Best Baked Bits of 2014

minion cupcakes
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The weather is fine and I’m out and about this week, but I didn’t want that to stop me from showing you some of my best bakes of the year. Don’t forget to check out my other ‘Best Bits of 2014’ over the coming weeks.

Summer is the time for holidays and time with family, so there may be more time in your day or week for some sweet treats. And with Christmas only a few weeks away, you could even make a few sweet treats as presents.

I love baking and sharing my hard work with my friends and family. And I can admit to loving all the positive comments I get when people try my muffins and cakes and tell me they are delicious. But I also love just being able to look after my family and friends with the foods I make.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are a few of my favourite baked things I’ve made this year:

1. Olive oil shortbread:

This was a recipe I saw Miguel Maestro make on ‘The Living Room’ one Friday night. It is the easiest recipe ever and if you make the full recipe, like I did without thinking, then you have heaps and heaps of shortbread to give away. And give it away I did. I ate so many and I even took it to work, twice, just so all of it was eaten in time.

This recipe would be especially great to make and package up prettily as gifts. And it tastes really nice if you make it one day and then eat it the next. And you can make it into whatever shape you like!

2. Minion cupcakes:
Recently I made these cute little cupcakes for a birthday. I had so much fun making them, but if I were to do it again, I would definitely make my own icing – though the bold colours of the premade stuff is what makes them really eye catching.

Actually, they’re not cupcakes but muffins with the tops cut off. I find cupcakes to be really dry so I found a good muffin recipe to use: Blueberry and cream cheese muffins.

Aren’t they adorable? Okay, I know they don’t look exactly like minions and they’re not very professional, but you know what, I don’t care. They were a hit at the party and thats what matters to me. And I had a go at making them so I’m happy with them.

3. Orange and dried fruit muffins:
With these muffins I let my creativity shine. I didn’t use a single recipe here, but mixed parts of 3 different muffins to make the one amazingly yummy and addictive set of muffins. Actually there was so much mix that I made 12 large ones and had enough left over for 12 small ones too.

The recipe I used for the main fruit part was for a Simnel cake. I’d never heard of Simnel cake before but it seemed like a Christmas cake with the mixed fruit and spices, but its actually eaten in the UK at Easter. I then also used a recipe for Simnel muffins as the main base of the recipe. I loved it how Nigella (who’s recipe it is) puts the fruit and orange juice in the microwave for 2 minutes so that you don’t need to be prepared ahead and soak your fruit overnight. Its a brilliant tip for the time poor!

The last recipe I don’t even remember what it was, but it gave me the idea to use orange juice in the icing and then I decided to add orange zest and pecans to decorate at the top. I think they came out really well. This was one afternoon where I really enjoyed having a couple of hours to myself.

4. Homemade apple pie:

Despite the fact that it looks like I only use recipes off the internet, I do actually own a few cookbooks of my own. This was a recipe I followed in Ben O’Donoghue’s cookbook “At Home with Ben” (pictured below). And it was the second time I’d ever made my own pastry! (The first attempt was in the Fruit Lattice slice below).

I was really proud of how the whole thing turned out. I did make the mistake, though, of making the pastry into a ball before putting it into the fridge to rest. While it wasn’t a big mistake, it meant that I had to wait for it to warm up again so I could roll the bloody thing into the flat pastry disc I needed! Next time I make pastry I’m going to put the pastry in the fridge in a thick disk shape (like a frisbee) and then it will be easier to roll because it will already be in the shape I want.

5. Fruit lattice slice:
I was really excited the night I made this fruit lattice slice because it was the first time I had made my own pastry. And I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. Pastry has been on my list of Masterchef Essentials that I need to learn for the past couple of years so you can see why I was excited that it worked. I’m one step closer to becoming the Masterchef contestant I’d like to be.

I cooked the dried fruit first in a saucepan with orange juice, orange zest and cinnamon and let the mix cool while I made the pastry. The pastry in this recipe didn’t need to rest, so it was a different sort of pastry to the one I made for the apple pie. I also decided to use less pastry for the top (I was try to be more calorie conscious despite the fact its full of butter) and went with the lattice design. The slice was so incredibly tasty – I just need to remember where I’ve put the recipe is so I can make them again. Yum!

6. Raspberry friands:
I made these little guys in February when I wanted to take a small bite to a friends place. While they tasted really nice, I just couldn’t get the buggers out of the muffin tray without destroying their perfect shape. What I didn’t do, and now know how to do, is grease and flour the muffin tray before adding the mix. Somehow, and I don’t understand why this works, if you just grease with butter or oil the muffins can stick. But if after the greasing you them throw on some flour and shake off the excess, the muffins will come out perfectly, and you don’t even really need a knife to loosen them!

Wish I’d known that back in February!

Are you going to give it a go making any of these recipes? You really can’t go past making the shortbread as its really easy and great for giving away.

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