There’s nothing quite like plunging temperatures and the crunch of crisp leaves beneath your shoes to make you want to turn on the oven.
It’s a widely held sentiment—one that rings true in most, from amateurs heading home with a bushel basket from the orchard to baking gurus like Claire Saffitz.
“The combination of cooler autumn weather and the unique bounty of fall fruits like apples, pears, concord grapes, and quince make it the most exciting time for me as a baker,” says the pastry chef, whose new cookbook, Dessert Person, is out this week. “Even though I love summer, I often prefer to eat cherries and peaches out of hand, plus I don’t always want to be inside baking on a hot day.”
But fall fruits? Well, that’s another story. “They’re the most transformative when they’re cooked,” says Saffitz. “I love the cozy, comforting feeling of knowing it’s chilly outside and warm in my kitchen with something delicious-smelling in the oven.”
There’s no shortage of options, either. From cookies and quick breads to pies and tarts, fall lends itself to plenty of seasonal treats brimming with fresh ingredients. As for Saffitz’s favorite? “I love anything with flaky, buttery pastry,” she says. As you delve deep into your own baking escapades, take a (quite literal) note out of her book:
Almond Butter Banana Bread
Coconut oil for the pan
3 tablespoons plus ¹⁄³ cup almond butter
1 tablespoon plus ²⁄³ cup sugar
1 teaspoon plus ½ cup virgin coconut oil, gently warmed to liquefy
1 ¹⁄³ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs, cold from the refrigerator
1 cup mashed banana, from about 2 very ripe large bananas
¹⁄³ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted roasted almonds (optional), coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with coconut oil. Line the bottom and two longer sides with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang of an inch or two on each side, and set the pan aside.
Mix the almond butter swirl: In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of the almond butter, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the coconut oil until smooth. Set the almond butter mixture aside.
Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cardamom. Set aside.
Mix the wet ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to break up the yolks and whites. Add the remaining ⅔ cup sugar and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the mashed banana, Greek yogurt, vanilla, remaining ⅓ cup almond butter, and ½ cup coconut oil and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth (some banana lumps are okay).
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry: Pour the banana mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture and whisk gently just until you have a smooth batter with no dry spots. Add the almonds (if using) and fold the batter with a flexible spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.
Fill the pan and make the swirl topping: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Dollop teaspoons of the reserved almond butter mixture all across the top of the batter and then use a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife to drag figure eights across the surface, making a swirl pattern.
Bake and cool: Bake until the top has risen and split and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Remove the banana bread from the oven and set aside to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then use a paring knife or small offset spatula to cut between the cake and the pan along the shorter sides. Use the parchment paper to lift out the banana bread and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1½ cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup demerara sugar, for rolling
Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, pepper, allspice, salt, and cloves. Set aside.
Make the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until slightly pale, about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the molasses, vinegar, and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until the last trace of flour disappears. The dough will be very soft and sticky.
Chill the dough: Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic, and press into a 6 × 6-inch square. Refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven and prepare the pans: Arrange two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough into balls: Place the demerara sugar in a small bowl. Remove one square of dough from the refrigerator, portion into 1-ounce pieces, and roll each into a ball (they should be about 1¼ inches in diameter). Toss the balls in the demerara sugar to coat all over, then place on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 3 inches apart (the cookies will spread during baking). Refrigerate any balls that don’t fit on the baking sheets.
Bake: Bake on the upper and lower racks until the edges are firm to the touch but the centers are still very soft and slightly shiny, 12 to 14 minutes, switching racks and rotating the sheets front to back halfway through.
Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheets before using a thin spatula to transfer them to a wire rack. Repeat the rolling and baking process with the remaining dough and demerara sugar.
Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie
2 ½ pounds Pink Lady or any sweet-tart, firm baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
¼ cup packed light brown sugar2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 pound Concord grapes (picked from about 1 quart on the stem)
¹⁄³ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Flaky all-butter pie dough, parbaked in a 9-inch pie plate and cooled
All-purpose buckwheat crumble topping
Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, for serving
Make the apple mixture: In a large bowl, toss together the apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until the apples are evenly coated. Set the mixture aside and allow the apples to release their juices while you prepare the grape mixture.
Peel and cook down the Concord grapes: Working over a small saucepan, grasp one grape at a time and squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger, stem end out, to pop the soft flesh into the saucepan, leaving the skin behind. Reserve the empty grape skins in a medium bowl. Place the saucepan of flesh over medium-low heat. Bring it to a simmer and cook, occasionally mashing the grapes against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy and broken down and the seeds are free-floating around the saucepan, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool slightly.
Strain the flesh and combine with the skins and sugar: Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl with the reserved grape skins. Add the pulp to the sieve and press and scrape with a flexible spatula to force the pulp into the bowl below, leaving only the seeds behind. Transfer the pulp and grape skin mixture back to the same saucepan (discard seeds). Add the granulated sugar. Reduce the apple juices: Pour any juices that have accumulated in the bowl with the apple mixture into the saucepan with the grape skin mixture and bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture starts to look syrupy and is reduced by about one-third, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Make a slurry and activate the cornstarch: Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and spoon 3 tablespoons of the hot grape mixture into the bowl. Stir with a fork until smooth, then whisk into the saucepan. Return the saucepan to medium heat and bring to a simmer again. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture has thickened, about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
Mix the filling and fill the pie: Pour the warm grape mixture over the apples and fold with a flexible spatula until all the apples are coated. Transfer half the mixture to the pie crust, arranging the apple slices so they fill in all the nooks and crannies around the bottom of the crust, then scrape the remaining filling on top, mounding it in the center.
Pack on the crumble topping: Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the apples. It will seem like a lot, but really pack all of it onto the apples and press firmly so it stays in place—packing the topping not only helps compress the filling and reduce air pockets, but it also forms the crumble into a solid layer that bakes into a firm lid and slices cleanly.
Tent with foil and bake: Place the pie on the lined baking sheet and loosely tent the top with a piece of foil (this will prevent it from darkening too quickly). Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the pie and continue to bake until the crumble topping is firm and browned and the juices are thick and bubbling around the sides, another 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool for at least 2 hours.
To serve, cut the pie into slices and serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.
Pro Tip: To simplify this recipe considerably, skip the process of making and parbaking the pie dough and turn this pie into a crumble. Follow all the same directions, baking it in a shallow 2-quart baking dish topped with the crumble.
Reprinted from Dessert Person. Copyright © 2020 by Claire Saffitz. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Alex Lau. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.