Friday was the first day of fall, and I could feel it in the air. Oh, it was pretty warm out, of course, but there was a cool breeze following an overcast morning that whispered "autumn." And there is something about the quality of light this time of year that is different from high summer -- the sun is lower in the sky, I guess, and the shadows are longer. Even when it's really hot, you know it's fall. L.A. has very subtle seasonal changes, but we natives know when they're happening.
I figured the best way to celebrate the autumnal equinox was to bake something autumnal. I decided on my mom's pumpkin bread, which is light and moist; it's great as is, and it's even better lightly toasted and buttered. I was out of the walnuts her recipe calls for, so I substituted pecans and dried wild blueberries; other than that, I had all the ingredients in my pantry so it was an easy job to whip up a batch. The recipe makes 3 loaves.
Imagine my disappointment when the loaves came out of the oven only about a third of their expected height. Worse, they were dense -- I mean dense like a brick, like a black hole -- and even though they had tested done, there were pockets of undercooked dough in the center of each loaf. A quick consultation with the recipe confirmed that I had left out the baking soda. Oops. Sean and I decided to dig in anyway; after all, they might not have been good, but they were hardly inedible. And even a subpar slice was improved a bit with that toasting and buttery topping I mentioned above.
(Note: my family has never been one to toss out improperly prepared but otherwise edible food. A case in point is the batch of brownies my sister Mary baked while in high school. She left out the flour, which resulted in a thick, gooey, chocolately sort of pudding. We just got out our spoons and had at it. Yum! The only time I can remember someone preparing an absolutely unconsumable meal was when my friend Curtis decided to cook me, my sister Susan, and our friend Denise some genuine Southern fried chicken and gravy. I should have known there was going to be a problem when he asked for more pepper. We ate pizza that night.)
Anyway, I was all prepared to live with pumpkin brick, freezing a loaf or two and morosely slicing off a slab to toast when I needed a snack, when Sean said, "Why not make it into biscotti?" And I thought, "Why not?" After all, it was already more or less shaped like the loaf a batch of biscotti is before it gets sliced into individual cookies, and an extra trip to the oven could only help the undercooked situation. So today I made the remaining two loaves (yes, Sean and I had already consumed one of them) into pumpkin bread biscotti. And you know what? Not bad.
It has been a lovely start to fall. Yesterday I went out to lunch with Lucy and Norman and then went to see Moneyball; afterwards, we went to Lucy's house, watched lame TV, cooked up a spaghetti dinner, and played Apples to Apples. Today has been about laundry, embroidering, baking and reading. I'm trying to finish my friend Linda's new novel, Hound Dog True, before her signing at the bookstore on Wednesday. It's getting on towards dinnertime now, and Sean and I have no real plans for our evening repast or what we'll do later this evening. But at least we have biscotti for dessert.