Archive for: carrot
Adding vegetables to baked goods always makes them sound a little bit healthier. Zucchini bread and carrot cake, for instance, sound less indulgent than chocolate cake does, even though vegetables alone don’t make a recipe healthier. But even though they’re not turning your baked goods into health food, those veggies can put you on the right track to make a few other changes that actually do. My Whole Grain Carrot Muffins could easily have become carrot cake muffins, but I decided to make a few changes to my basic recipe that made them just a little bit healthier.
The muffins are made with white whole wheat flour and oatmeal, which both give the muffins a nice texture and a slightly nutty flavor. I also added ground flaxseed to the mix. They’re sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, and while they have a good spice flavor to them, they’re not as sweet as a regular carrot cake would be. These muffins have a slightly hearty feel to them, so you will feel satisfied when you eat one for breakfast and not like you just ate a piece of cake. That said, they’re still soft and moist, and lack the heavy texture that some other whole grain muffins can have. I like to serve these with a little bit of butter or cream cheese, although they are also tasty just as they are.
I prefer using white whole wheat flour because it has a softer texture and a lighter flavor than regular whole wheat flour, although you can certainly experiment with regular whole wheat or a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose if those are the flours that you keep in your kitchen. You could also put a twist on these by adding some shredded coconut into the muffins in place of part of the shredded carrots, or by mixing up the spices with ginger and cardamom instead of cinnamon and nutmeg.
When life (or your garden) gives you carrots, you have a couple of options. You could roast them or prepare them in some savory way, you could make carrot cake or you could make a batch of Carrot Muffins with Raisins. I enjoy carrot cake, but I was looking to do something a little different with the carrots in my kitchen this time around and decided to bake up a batch of muffins instead. Carrots are one vegetable that can be a great addition to baked goods. They’re easy to work with, have a slightly sweet flavor on their own, and add a nice pop of color.
The muffins are fluffy and slightly sweet, with a hint of butteriness from the buttermilk in the batter and a nice mixture of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to compliment the carrots. They’re not nearly as sweet or as heavy as a carrot cake can be, but they do deliver a similar flavor and fans of carrot cake will definitely like these. I added golden raisins for a little extra sweetness, and they work very well with the spices in the muffins. The muffins are best when they are freshly baked and can be served as-is, with nothing on them, though they are also good with a little bit of butter or cream cheese.
You can use all purpose flour or white whole wheat flour in these muffins and get great results. I find that regular whole wheat flour makes them a little too heavy feeling, and I like them as a lighter muffin. I topped them off with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar because I like have a little bit of sweetness on top of a muffin, but you can easily leave them plain or omit the cinnamon and stick with coarse sugar. For an extra crunch, you can stir in a half cup of chopped pecans, walnuts or another favorite nut, too.
I like carrot cake enough to wonder why there aren’t more carrot cake-like concoctions around. The cake is known for being moist and spicy – attributes that are prized in many baked goods, after all. In playing around with the idea, I decided to try carrot cake in combination with an oatmeal cookie and was really happy with the result.
The cookies are your standard drop cookies, with butter and sugar creamed together before the rest of the ingredients are added. I stirred in the shredded carrots at the end, along with the oatmeal and the raisins, just before putting them in the oven. The cookies were a bit cakey – which is not a bad thing in this case, since the cookies are inspired by a cake to begin with – and had a nice, chewy texture to them. I used my pumpkin pie spice blend for the spices in the cookies, but you can mix in cinnamon, etc. separately if you don’t have the mix.
I would definitely recommend using freshly grated carrot in these cookies instead of pre-grated, in the event that you keep that on hand as a “convenience” item. It doesn’t take very long to grate them and you really only need two carrots, depending on the size you have on hand. The fresh carrots add moisture to the cookies, too.
The cookies are best within a day or two of baking, but freeze pretty well. If you’re so inclined, you can sandwich them with some cream cheese frosting for a more indulgent treat.
Some cakes are classically bundt cakes. Others are classically layer cakes. Carrot cake is one that I would put firmly in the latter category. The cake is usually made to be very moist and very dense – a combination that doesn’t really make for an appetizing, tall cake. Shorter layers keep the cake from seeming too heavy and the addition of frosting to break up the rich spicy flavors is usually necessary. Fortunately for me, I’m not a fan of wet and heavy carrot cakes (without fail, I find them to be greasy and unappealing) and because I tend to make mine a bit on the lighter side, they work out extremely well in bundt cake form.
This carrot cake is very moist and tender, without being wet or heavy. One of the big differences between this and what we’ll call the “average” carrot cake recipe is that it doesn’t use oil. I far prefer butter because it adds flavor and always seems lighter in the finished cake. That said, I do want a carrot cake to have some more substance to it than some other types of cake, so I use melted butter in the recipe. The spices are the same that you’d find elsewhere – cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg – and while I’ve given amounts below, feel free to play around with the proportions a bit if you prefer more allspice or less cinnamon. I also used raisins in the cake and omitted nuts entirely. If you prefer, use half raisins and half chopped pecans, or simply use all chopped pecans if you’re a big nut fan.
The only warning I want to give with this recipe is that greasing and flouring the pan is crucial. The cake has a lot of sugar in it and the sugar caramelizes against the side of the pan during baking, making the outside of the cake not only dark, but sticky. It can be tricky to get the cake out in one piece (although do-able with a butter knife and some patience) if you forget this step.
Cream cheese frosting is pretty much the standard for topping off carrot cakes and I almost always use it when I’m doing a layer cake, sheet cake, cupcakes or other format of carrot cake. But I never use it with bundt cakes. At the risk of sounding like a bundt cake snob, I just don’t like the way that bundt cakes look when they’re covered in a thick frosting. It covers up the pretty ridges and lines of the pan and almost always looks a bit sloppy. This cake can be left plain and it will be delicious. I opted to make up a simple orange glaze to top it off, however. It brings out the orange flavor in the cake and gives the cake a nice finishing touch, visually, too.