In a Brown Pallete
Delicate tender greens, rosy rhubarb, and many lavender shades of crocus are showcased in spring while vibrant vegetable and fruit hues celebrate summer’s produce. The New England autumn is justifiably famous for the bright gold, orange, and vermillion of its turning leaves, but here in Northern California, dusty golds and olive greens mark the subtler changing of the season. California gold is not only the famous ore deposits but the soft color of our hills when spring has ended. We love the deep golds, honey and deep amber, perhaps chesnut brown and freshly grated nutmeg’s sienna hue. The palette of ground spice browns is one of the familiar favorites of fall.
I look forward to getting into the spice cabinet at the beginning of fall baking season and seeing what needs updating or replacing. In addition to the spices in the above photo, I also like to keep two spice blends on hand: apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice. Each spice company makes their own blends, but in general, apple pie spice is made up of mostly cinnamon, with lesser amounts of nutmeg and possibly allspice and or cardamom. Pumpkin pie spice is also made up of mostly cinnamon but then usually ginger and cloves, as well. You can mix either spice blend up yourself, of course, but a I really like Penzey’s blend of apple pie since, so I keep theirs on hand.
Last year, Rose gifted me with a set of charming miniature baking forms in the shape of pinecones and I have been waiting for fall baking season to try them out. The recipe that came with the set is for gingerbread pinecones, but I changed the spice profile to cardamom, mace, and nutmeg. I followed the somewhat skimpy directions, and the mini-pinecones turned out of the non-stick molds beautifully. They tasted really good warm but as with gingerbread and other heavily spiced baked goods, even better after being stored for several days in a cookie tin.
A little powdered sugar sifted over the top just before serving looks like a light dusting of snow over your pinecone. The molds don’t seem to be available this season at the beloved baking website Fancy Flours, so I tested part of the dough without molding. I rolled walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls then rolled the balls in granulated sugar. I flattened each ball with an old fashioned potato masher which made them look somewhat like a peanut butter cookie and they baked up very well. Feel free to customize the recipe using your favorite warm spices.
Special equipment: mixing bowl, hand or stand mixer or wooden spoon, sieve or sifter, silicone scraper, baking sheet pans lined with silicone mat or parchment paper, potato masher or fork to press down dough balls, cooling rack
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon mixed spice* (I used 1 teaspoon each cardamom, nutmeg, and mace)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup
- Extra granulated sugar for rolling
- In mixer bowl, beat sugar and butter together until incorporated, about 1 or 2 minutes. Beat in egg and honey, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Stir the flour mixture into the batter just until no flour is visible.
- Roll into balls then roll balls in granulated sugar. Flatten gently with a potato masher or fork, and place the cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just firm to the touch. Cool on pan for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack to cool completely. Store in air-tight container at room temperature for quite a while.
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