This time of year is a favorite of mine. The weather is changing, but only slightly. The air is turning from the warm humidity of summer—the sort that feels swollen and supple and tangible almost—to the crispness of autumn. But it’s still warm enough to wear shorts and sit outside in the sun. Just yesterday I bought two pears and an apple at the farmers’ market, crunching on one as I walked the ten blocks to pick up my car from getting serviced.
In the evening, I put on a long dress—a soft cotton one that swirls around my ankles as I walk—and sandals and walked up to dinner. The temperature was perfect: warm enough to sit outside but not a bit hot. Everyone seemed to be outside last night: sitting at sidewalk cafes, spilling out of bars drinking beers, licking oversized cones in line at the ice cream shop.
Up past the little playground on Amsterdam Avenue I walked. Across the pretty crosstown street lined with colorful brownstones on 77th Street. Dodging the waiting crowds outside Shake Shack, stopping to breathe in the greasy, salty scent of hot French fries. I passed the haughty outline of the brick parapet-edged towers of the Natural History Museum, and opened the door to the cool quiet dining room at Sushi of Gari. The waitress offered an outdoor table, which I happily took.
We sat in the darkening evening, the sky growing dusky, and ordered seaweed salad—a delicate pile of translucent strands tangled with dark green wakame slicked with a creamy onion dressing—and fatty tuna rolls, the red fish glistening inside the sticky rice. We had rolls stuffed with cucumber and shiso leaf and sweet-sour ume plum.
On the walk home, the lights were coming on everywhere: street lamps glowing, taxi headlights sweeping the sidewalk, apartment windows lit up.
I thought about fall and how much I look forward to wrapping myself in sweaters. Piles of crunchy crimson leaves. The smell of woodsmoke in Vermont. This poem called ‘then fall again’ that I found in the latest New Yorker issue.
Orange, gold, crunch, crisp. Apples cut in clean crescents, burnt marshmallow, smoke caught in the folds of our jackets, in our hair. Luminaria pumpkins like ambassadors of the season, a mustache drawn with scorched cork, then a pilgrim’s hat of black and white. Cranberries bright as blood, a cold drift from beneath the door. Crackle of ice. Spring, finally: silly to think all this could end, when everything is bursting! Buds furled tight along the branch, wet and new, a girl’s soft hair, hard-soled shoes, rain against the pane and the smell of cut grass, loam and soil and sod, blossoms on the sidewalk, petals on our shoulders and days to spend, days to waste, hours sifted through our fingers like spilled sugar from the bowl. Then summer’s small fruits, hard and sour, hot sidewalk, hot forehead, hot breath of August at the window and still no way to warm you, huddled at the heater, stifling wool and cups of tea and soup and steam, sour sweater, stinking socks, tissues knotted on the floor and all the ways we meant to say goodbye forgotten, no ferry now to Coronado, no starlit swim at Mazatlán. Nothing matters but to make you warm. Then fall again: orange, gold, crunch, crisp, bones and stones and broken brown leaves. One without you, then all the rest the same. [Anna Scotti]
And baking…finally wanting to keep my oven on. This recipe was a bit of a happy accident; I was working on a double chocolate muffin recipe, and trying out a few different flours (spelt in one batch, cake flour in others). This particular batch turned out more cake-like than I wanted (I like my muffins to be more moist and dense whereas chocolate cake can be airier and lighter and more delicate).
But if you think of these as cakelettes rather than muffins, they’re spectacular. I wouldn’t call them cupcakes, as I top them with chocolate chips and wouldn’t suggest frosting them. Consider them a snack cake. (And yes, that means you should snack on them often.)
Double Chocolate Cakelettes
1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) cake flour
1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (21 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups (255 grams) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin or line with papers.
Whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together using a rubber spatula until the batter just comes together.
Stir 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips into the batter and divide evenly among the muffin cups.
Sprinkle the remaining cup of chocolate chips over the top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes spring back gently when pressed.
Remove from the oven and let cool.