Three easy, crowd-pleasing baking recipes for the new year that turn out perfectly every time

Published 14 Jan, 2022 10:00am

You can't go wrong with fudge brownies, banana nut muffins and mixed berry bread pudding.

Photo credit: Stephan Andrew
Photo credit: Stephan Andrew

I tend to bake extensively throughout the Christmas season, sometimes starting as early as mid-November, so by the time the New Year comes around, I am pretty much baked out. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to bake, just that I want to do things that are simple, stress-free and will come out perfect every single time. Keeping that in mind, I want to offer three easy and fool-proof recipes that can be made quickly and are guaranteed to be a hit with friends and family.

Best ever fudge brownies

If you have always been on the hunt for that perfect, fudgy brownie recipe that has a nice thin crust on the top and plenty of goo and chew underneath, this is it. Just follow the instructions carefully and use very good quality chocolate.

Ingredients

85g unsalted butter (plus more for greasing the pan)
170g dark chocolate
25g unsweetened cocoa powder
115g flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
220g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Method

Preheat the oven to 176°C. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, line it with baking paper allowing a 2-inch overhang on two sides, grease the paper and then set aside. Put the butter, dark chocolate and cocoa powder in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second bursts until the butter and chocolate have melted and all the ingredients are nicely combined. You can also do this in glass bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water on the stove. Once the ingredients have melted, set aside to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld electric whisk, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed for at least 4 minutes (this will help develop that nice thin crust on top of the brownies so make sure you mix well). Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. On a low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes. A skewer inserted in the brownies should come out with a few gooey (but not wet) crumbs on it. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the paper overhang and let them cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Three easy, crowd-pleasing recipes for the new year that turn out perfectly every time

Mixed berry bread pudding

This is a variation on my chocolate chip bread pudding but it is equally easy to make and is delicious without too much work or effort. It’s also a great way to eat lots of healthy berries for breakfast or dessert.

Ingredients

350g brioche bread (cut in cubes)
240ml milk
240ml cream
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
175g frozen mixed berries (or fresh berries)

Preheat oven to 175°C and lightly grease an 8x8 inch glass baking dish. Put half the brioche bread in the dish, add half the berries and repeat with another layer of bread and berries. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, caster sugar and vanilla essence, and pour over the bread and berries. Press the bread into the milk mix with a spatula, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes or until the bread pudding looks puffed up. Serve warm or cold.

Banana nut muffins with streusel topping

If you love banana bread (and who doesn’t), you won’t be able to get enough of these muffins! Not only do you get to use all those overripe bananas sitting on your counter, you also only need two bowls and a muffin tray to make the entire recipe.

Ingredients

110g walnuts
230g flour
150g sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 pinches of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
113g butter (melted, cooled)
300g bananas (mashed)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Streusel

57g butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour (may need more)
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners. Roast the walnuts in the oven until fragrant and then chop roughly. In a large bowl, combine the walnuts, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl or jug, combine the eggs, melted butter, mashed bananas and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine with a spatula until just mixed. Do not overmix. The batter should be thick and chunky. Fill muffin cases almost to the top.

Combine all the streusel ingredients together in a small bowl until chunks form, sprinkle liberally over the muffins and then bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

The writer is a professional pastry chef and holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu

Originally published in Dawn, EOS, January 9th, 2022