Even though Autumn may not be my favorite of the seasons, the natural fragrances wafting through the air this time of year definitely redeem it. In fact, any of the following aromas delivers a surge of happiness that almost makes the shortening days palatable. These scents trigger powerful memories of special times that I welcome with every inhale.
Wood-burning Fires Escaping Chimneys
The first time I walk outside on a chilly fall evening and catch a whiff of a neighbor’s burning fire, I imagine fashionable neighbors lounging in front of beautiful hearths like these.
The sharp fragrance so vivid in the crisp air recalls campfires of youth and Thanksgiving Day walks with family. I also visualize the playroom of my teenage years where I hosted slumber parties in front of a blazing fire.
Tea Olive (Osmanthus)
I finally caught the first seasonal hint of one of my favorite sweet-smelling plants in the southern garden last week. The tiny buds on a couple of local hedges are just starting to open,
but don’t put your nose too close. The clean scent that fills the streets and alleys of Charleston this time of year are best captured from a bit of a distance.
One sniff takes me back to my college days in Athens, Georgia, where I first befriended Ellen, and conjures mental snapshots from those halcyon years. Because Richmond’s Zone 7 is on the outer edge of the tea olive’s natural growing environment, I don’t get too many opportunities to find this scent. When I do, I slow way down and absorb the happy memories.
There is nothing like walking into a home filled with the smell of baking apples. How can you not be filled with nasal nostalgia? Honeycrisps have become my favorite local apple variety for baking in both savory and sweet dishes.
They may not be the prettiest but despite the often mottled skin, they provide the best sweet bite that you can find in these parts and retain their essence when heated.
While I was writing this post, I couldn’t resist whipping up a simple apple crisp and filling our home with the sweet smell of honeycrips and cinnamon. Fortunately this recipe (below) tastes as good as it smelled. Convinced that leaving the peel on the apples and having oatmeal and pecans in the ingredients makes this a healthy treat/dessert/breakfast, I am looking forward to whipping it up throughout the season.
My first Bourbon adventures were accompanied by Coco-Cola. Back in the days when a girl’s obligation on the day-long football date was to carry a purse that could hide a flask amongst its detritus, drinking Bourbon and Cokes kept us warm and happy as we cheered on our beloved Bulldawgs. One sniff of this Southern liquor takes me back to Sanford Stadium in a flash.
Sometimes I will open a bottle of Jim Beam just to get a whiff and recall with awe and wonder the ‘Dawgs magical 1980 national championship season, which Ellen and I were blessed to witness.
Just last week I found another way to inhale this brown liquid that has become the darling of the small-batch drinking crowd. What could be better than a Bourbon Honey Bundt Cake (recipe below) at a tailgate? With just a hint of bourbon aroma in both the cake and the glaze, it travels well for out-of-town games. We’ve already added it to our Tried and True Recipes Pinterest board.
Please tell us about your favorite Fall fragrances. We’ve no doubt missed some posse favorites. I expect a lot of them involve cooking and baking but wonder what other surprises you’ll have for us.
September 26, 2014
- 2 1/2 pounds medium Honeycrips apples (about 5), cored, thinly sliced and rough chopped
- 2 T granulated sugar
- 3/4 t ground cinnamon
- 1/4 t fine salt
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 T cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces, plus more for coating baking dish
- 1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- Heat the oven to 350° and lightly coat a 2 quart baking dish with butter.
- Combine the apples, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spoon the apple mixture in the prepared baking dish and set aside.
- Using the same bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oats, flour, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt until combined. With your fingertips or a pastry cutter, blend in the butter pieces until small clumps form and the butter is well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add pecans or walnuts, if desired. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples.
- Place dish on middle rack of oven and bake until the streusel is crispy and the apples are tender, 50 - 60 minutes. Let cool on a rack at least 30 minutes before serving.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 6 T unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for buttering pan
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups less 1 Tbs flour
- 1½ t baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup local honey
- 2/3 cup milk at room temperature
- 1/3 cup bourbon, whisky or amber rum
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 T water
- ¼ cup local honey
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) bourbon, whiskey or amber rum
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 8 ½ inch Bundt pan liberally and sprinkle pecans evenly into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
- Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Combine the milk, bourbon and honey in a separate bowl and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add 1/3 of flour mixture and beat in, then add half of the liquid mixture and beat well. Add another third of flour, blend in and add remaining liquid mixture and beat well again. Then add final third of flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
- Gently spoon the batter into prepared Bundt pan on top of pecans. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning the Bundt cake out of the pan so that nut side is up. Cool on a wire rack while making the syrup glaze.
- Put all the ingredients for the syrup in a small pot and heat until boiling. Allow to boil for a few minutes until it reduces slightly. Turn off heat and let cool for a few minutes before beginning to glaze cake.
- Place warm cake either on a rack or a piece of parchment or foil in a pan or plate with sides to catch the glaze that doesn’t soak in immediately. Drizzle or brush the syrupy glaze, a little at a time, over all top, sides and inside of cake. Continue to brush on the glaze over a about an hour or more, allowing the syrup to slowly soak into and infuse the cake with the bourbon and honey scent and flavor.