When it comes to fall in New England, I think: Apples! Apples! Apples! I have lived in the Boston area since September 2007, and I am still so amazed by how beautiful the foliage in New England can be. Here in the Northeast, every season has its character and color. Spring is green to me. Summer is yellow. Fall is orange. Winter is light blue with sparkle! Every year, my family and I celebrate the beginning of fall by apple picking. There are many lovely farms with apple orchards in New England. Here are a couple of my all time favorites:
Verrill Farm doesn't open for the public for fruit picking on daily basis. They do host special events to celebrate seasonal fruit almost every month. Don't miss the apple dessert contest on September 15th! Since it's conveniently located in Concord Mass, it can get very crowed whenever they host an event. The early bird gets the worm. If you want to pick the fruit, be there AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE! Last time when I went strawberry picking, I was there when they opened the gate! Later on the entire strawberry field was filled with people. They also offer Hay rides, Pony rides and petting zoo on September 15th. You can mark on your calendar now!
Parlee Farm is open to the public for fruit and flower picking all year around. Check out the picking season webpage. Their blueberries are absolutely delicious! My children especially love the area for small animals. Young children can feed and pet the animals. I remember some bunnies were too chubby that they could hardly move! Both my girl and I were amused by the scene of chubby bunnies being too lazy to get their food!
Lookout Farm is very convenient for those who live in metro West. The farm is quite big and they offer mini trains to take guests to different areas. I have been there to pick apples, peaches and pears. My favorite is their peach. It's soft, juicy and aromatic. There is a well-equipped children's play area and small animal barn. They also offer face painting, hayrides and pony rides during weekends.
Cider Hill farm:
Plan a full day trip to Cider Hill farm. Pick some fruits, pet the animals and don't miss their fresh made apple cider donuts! After picking the fruit, you can head to Newburyport to check out some local gourmet seafood restaurants, such as Brine Oyster, Crudo and Chop Bar
Photo: Valrhona School in Brooklyn
Every year I make rustic apple tarts to celebrate fall. This year, I have an amazing recipe to share from an amazing chef! I just went to Valrhona School in Brooklyn for an Entremets & Travel Cakes workshop. It is a workshop for professional cooks to learn from master chefs.
The master chef who taught this workshop was Chef Reid. Chef Reid was Top 10 pastry chef in United States from DESSERT PROFESSIONAL MAGAZINE. He is an incredible chef and entrepreneur. On the Chef side, he works with extremely precision in every single step when he creates a pastry. It was my first time to use micro scale to measure ingredients. Every measurement had to be absolutely precise. Chef Reid is very detail oriented. For example, when I was making the red fruit confit, I thought since I will macerate the fruits, it probably wouldn't matter if I used a good strawberry or a bruised one. Chef Reid caught me right away. He told me only use the good ones and set the bruised ones aside. He doesn't cut the corner when he creates the pastry. He constantly reminds us, "sometimes you want to save one or two minutes, and you end up spending so much more time to fix the mistake later."
Photo: Valrhona School in Brooklyn
A successful chef has to be outstanding on both the skill set side and the business side. The staff of Chef Reid's baking team expanded from 5 staff to 28 staff within a short period of time. He has got apprentices from all over the world. From my observation, he is an excellent mentor. There are professional cooks at different levels at our class. Some have many years of experience, and some of us are relatively young. He was able to correct us in a very positive way. He also strikes to pay his employees fair wage for their labor. In the food industry, it is very common for apprentice volunteer to work for famous chefs for free or very little money. I personally don't think it is a good system. After all, those who work in the food industry have bills to pay as well. Offering competitive wages and compensation is definitely one way to keep the talents.
Last but not least, I can't tell you how amazed I was to see Chef Reid elevate the everyday pound cake to the higher level. I absolutely love his twist of traditional Apple Tatin. He created an apple tatin pound cake and gave this rustic pastry a modern look. His cake doesn't just look amazing, but tasted insanely delicious. The texture was dense, moist and smooth. It the kind of cake that once you start, you can't stop eating the whole cake.
The secret of his cake is the unique way he makes his cake better. He taught us to use food process to create an emulsion. I was taught to use a mixer to make pound cake batter at the culinary school. It was impossible to create a smooth emulsion using the mixer. I guess that's why the pound cake I made at school wasn't as delicate as the ones Chef Reid made. The cake batter he made was smooth, shiny and pipable, almost like a Pate a Choux dough (To learn about Pate a Choux: please see my blog post HOW TO MAKE ECLAIRS AT HOME: MY EASY-TO-FOLLOW RECIPES and HOW TO MAKE GOUGERES: MY FRENCH CHEESE PUFF RECIPE
Chef Reid's Recipe for Apple Tatin Pound Cake
Caramel Braised Apples
- 300 g sugar
- 200 g glucose
- 400 g apple cider
- 20 g apple cider vinegar
- 750 g Gala apples
Caramel Pound Cake
- 345 g sugar
- 414 g butter
- 3 ec vanilla
- 69 g honey
- 414 g whole eggs
- 8 g sea salt
- 414 g all-purpose flour
- 12.5 g baking powder
- 4 g vanilla extract
- 200 g apple cider
- 200 g sugar
- 50 g Calvados
- 1 ea Vanilla bean
- 20 g lemon juice
Making the Caramel Braised Apples
- Pre heat the oven to 345 F.
- Peel, quarter and core apples.
- Make a caramel with the sugar and glucose.
- Deglaze the caramel with the warmed apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and butter.
- Recook to 225F.
- Add the apples and bake until for tender.
Making the Pound Cake
- Pre heat the oven to 325F.
- Make a caramel with sugar and vanilla bean
- Deglaze caramel with the butter.
- Add honey and let cool to room temperature.
- Slowly incorporate the eggs to make an emulsion in the butter.
- Sift dry ingredients together.
- Fold them into the egg mixture and then add the apples.
- Place the cake batter into mold.
- Let rest overnight.
- Bake the cake until it's golden.
Making the Syrup
- Bring all ingredients to a simmer
To Assemble the Cake
- Brush the cake with the Calvados syrup.
- Brush the cake with apricot glaze
- Sprinkle oats on the top of the cake
- Arrange caramel braised apple on top
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Melissa is 100% MIT (Made in Taiwan), where she worked as a food writer. She’s also worked alongside renowned chefs like Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang, honing her craft and gathering stories along the way. Part story-teller, part educator, and part food lover, Melissa brings a special blend of experience, skill, and enthusiasm to her work. She blends her Asian background, her new home of New England, and love of food and culture to bring joy, optimism, and inspiration to food lovers and fun-seekers everywhere.
What sparked your passion for the industry?
The desire to make things by hand. The joy of sharing delicious, hearty food with students. The opportunity for people to get connected via cooking and baking. When a child smiled broadly and told me it’s the best scone he has ever made and eaten, it really made my day!
In your opinion, what’s the most important course?
Well, I usually take a peek at the wine list first. I like tapas style, so the course doesn’t really matter. Cheese and charcuterie are always a good place to start. And since I’m a pastry chef, there is always room for dessert!
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