Fall comes with its own set of associated flavors: cinnamon and spice, caramel, apples, pears, pecans and walnuts, not to mention the ubiquitous pumpkin. We love all these flavors and look forward to baking old favorites and recombining them in new ways. For our classic autumn menu click to our website, http://www.myteaplanner.com/an-autumn-afternoon-tea.html which I find almost perfect, if I do say so myself. But I can’t help taking the bones of fall flavors and mixing them together differently; I can’t seem to leave well enough alone.
In my ongoing fascination with gelatins of all stripes, I begin thinking, how would pomegranate taste in a spiced apple based gelee? Or chopped nuts in some kind of creamy pumpkin mold? I’ve been intrigued by a recipe for a dulce de leche gelatin mold for years and decided I would make it and serve it with a slightly bitter coffee pecan sauce to cut some of the sweetness. Tasters declared it delicious. These are the thoughts that the first cool winds of fall bring to mind.
Or soup, I love serving a tiny portion of hot soup at the beginning of a fall tea party. It’s a chance to use small espresso cups or tiny soup mugs to serve just a small taste of soup with perhaps a baked topper. A savory miniature puff pastry stuffed with Asiago cheese or a tiny mustardy soft pretzel would be a pleasing accompaniment. The soup itself could be a butternut squash puree, perfumed with fresh sage or a petite ramekin of French onion soup capped with its signature cheesy crouton. Turkey stock with a small dice of root vegetable would be a light yet seasonal starter.
Growing up in apple farming county, each September there would be a wooden crate of apples perfuming our garage. Baking with these beauties was definitely encouraged, and there was always a willing audience for any apple recipe testing going on. My time-tested apple pie, cake, and bars are reliably well received, but now each autumn finds me ogling Pinterest with its many inventive ways to utilize our local apples. Suzi and I made the puff pastry apple “roses” which are as tasty as they are stunning. We followed blogger Manuela's extremely clear recipe and video, here: http://cookingwithmanuela.blogspot.com/2015/03/apple-roses.html
What about maple? Though sugar maple trees are tapped in late winter, I always think of maple flavored goodies in fall, with caramel or nuts or pumpkin. We recommend Trader Joe's charming maple sandwich cookie, shaped like a maple leaf. Maple also lends itself to savory applications. I think a fall variation on my raspberry and walnut salad would make a tasty tea salad. Crisp Fuyu persimmons and tart apples cut into fat match stick sized pieces, tossed with shredded Napa cabbage and dressed with maple-mustard dressing just before serving sounds yummy and celebratory of fall colors and flavors. When I was testing the recipe in mid-September, the persimmons weren’t ready. The farmer I spoke with said his generally ripen in October. In the photograph, the part of persimmons is being played by late summer nectarines.
We do have to get some more orange color into our fall tea. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash can all star in this role. Cooked and mashed, all three are almost interchangeable. Ripe, soft Hachiya persimmons just need to be peeled and mashed and the pulp is ready to be used in baked recipes. I’m thinking a pumpkin-based cake, marbled with a spicy gingery batter. I decided on a cake baked in a jellyroll pan; cut into small squares, the pretty swirl decoration needs no additional adornment.
Another Pinterest find, pies with cinnamon pinwheel crust, shown as an apple pie here, will also be tasty with pumpkin or pecan filling. Country Living magazine has an excellent article about these pies using refrigerated pie dough here: http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g3620/cinnamon-roll-pie-crust/ I like that they start off by saying that “ Pie season is the best season.” Who can argue with fall logic like that?
An autumn-centric use for your trifle bowl is our Gingerbread Trifle with Leftover Pie, found in our Post Thanksgiving Tea Menu: http://www.myteaplanner.com/november-a-post-thanksgiving-tea.html Or perhaps a trifle featuring pumpkin roll slices showing through the sides: pretty!
I hope my ideas for fall tea menus get you excited about baking and cooking in the cooler weather. As always, let me know about any fun autumn dishes you are working on.
Persimmon and Apple Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 5 cups shredded Napa cabbage, about half a head
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 large firm apples, preferably a red-gold skinned variety
- 2 firm Fuyu persimmons
- 1 cup toasted pecan or walnut halves or pieces
Serves 12 as tea-sized servings or 4-6 as salad course at dinner
- Dressing: whisk all dressing ingredients together until well mixed and thickened. If making ahead, store in glass jar with tight lid in refrigerator up to one week ahead.
- In serving bowl, place shredded Napa cabbage. Set aside.
- Make lemon water bath: in medium bowl, place lemon juice and about 2 cups of water.
- On cutting board, quarter and core but do not peel apples. Using chef’s knife, cut apples into matchsticks and place in lemon water bath. Let apple matchsticks soak for 5 minutes then drain in colander. Shake off excess water. Place on top of cabbage. Cut persimmons in to thin slices, add to cabbage.
- To serve: toss just before serving. Shake or whisk dressing then pour over salad. Toss briefly then top with pecans. Serve immediately. Cover and chill any leftovers and use within a few days.
Pumpkin Spice Swirl Cake Squares
- 2 cups flour
- 1 ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup molasses
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Special equipment: 10” by 15” jellyroll pan lined with parchment and sprayed with baking spray, large mixing bowl, medium bowl, whisk, silicone spatula, table knife
Makes about 48 tea sized squares or 15 dessert sized squares
- In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until no flour shows.
- Scoop about half of the batter into the medium bowl (no need to wash in between.) To this batter, add molasses and spices. Stir until smooth.
- Alternate scoops of spice batter and pumpkin batter in prepared pan. Run a table knife through batter to swirl decoratively.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan back to front half way through baking time. Cake in done when pick inserted into center of cake comes clean and when pressed lightly cake springs back.
- Cool in pan 10 minutes then remove to cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into small squares for teatime or larger squares for dessert. Cake keeps well loosely covered at room temperature for several days.
- 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup cold water
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 can (13.4 ounces) dulce de leche
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Serves 8 to 10
- In small bowl, add gelatin to cold water. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir in boiling water. Stir until smooth.
- Pour dissolved gelatin into blender container. Add dulce de leche, milk, and vanilla. Blend on medium speed, scraping down sides as needed. Blend until mixture is completely smooth.
- Pour into prepared mold and chill for 4 hours or for up to a week, tightly covered.
- To serve, carefully dip mold into hot water, halfway up sides, for 30 seconds. Run a thin knife around edges to loosen. Shake side-to-side to make sure mold has loosened. Place serving plate* or cake pedestal over mold and flip over to unmold. Serve with coffee pecan sauce. Chill any leftovers tightly covered with plastic.
Coffee Pecan Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup strong coffee or espresso
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup toasted pecan halves or pieces
Makes about 1 ½ cups
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, stir together sugar and coffee. Heat until sugar is dissolved.
- In a small bowl, mix together water and cornstarch to make a paste. Stir mixture into coffee sauce.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is shiny and smooth, about five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in toasted pecans. Sauce will be thin. Serve at room temperature. Store tightly covered in fridge up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.