tone shades or bold solid colors. Love the flavors and smells of apples, pumpkin and tea. Love the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving, the only holidays I regularly anticipate with excitement and elaborate plans (costumes on Halloween and travels home for Thanksgiving).

I kicked off this fall season in the best way I know – apple picking with one of my best friends on Rosh Hashana. Yes, I’m aware this day has long come and gone – it still deserves a write up, as it was a fantastic day.

I believe the appeal of apple picking is both timeless and ageless. Few things top the satisfaction of biting into a freshly picked and perfectly ripe apple, sweet and juicy off the tree. The fun extends to hayrides, apple cider donuts, corn mazes and petting zoos. Visiting a farm during apple season makes for a pleasant and wholesome day trip.

My friend and I took off for the same farm we visited a year ago, planning our trip in the car. We would share a peck of apples and donate blood to the childrens’ hospital blood bank truck that would be waiting for us at the farm.

As we stood in line waiting for a bag to fill with apples, I got excited about the prospect of also picking our own peaches, plums and nectarines and insisted that a few small bags of these would be worthwhile. Apples first.

We walked along the trees, first sampling each type of apple available to us. We had our choice of Empire, Red Delicious, Macintosh, Cortland, and Gravestein. We both favored the subtle sour notes and crisp texture in the Cortland apples, and also enjoyed the softer crunch and abundance of juice in the Gravestein apples. I noted that the tart Empire and Macintosh would be fantastic in baked goods. Neither of us cared much for the Red Delicious – in all honesty, I’ve never understood the appeal of the too firm skin and flavorless interior.

We stashed our bag of fresh apples as we set off for the lines of stone fruit trees. Sweet oblong plums caught our eye first, and we were captivated by the sweet juice that gushed out easily with each bite. So tiny, a meager 3-4 bites was all we needed to devour a whole plum, and we alternated snacking and packing a bag with these tiny purple gems. On to the peaches, we found fuzzy softball-sized fruits a few rows over and picked several before discovering the nectarines. Perfectly ripe, each nectarine was so sweet and complex, with a rush of sweet honey in every bite. The rest of our bag was quickly filled with these nectarines and we went to pay for our bounty.

After dropping off our fruit in the car, we stopped into the blood bank truck to try to donate blood. Unfortunately, neither one of us qualified due to recent trips overseas in designated “red zone” areas. I won’t be allowed to donate blood until a full year after my recent stay in the Okavengo Delta in Botswana. A little saddened by our failed attempt at a good deed, we ducked into the bakery to soften the blow with apple cider donuts and our first cup of pumpkin spice coffee of the season.

A few donuts later, we were on our way home to make use of our spoils. My plums and nectarines were split into a cobbler not worth sharing on this blog. The dough didn’t shape up the way I hoped, so I wound up spooning the sweet fruit over vanilla ice cream instead. The peaches were sliced into Sweet and Spicy Peach Salsa and the apples were enjoyed fresh as well as baked into some Tree Hugger Cupcakes with a honey-twist for Rosh Hashana. I added honey to the filling and replaced the apple cinnamon buttercream with honey frosting. (Recipe below)

Honey Frosting (Recipe adapted from Cupcake Project)
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • Beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes)
  • Add powdered sugar slowly until incorporated
  • Mix in honey and sour cream
  • Pipe onto chilled cupcakes

The weather has just started to catch up with the season and I'm reaching into the depths of my closet for sweaters and boots I haven't seen in a year. Halloween is just a week away and I'm still so excited it's fall!

Happy Baking, blogging, apple picking and costume hunting!

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