#AutumnSurpriseProject – making a weekend more wonderful

November seems to have whizzed by this year and it is only now that I am finally getting round to putting pen to paper (or should that be fingers to keys) and reporting in with the general bloggersphere.

It has been a funny month, I have been struck down by lurgy for some of it and for the rest have been trying to catch up as well attempting to make a start to Christmas preparations.  I have felt like I have been chasing my tail for the most part and even as December draws ever nearer Novembers list is still way off being completed.

However, despite all this a bright beacon has shone in the form of the amazing #AutumnSurpriseProject.  This is a lovely initiative organized by Lucy Heath through her wonderful blog and Instagram profile @capturebylucy.

Autumnsurpriseproject titleAs soon as I heard about it I knew I had to take part as the idea of random acts of kindness is something which really appeals to me. I can think of nothing better than increasing the amount of happiness and positivity in the world.  The collective impact of this project, which has been repeated with the changing seasons, cannot be underestimated and Lucy should be very proud of what she has created.

I could not wait to get started planning my surprise gift package to send to my project partner, a lovely London based teacher whose Instagram profile revealed a keen sense of style and a love to travel.  In the fleeting spare moments I could grab this month I have thoroughly enjoyed selecting and creating items to send to my project partner which were in part inspired by her love of wildflowers, the colour grey and sausage dogs.

As you may expect I couldn’t resist adding a creative element to my package and used free motion embroidery to create a some wildflower inspired fabric covered buttons as well as a sausage dog themed mini-cushion. The buttons in particular were a challenge for me due to their miniature scale and the fact that I have never attempted flowers before. I’m quite chuffed with the result and especially enjoyed creating the personalized tags to present them on, giving me a chance to use my ‘sarah kate makes’ stamp bought for me by mum for my birthday in July.

IMG_20151116_221825For my non-handmade gifts I added a lovely fragrant candle (another of my project partners loves) and an amazing ‘moodle’ book which I loved so much I had to buy one for myself too.

The concept of a ‘moodle’ is a doodle with the power to change your mood and for me personally seems a much better option than the ever popular ‘colouring for mindfulness’ which unfortunately, due to my perfectionist tendencies, creates more frustration than calm. I, of course, chose the ‘happy’ themed ‘moodle’ book and can’t wait to fill it with positivity and hope my project partner enjoys  her moodling moments too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The date for the exchange of gifts to be sent by was last Sunday, the 22nd November and I could not wait to see what my package contained and to send my package to my lovely project partner.

Having picked up my package from the post office the day before it was with much anticipation and excitement that I opened the unassuming cardboard box to reveal a selection of beautifully wrapped gifts, each labelled with a Bali-themed tag, a holiday destination which was common to both me and my project partner.

I cannot believe how amazing the gifts I received were, such thought had been put into selecting them, it felt as if they had been bought by someone who had known me for years.   Each tag revealed the reason the gift had been included. The first was a handwritten recipe for a Balinese banana cake ‘because I love to bake’, next was some awesome fabric ‘because I like retro patterns’ and finally there were some cute ‘handmade with love’ buttons ‘because I like to make things for others’ as well as a gorgeous ribbon spindle ‘because sometimes things can look too pretty to use’ (a sentiment which I definitely agree with here).

Opening these wonderful gifts definitely added a huge dollop of delight to an otherwise quite dreary dull day and I can’t thank Lucy Heath and my project partner enough for their combined efforts in creating this happiness.  In a world where positivity and kindness to strangers can sometimes be hard to find, a simple act like this offers a glimmer of hope and as my project partner said when she received her package from me it can ‘restore our faith in human kindness’.

Let's Talk Mommy
Advertisements

Granny’s delights…

There’s not been much delight to be had this week with the dreary wet and misty days we have been having and so when we were given a dozen or more apples from a work colleague of Mr B’s I decided to capture some of their sun ripened sweetness and create some delicious homemade treats.

apples

A bowl full of garden goodness x

As apples are hubby’s absolute favourite choice of pudding ingredient the first recipe on the agenda was a homemade apple pie as requested by Mr B himself.  For some reason I have been avoiding making pastry for as long as I can remember, as I have been under the illusion that it was uber-complicated and could easily go wrong. This fact probably wasn’t helped by my only previous foray into pastry making was puff pastry for apple turnovers which is a lot harder than the shortcrust needed for a traditional apple pie.

As an avid baker, with most gadgets to hand when creating kitchen yumminess, I realised that my inexplicable aversion to pastry had gone so far as not even having pie tins and so a quick visit to TK-Maxx resulted in their purchase and sealed the deal for me in creating hubby’s request. My lovely friend Lucy recommended a fail-safe shortcrust pastry recipe from be-ro (to be found here) and good old Mary Berry provided the inspiration for the apple filling (from her glorious Baking Bible) and so with a spring in my step I felt I was set for success.

Apple pie

Mr B’s favourite pud at last…

Thankfully success was achieved and the result was this delicious apple pie which we ate accompanied by some yummy homemade custard. Thankfully it also met all Mr B’s expectations, so much so that he has already suggested getting some more apples so that we there can be a repeat of this bake as soon as possible. I loved it too, it was a delight to use these delicious apple’s ripened by the sunshine of summer to create a pudding which is so satisfyingly comforting, perfect for a dreary autumnal evening.

Next on the agenda for the apples which were left was preservation, in the form of some spiced apple chutney.  As a self-confessed homebody I have ventured into the realms of preserves before and so for this make I returned to a tried and tested recipe from bbc food (find it here).

Chutney ingredients

Chutney ingredients ready to go…

What I love about preserving is that it captures flavours from seasons already passed in a jar of intense yumminess. I also love that in creating a delicious jam or chutney that time needs to be set aside and patience is needed for a perfect outcome. A morning or afternoon in the kitchen can provide jars of goodness to last until the summer suns returns.

chutney collage

Patience pays off – a jar of yumminess results x

IMG_20151103_140845

With at least half a dozen apples left and the offer of more if needed, I am sure there will be more sweet delights being created this weekend, perhaps this time it’ll be my favourite pud – apple crumble.

An autumnal weekend bake – Apple & Cinnamon Crumble Cake

Apple & Cinnamon Crumble Cake

As I sit writing this you could be mistaken for thinking that summer is here to stay as the sunshine is streaming through the window and there are glimpses of blue sky peeking through the clouds. However this week has certainly had more of an autumnal feel – jumpers have been on, pregrudgingly the heating was put on a couple of evenings ago and the duvet is back on the bed (this I love though as it is so cosy).

Bedford CollageThe last of the Summer? Enjoying blue sky’s over Bedford this weekend

I love autumn – the changing colours, the crispness in the air and an excuse to put on cosy clothes are perfect reasons to love the season.  I find the autumn to be a more predictable season, British summers are more often than not slightly disappointing but at least once it reaches September and autumn approaches we know what to expect and are rarely disappointed, occasionally we are even surprised by a late ‘Indian summer’.

With an autumnal feel in the air this week and a few days at home with the hubby I decided a bit of baking was in order this weekend.  Mr B was treating me to a delicious dinner and I though the least I could do was treat him to his choice of pudding in return.  His favourite type of pud usually involves something that includes apples and as I did not have the inclination to make pastry I decided to go for an Autumnal Apple & Cinnamon Crumble Cake.

After a bit of searching online, I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food website for an Apple Crumble Loaf. However, being a bit of a baking maverick, I did not stick religiously to the recipe and made some adaptations of my own. With online recipes I always think it is sensible to take note of what other people think of the recipe and any advice they can offer. As Frances over at Frances Bakes discussed on her blog last week some recipes online are not reliable and, unless you have experience on your side as a baker, you can be left disheartened and disappointed when poor instructions lead to a poor outcome.   I therefore always check the ratings a recipe has been given and take a glance at the comments from other people who have used the recipe.

The main advice from multiple comments was to cook it for longer and to increase the spice level.  I do consider myself to be a fairly experienced home baker and will generally make a few little tweaks to a recipe if I feel it is necessary, so when I had glanced at the ingredients list I had already decided that 2 teaspoons of spice in a 2lb cake would definitely not be enough. Also the cake only asked for mixed spice but, as many of the other bakers had also noted, cinnamon is a much better partner for apple so with this in mind I doubled the amount of mixed spice and added the same amount of cinnamon to the recipe. I am also not really a fan of adding milk to a recipe unless absolutely needed and so decided to add an extra apple and a banana (for sweetness) to the mix. Finally, for the crumble topping I substituted the suggested chopped hazelnuts for some rolled oats to make a crumble that resembled my Mum’s homemade classic.

IMG_20150905_140221

The classic crumble topping mix 

The recipe came together fairly easily in two easy steps,  combining dry ingredients and then adding the wet. With the addition of the extra apple and mashed banana the consistency of the cake was perfect but I could definitely see why it would need the extra 20 mins cooking time as it is a fairly dense but moist mixture.   When making the crumble mixture I made the decision to double to amounts as it did not seem enough to cover the cake, however when it came to it an increase by only a half again would have been fine and this is what I will do next time for sure.

Apple & Cinnamon Crumble collage

Somehow with every recipe designed for a 2lb loaf tin I always seem to be left with a bit over (I think my tins are not quite 2lb perhaps) which suits Mr B perfectly as he always likes to have a taster as soon as possible.  This recipe left me with enough to make an additional three muffin sized cakes, however finding I did not have any muffin cases (they seemed to have been eaten by my kitchen cupboard!), I quickly made some make shift cases out of greaseproof. I was unsure of how the cakes would fair in these cases but they actually came out pretty well and unless it’s for a special occasion I might not bother with cases all the time from now on.

IMG_20150905_145608Home made cake cases – worked a treat

The fact that our tasters only took half the time to cook, due to their smaller size, suited Mr B perfectly and we soon enjoyed tucking into them with a cup of freshly brewed tea.  The finished cake was really delicious, it had a good rise and the fruit was well distributed (Paul and Mary would be pleased!). The apple and cinnamon combination made it a perfect autumnal bake and the more traditional crumble topping gave it a satisfying feeling of part cake/part pudding which means I think it would be perfect served with custard or ice cream if having it as a pud but just as good with a cup of tea like we did.  It’s lightness from the rise and the moistness from the fruit made it really moreish and the only reason there was some left on the day of baking was because Mr B’s delicious dinner filled us up.

IMG_20150905_151547

A tasty morsel of this yummy autumnal cake – it didn’t last long!

Apple and Cinnamon Crumble Cake

(makes 2lb loaf tin sized cake)

Ingredients

For the cake: 

140g butter, cut into small pieces

250g self-raising flour

1 rounded tbsp mixed spice

1 rounded tbsp ground cinnamon

140g light muscovado sugar

100g raisins

3 large eggs, beaten

3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (1cm cubes)

1 banana

For the crumble topping:

1.5 rounded tbsp plain flour

40g butter

40 light muscovado sugar

1.5 rounded tbsp rolled oats

Method

For the cake: 

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas 3.

Butter and line the bast of a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Put the flour and spices into a food processor and add the butter – whizz to fine breadcrumbs and then add the sugar (if you do not have a food processor use your fingers to make a fine crumble).

Add the raisins, beaten eggs, apple and banana to the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is evenly combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top.

For the crumble:

Rub the flour, butter and sugar through your fingers to make a rough crumble, then stir in the rolled oats.

Sprinkle evenly over the cake mixture.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 mins, until firm to the touch and a fine skewer in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

IMG_20150905_152915

This will definitely be a recipe I return to and it met Mr B’s approval for an apple based bake so that’s a winner for me! I am looking forward to more adventures in the kitchen during the Autumn months, I think blackberries might be next on the agenda.

Have you been inspired by the changing seasons and made an Autumnal bake this weekend or do you fancy having a try at this recipe next weekend? Whatever you are baking I’d love to hear about it x