The scent of autumn takes on many nuances as it wafts through October. There are smoky gusts of bonfires in the air, a musty, earthy smell swirls from the trees alongside multi-colored leaves, and beneath all of that the air itself has a new and brisk scent that’s as crisp as it feels. Inside, the fragrance of home changes too, from baskets of fresh apples, pears and the smell of baking which takes on richer, sweeter tones as the year begins to fade.
It makes perfect sense that October is the month we celebrate desserts. It is, after all, the month for treats (and a few tricks, too), plus the weather affords cooler days and warmer kitchens and stimulates the appetite for baked goods. Of course, we keep delicious treats handy all year round, but somehow they taste sweeter once October rolls around. Maybe we feel like we’re in training for the feast days that lie ahead? Regardless, it’s a sweet month, and while our celebrations include the familiar abundance of tender cookies and cupcakes piled high with thick frosting, it’s the best time of year for a sweet we don’t see as often as we’d like: sweet potato pie.
It can be difficult to pin down the origin of any recipe, but it seems likely that this dessert springs like sweet water from the foul well that was plantation life in the colonial South. In fact one of the first, if not only cookbooks published by a former slave, Abby Fisher’s What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking, published in c. 1881, includes a pretty straightforward recipe for our featured treat. Whether it was adapted from European traditions or the evolution of an African recipe, the dessert has become a soul food staple and what author and baker Rose McGhee calls the “sacred dessert of black culture.”
If you grew up with your mother’s sweet potato pie recipe, then of course you’ve already had the best rendering of the treat. Even so, we’re pretty confident that you’ll enjoy our version that sits regally in a tender crust; it’s a traditional recipe that has the added advantage of using local sweet potatoes – it’s worth a trip to the restaurant.
But then, good dessert is always worth the effort – especially since our world class bakers are hard at it to make National Dessert Month as sweet as possible. As the month goes along, you can expect to see more flavors of autumn show up in our dessert case – I hear that there are some ginger treats on the way that are good enough to wake the dead! But for now, you and your sweet tooth can look forward to good stuff in cupcake form including the likes of Chocolate Stout, Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip and Gluten Free Apple Walnut! Now that’s a way to celebrate!