Yep, it’s definitely autumn. There’s a nip in the easterly wind and this morning I needed a warm coat for the first time since spring; collar up, hands shoved deep into pockets, purposeful stride. Cassie gets a little frisky when it’s windy. She’s easily spooked by a falling pine cone or a sudden flurry of leaves. Our cats go a bit silly, too. Skittish. They’ll leap at the sight of their tail, zoom past and out through the cat flap and back in again a few seconds later. I feel a little skittishness (is that a word?) is rubbing off on me. I can’t settle. There’s a long list of Stuff To Do and I’m avoiding doing it. A teacher friend once told me that teaching young children on a windy day is like herding grasshoppers – they’re excitable, unpredictable. I like that. The thought that humans are deeply connected to forces of nature appeals to me. That’s one of the reasons I love living here; that feeling of connectedness with nature that you don’t get in the city. Here you see the weather coming; you experience it.*
My children’s appetites seem to have stepped up a gear. You wouldn’t believe the amount of milk we’re getting through. I buy four x four-pinters at a time and within a few days we’re running out. In an effort to keep them well-fed, I’ve been baking a lot of cakes for after-school tea. Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book is my most-used recipe book for straightforward, reliably delicious cakes. She’s gone up even more in my estimation since Great British Bake Off-gate. That woman has integrity.
Anyway… In the cake tin this week we have Gingerbread Traybake (the quantities of syrup, treacle and sugar would make you shudder but, boy, it’s scrumptious) and the ‘award-winning’ (!) Bara Brith. Far be it from me to mess with Mary’s recipes but I use less sugar than the recipe states. And I use a mix of dark muscovado and light. It is the easiest cake to bake, you just need to remember to soak your fruit the night before. Makes 1 x 2lb (900g) loaf.
175g muscovado sugar (I use a mix of dark and light. Mary’s recipe calls for 225g light)
300ml strong hot tea
275g self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
Put the dried fruit and sugar into a mixing bowl, pour over the hot tea, cover and leave to soak overnight.
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees C. Grease and line your loaf tin. (I use those brilliant loaf-tin liners you can get here.)
Stir the flour and egg into the soaked fruit/sugar and mix thoroughly. Scrape into your prepared tin, pop it in the oven and bake for one-and-a-half to one-and-three-quarter hours. It should look risen and a little cracked on top and be firm to the touch.
Serve sliced with butter. You can be generous with the butter on top as there’s none in it 🙂
* I know there is a nasty amount of wind currently rampaging in the Caribbean and south eastern US. I don’t mean to be flippant about it. If you are affected, I do hope you’re ok.