Officially picnic weather

It's officially picnic weather. When it's warm and the air is filled with the sweet smell of fresh cut grass, it's time to take to your favorite picnic spot. Here in Chicago, there are plenty of grassy spots near the beach to roll out an old blanket and avoid sand in your food. In London, we spent a lot of time hanging out, and occasionally picnicking, in the expansive parks and gardens dotted around the city. Locally, Clissold Park was a daily occurrence for dog walks and a general soaking-in of good weather.

Hampstead Heath was probably my favorite in all seasons. Whether we were walking the dog on an early Saturday morning, biking up arduous hills, or stomping through the snow on a crisp New Year's morning, it never ceased to amaze me how quickly I forgot I was in the middle of London.

I am hugely fond of a picnic that involves wine and a full spread, but I've found packable desserts to be a challenge and tend to go for some simple fresh fruit.

This loaf cake is perfect for a picnic and would go nicely with some fresh strawberries or other seasonal fruit. The combination of pineapple and thyme make for a refreshing change in a otherwise simple loaf cake recipe. If you're English, this is screaming out for a thermos of tea to finish off a lovely picnic.

Pineapple and Thyme Loaf Cake
Adapted from Sunny Days & Easy Living by Lindy Wildsmith

10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 beaten free range eggs
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup semolina
2 tsp baking powder
8 oz can pineapple chunks, chopped in a food processor
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme would be nice too)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
confectioners' sugar to dust on the top
loaf pan, lined with wax paper

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one a a time and beat well after each. Fold in the remaining flour, semolina, baking powder, pineapple, thyme and vanilla extract.

Bake for 30 minutes or until well risen and golden. Let it cool until you can handle it and turn it out onto a rack to let it cool thoroughly. Dust it with confectioners' sugar. Don't worry if it falls slightly in the middle. Pack it in aluminum foil or an appropriately sized tin for a fantastic picnic!

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