How the Kids' Book “You Can Do It, Sam” by Amy Hest Inspired a Child to Give
A Heartwarming Story of Giving
Early one winter morning while it is still dark outside, Sam and his mama, Mrs Bear, are baking cakes. Sam is impatient, but at last the cakes are ready. Mama and Sam wrap the cakes in blue paper and put them into little red bags, one cake per bag. Then they go outside into the snow, get into their little truck, and drive to the house at the end of their street. Mrs Bear tells Sam to take a cake up to the house. At first Sam’s not sure about going alone, but Mama says, “You can do it, Sam.” And he does.
They deliver cakes to each house in the street, arriving home as the sun comes up. As they warm up with cocoa they eat the two remaining cakes, sharing crumbs with a few mice.
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Apple and Cinnamon Muffin Recipe
Yield: Makes enough for 12 standard-sized muffins (using muffin tins) or 24 fairy cakes sized ones.
- 9 oz / 250g / 2 cups and 2 tablespoons flour (plain, wholemeal or gluten-free)
- 3 teaspoons baking powder (if using self-raising flour, reduce to 1 teaspoon)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon (or to taste)
- 2 eggs
- 6 oz / 170 / ¾ cup (packed) peeled and chopped apples
- Either: 3 oz / 85g / ⅓ cup unrefined sugar OR 4 to 6 oz / 110 to 175g / ½ to ¾ cup dried dates (vary amount depending how sweet you’d like them)
- 4 fl oz / 90ml / ½ cup sunflower or corn oil
- Around 2 to 3 fl oz / 60 to 90 ml water, with some extra for the dates. (The quantity of water needed will vary depending on the flour used; wholemeal needs more than white flour.)
- If using dates, put them in a small pan, with enough water to cover them, and boil gently. (They will be ready when you need to use them, just like magic!)
- Prepare muffin tins. Preheat oven to 190 to 200°C / 375 to 400°F / 170°C Fan oven. If using gas: mark 5 – 6 on middle rack, 4 – 5 on top.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add sugar if using.
- In another bowl, beat eggs with a fork. Add the apple, the oil and around 2 oz / 60ml of the water.
- If using dates, remove them from heat, and liquidize to form a smooth paste. If you don’t have a liquidizer or blender you could mash them with a fork, but this will not be so smooth. Add to wet ingredients.
- Pour all of the wet mixture into the dry. Stir until just combined and no dry flour is visible. The batter will be lumpy. It should easily drop off the spoon; if it doesn’t add more water.
- Spoon into tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for standard size and about 15 to 20 minutes for the smaller size. If the tops spring back when pressed they are ready.
My daughter, Lolo, was given this book for Christmas when she was four, and this simple story of the joy of giving caught her imagination. The following year, on Christmas Eve this Mama and her little bear got up while it was still dark (not difficult in Scotland in mid-December) and did some baking. We chose to make muffins, mainly because I make muffins so often I can do them in my sleep—or at least half-asleep as I was that morning. We also had two more helpers: Lolo’s six-year-old sister and the friend who had originally given Lolo the book and who was visiting for Christmas.
Like Sam, some of us were a little impatient for our muffins to be ready. Unlike Sam, our friends didn’t all conveniently live in the same street, and many of them lived in flats (apartments) where a bag of muffins left on a doorstep might have disappeared fast. So although the arrival of early morning muffins was a surprise to several five-year-olds that Christmas Eve, most of their parents had an inkling beforehand that they didn’t need to prepare breakfast that morning. In most cases, we rang the outside doorbell, Lolo trotted up the stairs of the building with her bag of muffins, and her friend’s parent was there to meet her at their apartment doorway. I lingered further down the stairs, to make sure all went well. One of my clearest memories of that morning is of Lolo handing over a bag of muffins to the father of two of her friends. He had a huge grin on his face and his two daughters were bouncing with excitement behind him.
Our bags were more varied than Sam’s because our local store didn’t have twelve in red, and I used plain greaseproof paper to wrap the muffins, still hot from the oven as we packed them. You could also use decorative waxed paper or put the cakes in little boxes.
Each of Sam’s bags had a label that said, “A Tasty Surprise,” so it will come as no surprise to you that ours did too. We put enough muffins in each bag for each family member of the households we delivered to.
And of course, when we got home again, we also warmed up with hot chocolate and muffins, but we didn’t share any crumbs with the mice.
With all the hullabaloo in the newspapers and glossy magazines about what how to find the perfect present for Christmas, it’s easy to forget that often the simplest presents can give every bit as much joy as the big. You could say this is something my daughter learned that day, but I think she already knew it.