Baking in Season

The desserts and pastries I bake change based on the seasons. I bake different cookies in the spring than I would in the winter. It’s exciting to see new fruits in season at the grocery store, and I’m endlessly inspired by any holiday.

Spring: Sugar Cookies and Chocolate. Perhaps the reason why I associate sugar cookies with the beginning of the year is because it seems like there are so many holidays one right after the other. There’s New Year’s, then Valentine’s Day, then St. Patrick’s and Easter…it seems like the easiest way to get into a baking holiday spirit during this time is to just bake cookies into festive shapes. A few cute cookie cutters and some colored royal icing is pretty much all I need to feel like I’m celebrating. February, though, is the time for chocolate. Truffles or just chocolate brownies, anything rich and decadent is the perfect accompaniment to Valentine’s Day. Even if you don’t have a significant other with whom to celebrate the day (as I don’t), nobody can say you can’t treat yourself.

Summer: Ice Cream and Fruit Tarts. True, ice cream making isn’t exactly “baking”, but it’s a dessert and that’s good enough for me. One of my favorite summer activities is to go berry-picking for blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, anything I can find, then bring it home and put it in some sorbet or ice cream. Waiting for the ice cream mixture to chill down takes some patience (which I don’t always have!) but the payoff is excellent. And since the recipes I use never yield as much ice cream as you might get at the grocery store, I’m compelled to eat less at a time which helps when I’m counting calories. The berries also find their way into tarts, which, I’ve been told, are something of my specialty. Fresh raspberry tart right out of the oven with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream: it’s the kind of taste you remember all year long.

Autumn: Everything Pumpkin! I only just recently started buying whole pie pumpkins instead of canned pumpkin, and I daresay I’ll never go back. Roasting a pumpkin is as simple as cutting it in half, scooping out the insides, and throwing it in the oven for about an hour. After that, the possibilities are endless. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, even pumpkin creme brulee, which I tried just recently and came out amazing. You never need very much pumpkin for any recipe so even a very small pumpkin can be used for multiple desserts. The leftovers usually end up in my mother’s oatmeal. I used one pumpkin recently and I have another that is yet to be roasted, which is currently serving as decoration until the fateful day when I try out that pumpkin pound cake recipe.

Winter: Cakes and Cinnamon. Christmas cakes are always high on my list of things to bake once winter rolls around. Since when it comes to decorating, I can usually do no better than a bit of colored frosting or fondant, I like to try other types of cakes as well. A few years back I made a Yule Log for the first time and it turned out amazing. In fact, anything traditional that you often hear about but almost never see are fun projects to take on. I made sugar plums for my mother’s Christmas party a few years back and they were a huge hit, probably as much for the novelty as the flavor. My grandfather one year requested that I make him pfefferneusse, a cardamom-flavored cookie I hadn’t heard of before but have since fallen in love with. And of course, nothing can really beat homemade cinnamon buns on Christmas morning. Since Christmas traditions only come out once a year, I try to make everything I bake around the holidays extra special, so there’s one more thing for my family to look forward to.

A new season always invigorates me and inspires me to try new recipes, perfect old ones, and find new ways to bake as much from scratch as possible. I do have to say that autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, probably because there are more excuses to bake and more people around to eat whatever I come up with.

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