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Feel the chill in the air? Fall has arrived. Celebrate it with tasty sweet and savory dishes made from fresh apples.

PMG: BARB RANDALL  - Apples are in season now. Barb Randall suggests you try several varieties and see which you like best to eat raw or cooked in sweet or savory dishes.

I hate to admit it but I am truly enjoying the fall weather.

As sorry as I am to see summer's heat go, I love feeling the crisp cool air and hearing the patter of rain on the windows.

Like it or not fall has arrived, and with it a new bumper crop of apple varieties.

I can remember as a child having very limited choices when it came to apples. Red delicious, golden delicious and Gravensteins were readily available. Today we have easy access to more than 20 varieties grown in Oregon.

And while they are delicious eaten straight off the tree, they are a versatile ingredient cooked as sweet and savory dishes.

According to Bon Appetit, the best apples for baking keep their structure, meaning when baked they remain chunks of fruit rather than dissolving into heaps of apple pulp.

Granny Smiths are generally the go-to baking apple, but Bon Appetit's test kitchen staff have a few other recommendations that hold up under heat and have that wonderful balance of sweet-tart flavor.

Here are their suggestions to look for in the orchard:

n Jonagold: These tart apples with a honey sweetness hold up exceptionally well in the oven, but Bon Appetit says they don't store well, so use them early in the fall when they are at their peak.

n Honeycrisp: Their crisp texture is guaranteed to hold firm, making them perfect choices for apple dumplings or elegant tart tatins.

n Braeburn: These apples are known for their concentrated flavor and for baking up juicy but not mushy.

n Mushu, also known as Crispin: This apple is similar in flavor to golden delicious, but keeps solid when baked.

n Winesap: Bon Appetit says these apples are intensively flavored with deep cider-y notes. They are great in combination with other fruits like figs.

n Pink Lady, also known as Cripps Pink: These apples have a nice balance between sweet, tart and tannic notes. They are the apple recommended for the Apple Gingerbread Cake recipe shared today.

When you visit the orchard or the farmers market, pick up samples of several varieties of apples and conduct your own taste tests. Which do you prefer raw? Which do you enjoy with strong flavored cheese? Note the sweetness, the texture and the juice released. You might discover a new favorite apple.

Today you get a savory and a sweet recipe to try, both calling of course for apples.

The savory recipe calls for poussins, which is the French term for young chickens. In the U.S. we refer to these as Cornish game hens, or Cornish rock hens. They weigh a little over a pound a piece, and make for a fun eating experience, as each person can enjoy their own. The recipe has few ingredients and should be simple to make successfully.

The sweet recipe has a longer ingredient list, but the spices are those most common in household kitchens. Just a reminder to give your spices a sniff test: If they don't have robust fragrance they won't have robust flavor. I buy cinnamon and cloves from the bulk bins, in quantities I know I will use in a short time. Check your spices before you begin your fall baking and replace them as needed.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Saffron Butter-Basted Poussins with Apples

(In Persian cuisine this is called Joojeh ba Sib)

Serves 8

These tender, juicy little chickens are ideal for special occasions because you can serve each guest a whole bird. Roasting them alongside shallots and apples creates an easy and delicious built-in side dish.

1 stick unsalted butter

1 teaspoon saffron, finely ground

8 1-pound poussins (Cornish hens)

Kosher salt

Pepper

4 small baking apples, such as Gala, halved and cored

8 medium shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425F. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat, whisk in the saffron and let stand for 15 minutes.

Season the poussins all over and inside the cavities with salt and pepper, then tie the legs together with kitchen string. Transfer to 2 large rimmed baking sheets and brush with some of the saffron butter.

In a large bowl, toss the apples and shallots with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Scatter the apples and shallots around the poussins on the baking sheets.

Roast for about 1 hour, basting occasionally with the saffron butter, until the juices from the cavities of the poussins run clear and the apples and shallots are tender; rotate the baking sheets halfway through roasting. Transfer the poussins, apples and shallots to plates or a platter and serve.

Recipe courtesy of FoodandWine.com.

Apple Gingerbread Cake is a perfect dish to make to welcome fall. Barb Randall advises cooks to give their spices the sniff test before baking this fall. If your spices dont have robust fragrance they wont have robust flavor. Replace them.

Apple Gingerbread Cake

with Cream

3 tablespoons plus ½ cup unsalted butter, plus more for pan

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar, divided

1 pound Pink Lady apples, unpeeled, very thinly sliced, seeds removed, divided

2 cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup robust-flavored dark molasses

½ cup pure maple syrup

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons finely grated peeled ginger

1½ teaspoons baking soda

½ cup heavy cream, plus more for servingEquipment: 10-inch springform pan

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and line bottom with a parchment paper round; butter parchment. Heat 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Cook, without stirring but swirling skillet often, until large bubbles that are slow to pop form, about 2 minutes.

Pour caramel into prepared pan and tilt pan to evenly coat bottom.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat; add half the apples and toss to separate.

Cook, tossing often, until apples are softened and then arrange over caramel in several overlapping layers. Set pan aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine; set aside.

Heat molasses, maple syrup, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, and remaining 1/2 cup butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.

Whisk in eggs and ginger. Stir baking soda into 1/4 cup very hot water in a small bowl until dissolved, then whisk into molasses mixture.

Whisk molasses mixture into reserved dry ingredients and scrape batter over apples, spreading evenly. Evenly drizzle 1/2 cup cream over batter.

Place cake on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until center is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the sides of the cake to loosen, then remove the sides of pan and invert cake onto rack. Carefully remove pan and peel away parchment (apples might stick, so work slowly). Let cool completely.

Slice cake into wedges and serve drizzled with cream.

Do ahead: Cake can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature. To revive apples, reheat cake slightly in microwave and brush top with maple syrup.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit.

Barb Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-479-2374 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She is the author of "Willamette Valley Vineyards" and a member of the Society of Wine Educators.


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