Although both apples and pumpkin--canned, at least--are available year-round, I never use them as much the rest of the year as I do in the fall. In October, I start getting a hankering for pumpkin bread and apple crisps. There are other things, too--I've been dreaming of this upside-down pear cake since last November (though I'll have to be sneaky, since the husband doesn't like maple--what's wrong with him?) and this gorgeous applesauce cake. All of these recipes have the sultriness of autumn: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. If summer can be summed up in a perfect juicy tomato, I'd argue that the essence of fall can be found in a rich, dark gingerbread, full of molasses and spice.
Coming in at close second are these pumpkin apple streusel muffins I made last Sunday. Not only was the day hopelessly grey, but a light, steady rain drizzled from start to finish. It was the kind of morning that needs a cozy, homey breakfast, preferably something with a little sweetness to balance out the dreary world outside.
I found the recipe for these pumpkin apple streusel muffins and decided they looked just right--with a few adjustments, of course! Since I did not have pumpkin pie spice, I substituted cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. I also skipped the raisins, because I think raisins both look and taste hideous, and I shortened the baking time to 27 minutes. Also, I would consider using a different streusel topping. This one was fine, but melted a bit into the muffin. I prefer a distinct crumbly topping. Ina Garten has a great recipe for blueberry streusel muffins from which I'll steal the streusel next time.
The muffins were a hit with the husband and other hungry dog, who has developed a strong preference for baked goods. It's become apparent that coaxing her to eat dog food is pointless; we have accepted that she will live the rest of her days feasting on roast chicken, plain hamburgers, muffins, and snack cake. She eats like a toddler. It's a terrible model for dog-raising, I know. But when your pup is on the verge of turning 15 and has survived two bouts of cancer, you do what keeps a spring in her step and hope that someday, when you, too, are old and and must rely on someone to balance being kind with what is best for you, they will do the same.