I have a shed in my backyard. It’s a good shed. I don’t have any basis of comparison on this point, but I feel this to be true. The shed holds all of our garden supplies, a neglected lawn mower, and approximately 1,000 cans of partially used paint.
However, I don’t want this shed. What I want is a writer’s cottage. For several years now, I’ve been asking Kirk to help me transform the place. His response is always the same. He tells me something about our limited space and the supplies that need to be put somewhere. I remain unconvinced. The garage can house these supplies. He then points out the garage is full of skis, bikes, baby things, and the general overflowing aftermath of two previously independent lives squeezed into one small house. The garage cannot house these supplies.
He might be right. On the other hand, he might be wrong. We’ve certainly never tried to pack the garage yet fuller. Its capacity could be far greater than we know. And, to be perfectly honest, I’d be willing to allow the lawn to develop into a fine meadow along with all the other plants for that coveted place in the backyard. Or, I’d even be willing to share my cottage with several of these objects just for a small spot of peace in this world. It would be a quiet place I could use during the evening hours with no baby monitors or internet access. I would finish the book proposal I started last year. I would write to all of you more often. I am certain I would finish so many things.
But that is not in the cards. Well, at least it’s not in the deck of cards with which I’m currently dealing.
So here I am surrounded by cookbooks in a perfectly reasonable kitchen on a perfectly stormy day. It’s not a bad place, really. I like my kitchen a great deal. From my perch today, I have a dramatic view of the first hints of autumn. The wind is blowing bits of rain sideways and the oilcloth I placed on the wooden picnic table outside on that gorgeous early summer day is whipping around wildly threatening to break lose.
Inside here in the kitchen, it’s relatively quiet at this moment. The little red fox is asleep. K isn’t here. He’s off, as he usually is on weekends, photographing a bride who is likely horribly disappointed that the first storm of the season came to be on her wedding day. I certainly hope she can cast those feelings aside and bask in the beauty of new marriage. Maybe she can even appreciate the dark stormy skies and the fabulously interesting photos that come about on rare days like this one.
As far as I’m concerned, there is really only one thing to do on a day such as this when you are stuck inside without access to a writer’s retreat.
Fill the house with the scent of autumn.
Pumpkin, of course.
Pumpkin makes amazingly aromatic, and deliciously moist breads. These are quick breads. The kind you can whip up in a moment’s notice. These are the kind of breads you can usually make without a trip to the store. And, most importantly, these breads can make a stormy day a whole lot brighter. In fact, I try to keep cans of pumpkin around in the pantry all year long for those surprise guests and surprise storms. This pumpkin bread, which I made some time ago, is phenomenal. I will continue to make it. Today’s pumpkin bread is also delicious, but it’s a bit different. The tart chunks of Granny Smith apples give it a great little burst of sour in each rich bite. A good dollop of butter and sugar baked into the top gives those same pints a rich sugary finish. All in all, the combination is a sure fire way to win hearts and bellies.
Happy autumn to all of you. What are your plans this week? If you are working steadily in your sweet writer’s retreat, I bid you lots of productivity and peace. If not, and you find yourself in a kitchen floating high above stormy waters, I urge you to bake this pumpkin bread.
Pumpkin Apple Bread
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 (15 oz.) can solid pack organic pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 & 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 2 cups)
For the topping, blend together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
For the bread, put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 9 x5 loaf pans.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Add flour mixture, stirring until well combined. Fold in apples.
Divide batter between buttered loaf pans. Sprinkle half of the topping evenly over each loaf. Bake until a wooden pick or skewever inserte in the dcenter of the bread comes out clean, 50-60 minutes.
Cool loaves in pans on a rack for 45 minutes, then turn out onto the rack and cool completely, about 1 hour.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet.