I don't know what it is about fall, but that first little nip in the air makes me want to cozy up with a good cookbook. You might argue that it's only August, and it's too early for fall, but take a walk outside on this gorgeous day (in NYC it's gorgeous) and you'll just get a feeling that the weather has changed, and you better enjoy the sun while it's still shining. I did all that, and then I felt the urge to bake.
True confessions -- I really don't like to cook. I don't like planning a menu, slaving over a hot stove, using every pot and pan in the house, and then having to clean it all up afterwards. Give me a good take out or a bowl of cereal any time. But I LOVE to bake. I like getting my hands in flour and kneading bread, or cutting up apples for an apple crisp. And I can't resist the smell of something baking in the oven.
When I was a child growing up in Utah, I remember spending lots of summer days picking peaches, apricots and cherries with my family, and then spending time in a really hot kitchen pitting cherries and watching my mother take hot mason jars out of a canning pot and flipping them over so the seal would set. It was great having all that fresh fruit to munch on, but I loved knowing that on cold winter days we'd have bottled fruit available to make a wonderful peach or cherry cobbler.
Earlier this week I bought a bunch of bananas that I thought my kids would enjoy, but Glen was out of town visiting his mother, who is quite sick, and I farmed Kate and Dash out to various friends all week so I could got to work, and no one ate the bananas. So this morning Dash and I went through some cookbooks and found a couple of wonderful recipes -- one for banana bread (made with sour cream -- that one sounded appealing) and one for banana muffins with chocolate chips. We compromised and made the banana bread recipe and added chocolate chips. I had so many bananas that I doubled the recipe and ended up with a dozen muffins anyway, in addition to 16 mini loaves of bread. And yes, it made our house smell wonderful, but they tasted even better. Imagine, hot out of the oven banana bread, with melting semi-sweet chocolate morsels mixed in. What a treat! Kate wouldn't try them though -- she says banana bread makes her nauseous -- but I had to tell Dash to stop eating them after I lost count of how many he ate. We gave some to the doorman, wrapped some up to freeze, and have a couple ready to give as a thank you to the friends who took care of the kids this week. All in all, a good day.
And just in case you get the urge to do some baking of your own, my favorite baking cookbook is The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. In addition to the recipes, there's a little story that goes along with each one, and there are lots of ideas for experimentation. This is not the cookbook for someone who wants to decorate every cake with Wilton roses, but for breads, scones, muffins, trifles or anything like that, I highly recommend it. Plus, the website is an amazing resource and the online store is fantastic. (I like the add-in flavors for breads, especially the herb and olive base for a change of taste.) The website is www.kingarthurflour.com/.
Tomorrow I think we're making a blue/berry peach buckle -- we have some peaches that have to be eaten, and what better way to use them up!