Do you know why we perceived October to have a distinct smell? There are three reasons for this phenomenon. According to Pamela Dalton, an olfactory scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. the first reason is that odor molecules move more slowly in colder temperatures. This is why the smell of dumpsters and garbage trucks are more offensive in the summer. The second reason is physiological. Dalton explains that our olfactory receptors “bury” themselves further in our nose when it’s cooler. While the olfactory receptors bury themselves in cold air, the trigeminal nerve is stimulated, says Alan Hirsch, a neurologist and psychiatrist in Chicago. A smell is perceived as more intense when it triggers both these nerves. Further, psychological expectations affect the smells we perceive. As we anticipate the smells of spices, wood burning, and dying leaves, those are the things we experience.
A week ago, we took a family trip to a local nature center. Living in a city, it is nice to have a nature area with trails and wildlife near by. The boys enjoyed running around the trails to explore. Changing autumn leaves made for a lovely scene. We got the chance to have a close encounter with the deer in the park again. This time I was prepared with at least a phone camera. She watched us from a few yards off the pathway.
The autumn has a distinct smell that I had forgotten until we were out on the trails. In the city, leaves are quickly cleaned up and discarded. Out in the woods, they are free to travel through their life cycle. The smell is crisp, rich and earthy. I now appreciate this sensory experience.
Spices are more prevalent in traditional colder weather baking. Today’s recipe combines late season plums with spices, maple and toasted oatmeal crumble topping. This recipe has a clean option as coconut oil can be subbed for the butter and there is no refined sugar or refined flour. The warmth of maple, spices and subtle floral sweetness of plums is a welcome treat on a crisp fall day.
This crisp would be perfect for a quick harvest party dessert or a weeknight treat. I’d love to see your pictures when you make this recipe. Share them on social media with MamaSparrow tagged. Happy baking!
Serves 3/4 cup
Maple Plum Crisp – Clean
Yields 8-10 servings
The warmth of maple, spices and subtle floral sweetness of plums is a welcome treat on a crisp fall day.
10 minPrep Time
35 minCook Time
45 minTotal Time
4 ripe, but still crisp medium/large plums (approx. 4 cups)
1 1/2 Tb maple syrup
1 Tb wheat flour
1/8 tsp ginger, ground
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats, old fashioned
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (or coconut oil)*
1/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel, core and thinly slice the plums.
Place the prepared plums in a 2 quart baking dish or 9x9 inch metal pan.
Add the 1 1/2 Tb of maple syrup and 1 Tb of flour, stir till fruit is evenly coated. Sprinkle the fruit with the ginger.
In a medium bowl, combine the 1/2 cup flour, rolled oats and salt. Cut the cold butter into the oat mix. Stir in the 1/4 cup maple syrup.
With hands, crumble the oat mix evenly over the pan of fruit.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes. May serve warm or cold.
If your crisp survives past dessert, it makes a great breakfast the next day.
*Clean or Vegan option: substitute coconut oil for the butter.
This week we took the boys for the annual pumpkin farm trip. We arrive filled with excitement and took away some great pictures, a few pumpkins and endless family fall memories. C named his freshly carved jack-o-lantern Rooster. I’m not sure how this pet name came to be. He’s been telling us that one day when he gets a dog he wants to name it Rooster. Until then, a jack-o-lantern with the name will do.
Other than the lovely autumn festivities, fall usually means a brief mourning period for me. I know some folks enjoy this season. I love warm summer weather and don’t much care for the cold months of the year. This season only serves as a reminder of the impending winter. We have had some cold autumn rain that has sapped my energy. If you are like me this cake recipe is dedicated to you.
Cold rainy autumn weather makes me need a little bit of citrus-y sunshine treat. This lemon earl grey cake is the most tender, moist vegan cake thanks to the shredded coconut. Infusing the coconut oil with earl grey lets the richness of the bergamot shine through to compliment the lemon.
I hope you have the chance to enjoy the intoxicating aroma of this cake coming fresh from the oven. Please be sure to tag MamaSparrow on your social media pictures of this cake. I would love to see how your’s turns out.
Vegan Lemon Earl Grey Cake
The aroma of this cake coming out of the oven is intoxicating - bergamot, lemon and coconut. Hard to believe this treat is vegan. Tender, moist cake infused with earl grey.
20 minPrep Time
50 minCook Time
1 hr, 10 Total Time
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
⅔ cup earl grey tea infused coconut oil, solid *
3 lemons, zested and juiced, separated
1 14oz. can full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup non-dairy “buttermilk” (1 tsp vinegar and non-dairy milk)**
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
2 ½ Tb. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a standard size bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and tea infused oil together. Stir in the lemon zest and ¼ cup lemon juice. Set the rest of the lemon juice aside for the glaze. Add the coconut milk, non-dairy “buttermilk”, and vanilla extract. Fully combine.
Sift the dry flour mix into the wet ingredients in 2 stages. Stir in between each addition. Careful not to overmix. Once the mix is fully incorporated, fold in the shredded coconut.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes.
Allow cake to cool slightly, remove from pan and finish cooling before icing. Mix ingredients together for icing. Adjust the wet to dry ratio based on preference. Drizzle over cake and allow to set a few minutes before cutting and serving.
Cake may be store at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for 6 months.
*Directions for tea infused coconut oil
14 Tbs. or ½ cup + 2 Tb. coconut oil
21 tsp loose leaf earl grey tea
In a saucepan, melt coconut oil just until it becomes liquid. Mix in the tea leaves. Keep on low heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve squeezing the tea leaves to release as much butter as possible. Set coconut oil aside till it comes to room temperature. If your kitchen is warm it may be helpful to put it in the refrigerator, briefly, till it is solid.
**I’ve been using Good Karma flax milk. It is a great allergen conscious milk - nut and soy free. Use your favorite nondairy that suits your needs. Make as buttermilk with vinegar to help cake fluff up.