My family’s food passions are fueled by fixation. We develop almost unhealthy fascinations with particular dishes on a frequent basis – much to my delight. Between my parents, my sister and me, it is not uncommon for one of us to refer to our current “mission,” such as crafting the perfect Jello masterpiece for the Easter table, or taming the caramelization of a tarte tatin. So this year, when I heard my family had become obsessed (or shall we say “preoccupied”) with carrot cake, I didn’t think too much of it. That’s just how we are.
Since I got a job and moved to the East Coast, far away from my family in California, it has been difficult to work out spending major holidays together. Thanksgiving was the last time the four of us were in the same place. This means that for the past several months, I have been baking endlessly, but my best critics were unable to give their professional opinions. So since they told me a few weeks ago that they were coming to visit for Easter, the words “carrot cake” have been running on an endless electronic billboard loop in my brain (akin to the ones that proclaim “DE-FENSE!” at football games).
My family has also been spending these last few months getting healthy. They are all diligent about exercising, making sure to eat right, and generally putting me to shame with their discipline. So riddle me this, Batman – how do you make carrot cake not … coronary bypass-worthy and yet still palatable?
The answer came in these Carrot Muffins, whose recipe I found at Allrecipes.com and modified to suit my needs. I shant detail those modifications here, because to do so may detract from the main point about this recipe; it produces wonderfully moist, flavorful muffin-cakes that taste completely full-bodied rather than artificially slimmed down. Just as I don’t believe in unnatural diets for people, I also don’t believe in unnatural diets for baked goods. At the end of the day, it’s a treat, to be enjoyed in moderation of course, but mainly to be enjoyed.
My family’s verdict: “Mission” accomplished.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com
A few notes:
- Do not be intimidated by the long ingredient list. Everything comes together very quickly and mostly easily – and obviously you can make many changes to the spices depending on your cupboard’s contents.
- The only part of the process that is at all difficult is the shredding of the carrots. Make sure you grate your carrots into very thin pieces so they won’t be too chunky when eating. This step takes a while. Set aside some time, or shred your carrots the night before if you like.
- When I tried these just out of the oven, I was inconsolably disappointed in how they turned out. The next morning, once they had cooled, they had catapulted themselves into a whole higher sphere of taste. Moral: Muffins are best once completely cooled.
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsps. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup applesauce
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup uncooked rolled oats
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup golden raisins
1 ½ cups walnuts
2 cups shredded carrots
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple (stored in pineapple juice, NOT syrup), drained
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease muffin pans or use paper muffin liners (I use 2 per cup).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add white sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix just until evenly moist.
4. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the oats, coconut, raisins, carrots, walnuts and pineapple.
5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full and bake for ~25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
~A Note: Remember my resolution to be more daring? This is my entry to Sugar High Friday. Hooray!