The last days of summer flew by in a flash for me and it seems that by the time I finally caught my breath, we were already in the beginning of autumn. The leaves are changing, there is a crispness to the air and you can smell the smoke from the neighbor's fireplace. The markets are giving way to the last little bit of summer produce and are beginning to reflect the season with a showing of heirloom apples, sweet pears, Cinderella pumpkins, quince and wild mushrooms.
Fall, with is change in weather, is the the time to change your kitchen game plan. The season calls for a change in menus that feature much more hearty and substantial fare. I enjoy cooking the classics, roasted chicken with potato purée and sauteed greens, boeuf bourguignon with homemade buttered egg noodles, pork roast with roasted apples and sage and braised rabbit with a creamy mustard sauce. As the weather cools down, there is nothing quite as comforting as a pot of soup simmering on the stove or the aroma of a freshly baked apple tart.
It's been busy at The Cook's Atelier. In addition to my cooking classes, I've been traveling quite a bit, visiting little villages and learning some regional dishes in the kitchens of local cooks along the way. I've also been busy finalizing all of the little, last minute details for my daughter's wedding. I been traveling from Beaune to Dijon to Grenoble and hit every little village market along the way - sometimes more than once. I spent a day in the Les Halles de Lyon and enjoyed the best fruits de mer I think I have ever tasted. I learned to make génépi des Alpes from my new son-in-law and I showed him the secret to making the best pâte sucrée.
Today was my first visit to the market since I've returned to Beaune. Gone are the heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, peaches and apricots. In their place, a beautiful assortment of squash, parsnips and hearty greens. One of the most recognizable vegetables in the autumn market in France is a giant heirloom pumpkin. It is a large, thick-fleshed pumpkin that looks exactly like the original old-fashioned illustrations of the magical coach in the Cinderella story. It is a deep orange-red pumpkin that is flattened in shape with deep lobes that are perfect for slicing. In the French market you simply tell your vendor how many people you will be serving and they will cut just the right portion for you. This is a great pumpkin to use in baking and it also makes a classic puréed soup. In the states, you can find these heirloom seeds by mail order atRenee's Garden to plant in next year's garden.
Each year, to celebrate the beginning of the season, one of the first things I bake is pumpkin spice bread. I found this recipe in Food & Wine back in November of 1998 and I've been baking it ever since. It's the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea on a chilly fall afternoon.
There are some little surprises simmering in the kitchen at The Cook's Atelier. I'm very excited and will be sharing the details very soon.
pumpkin spice bread
Adapted from Edna Lewis
Makes one 9-inch loaf
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup fresh or canned unsweetened pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350o. Butter a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and baking powder.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat for 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the pumpkin purée. Stir the vanilla into the milk. Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions at low speed, alternating with the milk mixture.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.