There’s something about fall that tends to tempt even the most devoted freezer case shopper back to the kitchen. As furnaces crank up to a pre-season hum and firewood finds its way back into neat hearthside stacks, we are beckoned by siren memories of delicious foods from kitchens past. We long to return home at the end of the day to the enticing aromas of long-simmering soups and stews, hearty roasts and soul-satisfying desserts that showcase the best of the season. To honor those memories and to further nudge your impulse to replicate those nostalgic moments, today I will share with you three all-time favorites from my fall dessert repertoire.
I have been making Avon Antique Apple Cake for at least 40 years. It was evidently served every year at the Avon, Connecticut Antique Fair, a fall tradition in that town; hence the cake’s name. It has long been one of my reliable fall-back desserts when guests arrive unexpectedly, because it isfast, drop-dead easy to make (I LOVE things that can be made completely in the food processor), and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. Plus, it is one luscious little cake. The outer layer somehow manages to be both crunchy and chewy at the same time, while the inner layers offer a sweet, buttery, slightly chewy, slightly appley contrast. Served with a dollop of whipped cream, it is fall eating at its best.
AVON ANTIQUE APPLE CAKE
The Hartford Courant (eons ago)
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
4 T butter (1/2 stick)
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1 large tart apple, such as Granny Smith
3 T sugar
3 T butter, room temperature
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350º F.
In a food processor, mix the sugar, flour, butter, baking powder, vanilla and egg. Press into an 8” or 9” round cake pan. Peel, core and thinly slice the apple and arrange in a circular pattern on the dough. Bake for 45 minutes.
Remove the cake from oven. Mix together the sugar, butter, egg and cinnamon, and pour over the cake. Bake an additional 25 minutes.
Peach Cobbler is my grandson Ian’s favorite dessert, so it is always in rotation whenever I visit his home in the fall. I find it a particularly great choice to make when the season presents us with a less-than-perfect crop for eating “au naturel” (as nature delivers it). Even slightly mealy peaches give great results in a cobbler. This ancient Gourmet Magazine recipe is my go-to for fall’s peach crop.
|6 large peaches, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup sugar
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarchBiscuit topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling waterPreheat oven to 425° F.Toss peaches with sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a 2-quart nonreactive baking dish and bake in middle of oven 10 minutes.Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.Remove peaches from oven and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Bake in middle of oven until topping is golden, about 25 minutes. (Topping will spread as it bakes.)
If no one has yet introduced you to the infamous Plum Torte recipe, you are in for a singular treat. It was so popular with readers of The New York Times that every fall for six years the paper was besieged by requests for a re-print of the recipe. In 1989, they finally got so fed up that they reprinted it under the headline “DE GUSTIBUS: Once Again (Sigh), The Plum Torte”. They have not published it since. This torte takes all of five minutes to throw together, and served warm from the oven with whipped cream, is a piece of true fall magic.
Now is the time to whip this up, as the small Italian plums just hit the market and won’t be around very long. They are particularly succulent in this torte, but when they are gone from the market we simply replace them with fewer regular plums throughout the year, with no major differences noted.
NOTE: This recipe allows for the use of either an 8′, 9″ or 10″ springform pan. In my experience, the baking time needs to be adjusted accordingly, with the 1 hour time being used for the smallest size (since the batter will be he thickest). If you are using one of the other two sizes, start checking (toothpicks ahoy!) at around 45 minutes.
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
24 halves pitted purple plums (these are the small Italian ones, available only for a short time in the fall. If using larger plums, you need only about 6)
Sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, for topping.
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
Spoon the batter into a springform of eight, nine or ten inches. Place the plum halves, skin-side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
Bake one hour. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300º F.
VARIATION: To make an apple-cranberry torte, follow directions for plum torte but peel, seed, quarter and slice two or three large baking apples. Arrange ½ cup cranberries over the batter and top with the apple slices. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon; squeeze ½ to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over the apples. Sprinkle with sugar.