My friends and I went on a picnic a couple of weekends ago in an attempt to make the most of the lovely weather. As soon as the sun popped its head out of the clouds, that was it. Like a military operation, my friend divvied out the various treats, where I was told: you're on baked goods. So I rolled up my sleeves in anticipation of an afternoon of sun, a good giggle and all the best parts of picnic food.
Picnics can be a bit of tricky one to bake for. I mean, you don’t want to do a full on cake with icing (potential melting situation), or that needs cutting (potential ‘aargh, not another thing to carry' situation), but biscuits seem to take an awful lot of time for an occasion so impromptu. Gaah, so much to think about in this baking lark!
Muffins seemed the best option, really. No icing, individual portions, nice mix of flavours and perfect size to fit in my little tin. All my friends love chocolate, but I love dried fruit in baking, so I was at a bit of a loss on what to do until I opened my cupboard and saw a little packet of apricots half open. One of my go-to snacks at school was always a handful each of dried apricots, almonds and dark chocolate chips: the flavours seemed to go pretty well together, so I figured I would try something new using my baking instinct (ahaha, if I’ve got any, really!)
2 medium eggs
125ml vegetable oil
250ml semi-skimmed milk
200g golden caster sugar (going for gold in this recipe is so worth it, the muffins come out such a lovely colour)
325g self-raising flour
75g ground almonds
1/2tsp almond essence
75g dried apricots, chopped into little chunks (you can buy the chopped apricots, but I find that they’re a little sugary)
2 generous handfuls of dried cranberries (when you’re in a panic to the picnic, you don’t have time to measure everything!)
100g dark chocolate chips (this is usually just 1 bag)
Orange marmalade or apricot jam
Firstly, stick your oven on 200/180fan/gass mark 6 and line two muffin trays with paper cases.
Crack your eggs into a bowl and beat them together for about a minute, being sure to break the yolk. There should be little air bubbles appearing, but the mix shouldn’t be pale.
Pour in the milk and oil and beat the whole lot together until combined – this will take around 4minutes. Don’t worry about being too precise here, but don’t overbeat either.
Sieve in the flour and salt and then fold in until it’s all combined. I don’t recommend using the mixed to do this because it will make the batter a little heavy. Fold the dry ingredients in with a plastic spatula.
Add in the chocolate chips and dried fruit and fold in until evenly distributed – you want a tasty chunk in each bite, remember.
When your batter is ready, fill the cases about 2/3 full and bake until nice and risen. This will take about 20-25 mins, but I’d say check at 20.
Whilst the muffins are baking away toast your almonds in a shallow frying pan. You don’t need to use any oil here! Just keep an eye on them so they don’t catch.
Leave the muffins to cool for a little minute before brushing the top of them with a little of the jam or marmalade and then topping with the toasted nuts.
Lovely served slightly warm in the middle of the park, but will also keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.