Bless Your Spoon: Delights of autumn

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

Fall always reminds me of church — a place of worship where autumn is celebrated with big bazaars, rummage sales, fall markets and bake sales. The season is one I look forward to all year. I enjoy perusing the baked goodies, usually purchasing a couple to take home and freeze. That way I keep something delicious on hand if an impromptu coffee with a friend arises. More often, I come home and bake a few treats myself. I want to enjoy every sweet sniff of peace and joy whirling around the kitchen, where I’m usually found. More specifically, at my stove.

It’s my feel-good zone. A heated oven warms any cool draft in the house. It’s where I’m poured a heaping cup of comfort and creativity, where I bake in creativity, marinate in quiet calmness, and steep in whatever talents God sprinkled out to me.

So, what I’m leading up to — fall is the perfect time to turn your temps and talents up to high. We’re going warm, sweet and deep today. I’ve rounded up a few favored desserts full of baked, sweet fruit flavors. Keep an eye on baking times because all ovens heat differently. These recipes will carry you through fall, for as you know, winter quickly arrives on the kitchen scene, bringing its personality to your table.

In my mind, early fall has the distinct privilege of ushering in new fresh fruit choices like persimmons, dates, figs, prunes, apples and pears. In addition, the season is the time to get all spiced up and go heavy on nuts. Isn’t it wonderful we live in a place where we can fully enjoy all four seasons and unique food flavors associated with each?

Get ready to snuggle into that old comfy sweater and pull out your pot holders, folks. Preheat the stove, and prepare to bake that Southern pie you’ve always wanted to make. Fall doesn’t get any better than whiffs of warm gooey, baked fresh fruit goodness coming straight from your oven.

The sunshine we’ve adored all summer is moving further away. Days are getting shorter, and we don’t seem to get as much light. Our food gardens, flowers, plants and trees are winding down in their normal cycles. And so many of us are too. And some folks might have a harder time as the season progresses into cooler weather.

But I’ll suggest that there’s nothing better than a new Bible study to jump-start your fall and make you feel more alive. There’s no better time to connect with God on a deeper level. Therefore, let’s celebrate this brief moment of splendor with that which God blessed us, relishing each day. Since the Biblical meaning of autumn closely relates to harvest, let us take time to thank God for His goodness and blessings upon the earth.

My favorite scripture for the season is found in Isaiah 40:7-8, which reads, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass, The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Let us take comfort in that — it’s so powerful. Our seasons are only for a season, they’re not permanent. Knowing that, we can enjoy autumnal change and new beginnings that come from harvesting and sowing new seeds. Every time you feel a cool fall wind, consider the Lord is breathing on you. His breath will remind you that it’s time to renew and make a fresh start.

Fall is the perfect time to ask God for His will and your discernment in setting new goals and plans for the future. For “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Date Shortcake

• 1 cup softened, salted butter

• 1 cup light brown sugar

• 3 cups rolled oats

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. soda

• 1 pound chopped dates

• ½ cup water

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add oats, flour, and soda and mix well.  In a well-buttered 8 x 11 baking dish, pat ½ of mixture into the bottom. In a small saucepan, add chopped small dates and water. Cook slowly and stir until smooth paste is formed. Allow to cool and spread date paste on rolled oats mixture. Then cover with remaining rolled oats mixture and pat down until firm. Bake in a preheated 350-oven — the recipe failed to give a cooking time but begin checking it anywhere from 25-35 minutes or more. Cut into squares.

Sugar and Spice Butter Pecans

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 ½ tsp. ground cumin

• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

• 10 ounces pecan halves

• 3 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 tsp. salt

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir for about 20 seconds until aromatic. In a baking dish, spread single layer pecans over the bottom. Pour butter mixture over pecans and stir to coat. Add sugar and salt. Stir to thoroughly coat. Bake in a preheated 300-degree oven while occasionally stirring for 20 minutes or longer and until nuts are toasted.

Autumn Chess Pie

• ½ cup softened, salted butter

• 1 cup sugar

• 3 eggs

• 2 tsp. vinegar

• ½ tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg

• 1 cup chopped dates

• 1 cup chopped pecans

• ½ cup grated coconut

• Piecrust pastry

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold in chopped dates, nuts and grated coconut. Mix well. Pour into a pastry-lined pie pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or longer until center is somewhat firm. Allow to cool as it sets up.

Spiced Pound Cake

• ½ pound softened, salted butter

• ½ cup Crisco shortening

• 3 cups granulated sugar

• 5 eggs

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. each of salt, mace, allspice, cloves

• ¼ tsp. nutmeg

• 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. whole milk

• ½ tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time thoroughly incorporating after each addition. Add sifted flour, baking powder, spices, nutmeg and cinnamon to butter mixture while alternating with milk and vanilla. Bake in a greased and floured large tube pan in a preheated 215-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tests done. Frost with lemon icing.

Fall Fruit Bowl

• 1 peeled, cored, sliced apple

• 1 peeled, cored, sliced pear

• 1 peeled, sectioned orange

• 1 cup halved dark grapes

• 1 cup orange juice

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. Kirsch

In a bowl, combine a peeled, cored apple sliced into eight sections, pear sliced into eight sections, orange pulled apart into sections, and grapes cut in half. Remove all seeds. In a large saucepan, combine orange juice, sugar and Kirsch and bring to a boil. Add apple and pear sections and simmer 4 minutes. Then add grapes and orange sections and simmer 1 additional minute. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Place in serving dish and chill. Garnish with mint. Serves 4.

Southern Favorite Prune Cake

• 3 beaten eggs

• 2 cups sugar

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. soda

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 cup cooked, chopped prunes

• 1 cup chopped walnuts

Buttermilk Icing

• 1 cup sugar

• ½ cup buttermilk

• ½ tsp. soda

• 1 Tbsp. Karo syrup

• 1/3 stick salted butter

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and vanilla, and mix well. Add oil and mix well. Add flour, soda, and spices while alternating with buttermilk. Mix well. Fold in prunes and walnuts. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 13 baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool. For the icing, in a saucepan, dissolve sugar and soda in buttermilk and Karo syrup. Cook until soft ball stage when dropped into cold water. Remove from stove. Stir in butter until melted.  Pour mixture over top of baked cake. Cool.

Persimmon Biscuit-Topped Cobbler

• 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. or more sugar

• 1 ½ tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 4 Tbsp. salted butter

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 1 beaten egg

Filling

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

• ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

• 4 cups persimmon pulp

• 1 Tbsp. water

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

For the biscuit topping, in a bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add more sugar if you want sweeter biscuits. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a bowl, combine milk with beaten egg. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients while stirring just to moisten. Set biscuit topping aside. For the persimmon filling, in a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Add persimmon and water. Cook while stirring and bring mixture to a boil. Cook for 1 minute. Pour into a butter-greased baking dish. Dot with cut-up butter. Evenly spoon on biscuit topper making 6 mounds. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla cream.

Nutmeg Cake

• 4 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

• ¼ cup Crisco shortening

• 1 ½ cups sugar

• ½ cup vanilla extract

• 3 eggs

• 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 1 ½ -2 tsp. ground nutmeg

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1 cup buttermilk

Coconut Topping

• 6 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

• 1 ½ cups brown sugar

• ¼ cup cream

• 1 cup flaked coconut

For the cake, in a mixer bowl, cream butter and Crisco until fluffy. Beat in sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, thoroughly beating between each addition. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt while alternating with buttermilk. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until done. Allow to cool in pan but while still warm, top with coconut topping. For the topping, in a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add cream and mix well. Stir in coconut. Spread over still warm cake while still in pan. Broil in the oven 4-5 inches from the heat for 4 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Gingered Pear Crumble

• 1 ½ cups ginger snap crumbs

• ½ cup brown sugar

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ¼ cup melted, salted butter

• 1 cup cooked pears

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

In a bowl, combine ginger snap crumbs, brown sugar, salt and melted butter. In the bottom of a butter-greased baking dish, place ½ of the crumb mixture. Place pears evenly on top of crumbs. Sprinkle with lemon juice and the remaining crumb mixture. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve with whipped or iced cream. You can also use as a side dish.

Fresh Fruit Ambrosia

• ¾ cup peeled, diced orange

• 2 peeled, sliced banana

• ½ cup seedless green grapes

• 1/3 cup diced pitted dates

• 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup whipped, whipping cream

• 1 cup salad dressing

• ¼ cup flaked coconut

In a bowl, combine fruits and sprinkle with lemon juice. Chill. In another bowl, whip cream until peaks form. Fold the Miracle Whip salad dressing into the whipped cream. Combine the dressing with the fruit mixture. Add just enough dressing to coat and adhere ingredients. Save any leftovers as a dip for fruit. Mix well. Serve over lettuce. Top with flaked coconut.

Bottoms Up Fig Cake

• ½ cup melted, salted butter

• 1 cup light brown sugar

• 8 cooked, chopped figs

• ½ cup water

• 3 beaten egg yolks

• 1 cup sugar

• 5 Tbsp. fig juice

• 1 cup sifted cake flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• Pinch of salt

• 3 stiffly beaten egg whites

In a mixer bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar. Mix well. Spread on bottom of a butter-greased loaf pan. In a saucepan, boil figs in water for 12-15 minutes or until softened and reserve liquid. Chop figs. Place figs in the brown sugar mixture. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar gradually and beat until creamy. Beat in fig juice with the sifted cake flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the flour mixture. Evenly pour over the figs. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for an hour or more until tests done. Allow to cool. When ready to serve, turn upside down on serving plate. Slice and top with whipped cream.