Hand me the pumpkin spiced latte, and no one gets hurt.
Every autumn, we are blessed with the beauty of a world preparing to rest.
The florid frondescence gently flutters in the brisk autumnal breeze. Dusk arrives, sooner than expected, and brings with it the sharp scent of campfire smoke and freshly cut hay. Boots crunch crisply through mounds of fallen foliage as tenderly knit scarves are wrapped around the necks of loved ones. The chittering of chipmunks and cheeping of chickadees fills the air as critters crawl toward their dens or soar ever closer to the heat of the equator...
...And Starbucks brings back the pumpkin spiced latte.
Though summer is my favorite season, I have a special fondness for fall because of the seasonal flavors it brings to the table. Old favorites like pumpkin spices are a definite staple, and there's no shame in enjoying the classics! Here are the five flavors of fall.
Once upon a time, I didn't like pumpkin. Up until high school, I found the gourd repugnant and couldn't even stand pumpkin pie. Now, I love that big orange squash with such an intensity, and I relish the chance to dive in every September.
Sweet, it's good in all sorts of pastries, in coffee drinks, in oatmeal, and more! I love making pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie spiced lattes, pumpkin pie oatmeal, pumpkin cookies—you name it!
As for savory, harvest soups really hit the spot: butternut squash and pumpkin soup and pumpkin ginger soup are two of my favorites! Roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin curry with rice, and pumpkin ravioli also top the list. And the best way to up your gourd game is to include heavy hitters like zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash for extra fall flavor. Zucchini bread? Spaghetti squash with bolognese? Pumpkin chili? Be still, my beating heart.
An honorary addition to this list? Sweet potato. Though technically, it's actually a yam, this tuber is a smash hit every Thanksgiving as the star of both pies and casseroles, and it blends in well with squash in soups and purées.
Apples are likely the first fruit that comes to mind when one thinks of autumn produce. It doesn't take much convincing for this one, folks: apple pie, apple crumble, apple turnover, apple cider, apple cider donuts, applesauce, apple jelly, apple butter, apple muffins, apple pie oatmeal... I could go on—but the real secret to a balanced fall fruit profile is the pear. Just as versatile as the apple, the pear's lush, mellow sweetness is absolutely perfect for the season. Baked pears? To die for.
Okay, hear me out—this sticky sweet autumn treat deserves a spot in the seasonal flavor hall of fame. Caramel apples remind me of hay rides and Halloween parties, fall festivals and fantastical foliage. Werther's Originals take me straight to crisp, autumn evenings, strolling through the park with some hard candy in my pocket, looking for the next crunchy leaf to smash.
Caramel buttercream icing on pumpkin muffins? Caramel popcorn? Caramel pudding? Caramel flan? Combined with chocolate and/or nuts (pecans, anyone? How do walnuts treat you?), caramel is a candy coated fall flavor powerhouse.
Honestly, a drizzle of caramel just makes things better! For example, caramel and coffee is the absolute dream duo. Could you imagine September without a hot, sweet caramel macchiato in hand? I refuse to. I'm here to make the world a happier, better place, and that includes dumping absurd amounts of caramel into my coffee and shotgunning the whole thing, burned tongues be damned.
Now, this one's an obvious choice. What could be more autumnal than literal boiled tree sap? Maple syrup is great for breakfast foods, like pancakes, waffles, and bacon, but it's even better for accentuating existing sweets: maple coffee cake, maple latte, maple buttercream frosting, maple pumpkin bread, maple candied nuts, maple brown sugar oatmeal, maple walnut muffins, maple doughnuts, and more!
There's also maple roasted harvest vegetables, which is an easy, sheet pan meal that'll cozy up a brisk autumn evening. I'll post my own version of this fall classic on Friday—this recipe features Brussels sprouts, rosemary, chicken thighs, root vegetables, and more flavorful faves.
This last flavor is defined by the fact that it's actually a combination of flavors—whether you know it as chai, pumpkin pie spice, or apple pie spice, you definitely know that flavor. Cinnamon and nutmeg are staples, and many stop there. Apple cinnamon oatmeal often means just adding brown sugar, diced apples, and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to some oats and stopping there.
Then there's the real overachievers: chai tea and chai lattes often mean the addition of cardamom and anise. Gingersnaps add ginger, black pepper, and cloves. Allspice is said to have the taste of cloves and anise, so it's a popular addition with both cinnamon and nutmeg.
My ideal spice mix has optimized fall to the fullest: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, raw grated ginger, black pepper, and anise extract. I use this combination in both sweet and savory recipes.
Perhaps the best thing about all these phenomenal fall flavors is that the best way to really tickle your tastebuds is to mix and match them until you find what best suits you! Seasonal flavors are for everyone to enjoy, and the real joy of cooking, baking, and tasting comes from experimentation and sharing experiences with others.
There are teas, coffees, cookies, muffins, and so much more that incorporate all these seasonal tastes, so don't be afraid to get in on the fun—be a little #Basic! Grab a loved one and try something new today! As for me, I'll be waiting forlornly outside Starbucks's door until they let me back in.