Early in recent years I’ve put together a compendium of my favourite bakes for the year just passed. My target has been to include two bakes from each month. I’ve usually come close to this, but selection has always been difficult as I have to leave out so many lovely ones.
Now, for the year of 2022, it has been even more difficult, partly because of all the tasty bakes, but also because some months I baked a lot, but sometimes very little. This was due to other commitments, illness/surgery and holidays.
2022 got off to quite a slow baking start, so I’m jumping ahead to February when I led a Peak District walk for a group of friends. I wanted to make them something portable, filling and tasty. My Chocolate-topped Flapjacks were perfect.
Another tray bake that I made later was Pretzel Brownies for after our Sunday morning church meeting. It may sound an odd mixture, but it worked really well with the slight saltiness of the pretzels counterbalancing the rich sweetness of the chocolate.
Regular readers will also know that I often bake for my ex-colleagues at the school where I worked full time but now only call in for a few hours a week to prepare participants for their the Duke of Edinburgh’s award expedition. They loved my Walnut and Ginger Carrot Cake.
I love baked cheesecakes and often experiment with flavours like this one, in March. My Honey, Pistachio and Ginger version worked a treat.
After the sad loss of a dear friend, one of the bakes I made for his memorial service was a batch of Pear and Pecan Brownies.
A later, more experimental bake was these Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Blondies. Blondies often turn out less “moist and squidgy” than brownies, but these were lovely.
And there’s a fourth bake included for this busy month – my Blueberry and Cinnamon English Muffins were as tasty as they were colourful.
April was a quiet month for baking. The DofE expedition season was in full swing and I was assessing groups across the Peak District. I made several Easter bakes, but they were all repeats of previous years’ bakes – except one. If you want something a bit different and a bit special next Easter look no further than these Orange and Dark Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.
In May my Blueberry Brioche Bread Butter Pudding satisfied not only our love for puddings but also my love of alliteration. It had a wonderful thick but smooth texture and tasted great.
By now you may be thinking that I’d stopped making cakes, but not so. Below is one of my all time favourites. I made this Chocolate and Raspberry Layer Cake to take into church one Sunday for after our meeting.
June was another “quiet” baking month, but I certainly enjoyed making these Lemon, Honey & Poppy Seed Rolls. They were just sweet enough for jam or marmalade or even yogurt, but equally enjoyable with something savoury, scrambled or poached eggs for example.
July was very much a “chocolate cake month”. Several friends at church were baptised, so I jumped at the chance to make each one a special celebratory cake. It’s not every day that you tell the world (well, a small part of the world) of your faith in Jesus, so it’s quite a celebration. Unsurprisingly, several were based on my Adaptable Chocolate Cake recipe. Another cake that proved really popular was my Four Layer Chocolate Cola Cake. If you’ve never used cola in a cake I’d definitely recommend having a go. It works so well.
Despite being a holiday month, August was really hectic in baking terms. I love scones and tend to rate cafes by the quality of their scones. One local cafe was high on my list, but even at my most persuasively charming best I failed to inveigle the recipe for their Cherry & Walnut scones. Finally, I decided to create my own. Here in all their tasty, crunchy rustic glory are my Cherry and Walnut Rustic Scones. (Usually I add the word “rustic” when things turn out a bit rough looking, but not on this occasion, it’s exactly what I was aiming for – honestly)
While on the subject of scones I have to mention my Double Cheese and Chive Scones, partly because they came first in their section in a local baking show, but also because they taste great. Click here for all my scone recipes.
While I’m blowing my own trumpet I’ll add in my No-knead White Sourdough, which also gained a first prize at the same show. My Raspberry Brownies came first too (it was quite a small show) The recipe also give a Blueberry version. Both are lovely: Berry Brownies.
OK, I’ll come down to earth now, well not quite. For this August bake I wanted something like a rum baba, but a little bit different. I had some lemons and half a bottle of Limoncello, so hey presto: luscious boozy Limoncello Babas.
September was a bit quieter, but it did offer me the opportunity to bake something I’d never baked before, something big and special: my first Wedding Cake. A lovely couple at church had planned a quiet wedding after the end of one of our Sunday meetings and I jumped at the chance to make their cake. Then the wedding grew and grew. (We’re not a big church – probably about 120 – 150 – but we’re a family of believers so everyone was invited together with the couples’ families and friends. The bride wanted a chocolate cake so I ended up making a three-tier version of my Chocolate Orange Torte.
Also in September I was told about another local show. As it was the following day I only had time for two bakes. Again, my artisan sourdough stole the judges’ hearts (or stomachs) and I got another first. Likewise, it was first prize in the fruit cake category with my Bakewell Bara Brith – a sort of Derbyshire-meets-Wales creation which worked wonderfully well.
October and November were less frenetic months thankfully, so I had time to experiment a bit. This gave rise to my Maple, Bacon & Pecan Millionaires Shortbread. Probably not everyone’s ideal flavour combination, but I liked them. Something a little more traditional was my Strawberry & Mascarpone Swiss Roll. I love using Mascarpone, it’s so versatile. Here it adds to the richness and texture beautifully.
As you’d expect, the majority of my December bakes were Christmas orientated and I’ve posted most of them elsewhere (Ian’s Christmas Collection), so I’ll finish off with a couple of bread recipes.
No doubt you’ve already recognised that I’m influenced by my love of Italy, especially the food, so I hope my Focaccia Mozzarella Pomodoro e Aglio would be welcomed in Liguria. And to prove (no pun intended) that my bread credentials are international here’s an Irish soda bread, but it’s not just any soda bread. It’s a Gluten-free Soda Bread with Cheese & Onion. Gluten free breads tend to be cake-like in their consistency, but not this one. It feels and tastes as good as any “with-gluten” version, I promise.