Everyone around our valley thinks about apple harvest this time of year, but Fall is not just about apple pie and pumpkin carving.
Did you know that Fall starts in September and doesn’t officially end until late December? It’s a season of holiday entertaining, visits from family and, inevitably, stress!
To alleviate some of this stress make a plan and do a few easy things in advance to prepare. After all, you deserve to enjoy the fun of the season, too! The question is…are you ready for fall?
At Culinary Apple, we always recommend starting early to get organized. It’s the perfect time to organize your pantry, restock your baking staples and replace any that have expired. Check to see if your brown sugar is hard as a rock before you start baking, and make sure to have both light and dark brown sugar on hand.
Do you have the right kind of flour for breads, cookies and cakes? Baking soda and baking powder are key ingredients in baking, and if they have expired you could be left with flat cookies, cakes or muffins.
Unlike cooking, baking is a precise undertaking, and you will be assured great results if you do it the same every time. Most recipes include the weight of ingredients, and using a digital scale when measuring flour and sugar will help prevent any baking missteps.
Fall also brings on our desire for comfort foods.
Roasted chicken, beef and pork start to take prominence again on the dinner table. Now is the perfect time to calibrate your cooking thermometer to make sure you are neither over- nor under-cooking your food.
Take the time to verify that your oven temperature is accurate. Oven thermometers aren’t expensive, and it’s important to know if the oven you’re using is running warmer or cooler than indicated, so you can make adjustments if necessary.
Start planning for holiday gift giving. Are you thinking of baking specialty cakes or breads? This is the time to stock up on those give-away baking tins, cookie cutters, and decorative plates and napkins.
Infusing olive oil is a great way to preserve herbs, spices garlic, citrus and even nuts to create a unique hostess gift. Think about starting early to seek out unique bottles for this purpose. Creating homemade gifts early means you always have a hostess gift on hand, and the personal touch is priceless.
Check out this link from Epicurious.com for great ideas for infusing oils.
Ease into Appetizers
Enjoy family gatherings and impromptu visits from friends by stocking the pantry with easy appetizer ideas. Check your local markets for delicious sauces, salsas, spreads and chutneys to make serving a gourmet snack easy.
For example, pre-made phyllo shells can be filled with brie cheese and topped with jam or pepper jelly for a treat that takes less than 10 minutes to put together. Pre-make appetizers that can be frozen, then just pop them into the oven when guests arrive.
Utilize your freezer as much as possible by making pie and cookie dough ahead of time. Cookie dough can be portioned out into individual cookies, frozen on cookie sheets, and transferred into a freezer safe container or bag until you’re ready to bake. Bake a small batch to treat special visitors, and save the rest for the holidays!
Pie dough can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to three months. If you’re baking a single crust pie, like pumpkin or sweet potato, you can roll out the dough, lay it in a baking tin and crimp the edges before wrapping in plastic and freezing.
You can also freeze an entire pie. Make pies now, while you have some time, and the fruit is fresh from harvest. You won’t notice a difference in taste, but you will see a difference in your holiday baking stress level!
Clean as you Go
Keep clean-up to a minimum, by using parchment, foil or reusable baking mats on cooking sheets and roasting pans. Think about placing a liner on the bottom of your oven to catch any drips or spills. Fill your sink with soapy water while cooking or baking, so you can clean as you go, and never feel overwhelmed by dirty dishes.
The secret to a successful season of fall entertaining is to get organized early. Make sure to stock your pantry and freezer with appetizers, treats and baking essentials so you can really enjoy time with family and friends.
Dave and Mary Weldy own the Culinary Apple, a Kitchen Necessities and Gift Store in Historic Downtown Chelan. www.culinaryapple.com