Fall, America's favorite season, has arrived, and it marks the beginning of another busy baking time with warm drinks and snuggling under the covers.
Let's dive into this crisp and colorful season and why it is the best time to have baking fun in the kitchen - testing and perfecting new seasonal recipes that your family will love.
Fall Is America's Favorite Season
According to a recent survey, Americans' favorite season, by far, is fall (45%). This is true across every demographic, including gender, age, income, and parental status. Visiting pumpkin patches, celebrating fall holidays, enjoying the crisp weather, and admiring the colorful foliage are reasons why fall is the best season, according to many. The start of fall triggers nostalgic memories of hosting or attending holiday gatherings with loved ones.
Fall also re-introduces various warm and comforting flavors (hello pumpkin spice and caramel apple), comfort foods, beverages, and baked goods that aren't as available or as popular during other times of the year. As a result, in people's minds, these flavors and dishes have become synonymous with the season.
The Ideal Time to Bake Flavorful and Heartwarming Desserts is in the Fall
Fall holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween are when seasonal desserts become the star of the dessert table. It isn't uncommon to find decadent desserts such as pumpkin pies, apple pies, pecan pies, pumpkin cheesecakes, carrot cakes, and pumpkin spice cookies at special occasions such as gatherings and parties. The holidays are when baked goods are viewed as gifts, so the fall is also an excellent time to test and perfect new seasonal recipes.
New seasonal fruits and vegetables appear in the fall and are ready to harvest. Seasonal dessert ingredients such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are newly harvested and make their way onto the shelves of grocery stores. Pumpkins are at their freshest this time of year, producing higher-quality, more delicious baked products.
Fruits Harvested in The Fall Make The Difference Between "Delicious" and "Dull"
Alongside the typical pumpkin spice flavors, many fresh fruits also become more prominent during the season, especially in desserts. These fruits are the most flavorful during this time of year and perfectly accompany the warm, spicy flavors many think about and expect:
Apples are one of the fruits that most think of when the fall season arrives. This juicy and delicious fruit is available all year but is most flavorful from late summer through late fall. From apple picking in the crisp air to enjoying a cup of warm apple cider, it is one fruit that plays a significant role during the season. Apple pie remains one of the top apple desserts among Americans. In a 2022 data analysis by online retailer Instacart, apple pies accounted for more than 27% of sales.
Cranberries are another fruit synonymous with the fall and the holiday season. This sweet, tart berry peaks in flavor from mid to late fall and adds a burst of flavor to desserts such as pies, cookies, and sweet breads.
Pears are gaining popularity in the fall dessert scene due to their sweet flavor and tender texture. With flavors that remain at peak throughout the season, it is the perfect addition to pastries, pies, fritters, and tarts.
Known to be one of the earliest fruits cultivated by man, figs come into season during the late fall. They add a sweet flavor and chewy, jammy texture to baked goods and pastries and can also add a nutritional boost to fall desserts.
Warming Spices Give Fall Desserts their Nostalgic Characteristics
Fall desserts are all about scents and flavors that evoke warmth and coziness. Numerous spices and flavors are synonymous with these desserts because they awaken the senses and trigger pleasant memories and emotions.
Pumpkin spice is a staple item in the kitchen pantry, as pumpkin desserts continue to be the most popular of the fall season. According to a study by Nielsen, in the previous year ending July 29, sales of pumpkin-flavored products in the U.S. reached $802.5 million!
Cinnamon is another must-have ingredient when baking fall desserts, giving them a sweet, warm, spicy flavor and intense aroma. Additionally, its delicious flavor, when paired with brown sugar, and its overall versatility make it an ideal ingredient for making desserts.
Ginger, often associated with the classic ginger snap cookies and gingerbread houses, is a common spice in fall desserts. The intense, peppery aroma and flavor of dried and freshly ground ginger create a contrasting flavor that adds to the sweetness of cakes, cookies, and sweet bread.
Nutmeg is a popular spice well known for its presence in fall desserts, pairing wonderfully with pumpkin, butternut squash, and apples. It is often used in combination with orange in fall recipes. While nutmeg is a warming and aromatic spice as a standalone ingredient, its characteristics are enhanced when paired with cinnamon.
Allspice has a warm and sweet flavor profile that gives pumpkin-flavored treats, gingerbread, and apple pies their classic flavor. It is also an excellent addition to warm fall drinks such as spiced apple cider. While allspice can be used as a standalone ingredient in desserts, it is best when combined with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cardamom adds warmth, depth, and fragrance to popular fall desserts such as cookies, cheesecake, crisps, creme brûlées, and bread pudding. Green cardamom, in particular, is a must-have in the pantry, with hints of citrus that pair wonderfully with cinnamon.
Last but not least, cloves are one of the most potent spices for achieving a warm and spicy aroma and flavor. For this reason, they are popular in fall desserts such as spice cakes, cookies, and apple crisps. However, because of its strength, very little needs to be used.
Expert Bakers Provide the Best Advice for Creating Flawless Fall Desserts
Professional baking blog Spatula Desserts often advises its readers that baking is a science requiring accurate measurements and techniques for optimal results–but it is also art, and you should have fun in the kitchen, leaving space for creativity.
Below are a few more tips shared for how to create flawless, bakery-style fall desserts this season:
Use Fresh Ingredients
Fresh, ripe, and in-season fruits are juicer and tend to have more flavor than their frozen, dried, or canned counterparts. Likewise, freshly ground spices are more flavorful and aromatic than pre-packaged spices. In recipes that call for vanilla flavoring, always use pure extract or vanilla paste versus imitation extract.
Use Lemon and Sugar to Enhance Apple Flavors
If apple pie is on the fall dessert menu, a combination of freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar helps to bring out more of the apple flavors.
Always Drain The Pumpkin Puree
When making pumpkin pie, it is essential to ensure the pumpkin puree contains no excess water. If necessary, use a cheesecloth to strain the puree or cook it on the stove to evaporate some excess liquid.
Be Ready To Make Your Ingredients at Home
Because pumpkin-flavored desserts are seasonal, the ingredients used to make them are often limited in quantity or out of stock when needed. It helps to keep a few staple spices on hand to make homemade pumpkin or apple spice blends. If fresh pumpkins are available, pumpkin puree can be made at home versus buying the canned version.
If Making Pie Crust From Scratch, Do Not Cut Corners
One of the critical steps when making pie dough from scratch is to let it rest. This part of the process is not optional and is necessary to allow the butter to firm up and for gluten to develop. Applying an egg wash is also required for a nice and flaky pie crust and also prevents the crust from becoming soggy on the bottom.
Avoid Using Ingredient Substitutes
A minor change to the ingredients, even if considered an acceptable substitute, can significantly change the taste and texture of a recipe if not used correctly or in the proper proportions. Therefore, only the most experienced bakers who understand the precise quantity adjustments, the effect the substitute will have on the outcome, and the appropriate technique for incorporating it into the recipe should use ingredient substitutes.
Always Plan Ahead
Schedules can become quite unpredictable during the season with back-to-school time, holidays, and life in general. To take the stress out of baking fall desserts for gatherings and potlucks, it helps to research the recipe beforehand to know what to expect. Having an idea of the required ingredients a few days before making it provides the flexibility to devise a plan B in case the grocery store is out of stock. Some desserts also require setting or resting in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Therefore, it helps to know which steps can or need to be completed in advance, saving time on the day the dessert is served.
Make It a Season Worth Falling For
As the crisp breeze rolls in and the scent of pumpkin and apples begins to fill the air, remember it is the ideal time to truly absorb and take advantage of all the beautiful changes taking place outside. The cooler weather, the colorful fruits and vegetables blooming, and the addition of warm, sweet spices to the pantry make the fall such a fun season for bakers. But perhaps even more special are the baked creations that will help create delicious memories for friends and family in the coming years.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.