I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to entertaining. I'll spend hours cleaning, procuring, cooking, and preparing up until the last second before guests arrive and then go full in for the entire evening. I love it. I love good conversations with friends, I LOVE good food, and I love the way lasting relationships develop over the communal table. But, it's also a lot of work, which means I don't really do it all that often and I wish I did. Thank goodness for books like Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English.
Filled with solutions for just that conundrum, her take on collaborative potluck gatherings is refreshing and inspiring. The recipes are soulful and approachable (I can't wait to try them all) and the images in the book are stunning.
With 16 seasonal party ideas, 52 recipes, and 32 crafts and activities, this book wipes away any lingering apprehension for throwing a gathering or dinner party, and instead, brings the focus to where is should be: on connecting with all the faces, stories, and laughter you love.
But even if you're not quite ready to jump into collaborative gatherings just yet, the book is full of wonderful ideas for ways to connect through food and simple activities. When I turned to her recipe for Spiced Apple Pound Cake, I knew it was just the thing to get me into the the coming season (and to use those first unexpected apples that showed up in my CSA box).
And while the smell of autumn wafted through my home I realized that these sweet and simple loaves. . .
. . . would be the perfect way to connect with the community of the coming season as well.
If you're looking for a great back-to-school teacher gift, Ashley has kindly shared this recipe from her book with all of us. I decided to make three small loaves instead of one big one so that I could spread the love a little farther with each batch. I followed the recipe to the letter, apart from the pan size (I also lined mine with parchment paper) and baked them for about a half of an hour less.
Spiced Apple Pound Cake via Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Set aside
Combine the flour and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until light and billowy. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, to the butter and sugar mixture. Scrape the bowl and beaters with a spatula after each addition. Add the vanilla. Using a spatula, gently fold in the beaten egg whites until fully incorporated.
Add the flour and the spices to the mixture, in 2 increments, scraping down the bowl and beaters after each addition. Stir in the chopped apples until fully combined with the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and leave to cool on a wire rack for and additional 15 minutes.
Cut the pound cake down the center using a serrated knife. Then cute the loaf into 1/2 inch slices.
If you'd like to get your hands on all the fantastic recipes in this book, you're in luck, we're giving this book away today!
*Last time in Books and Stories: Flora and Ulysses