In a black and white world of leaders and followers, in the kitchen, I am a follower. Many of us, like myself, take joy in following recipes to bake something delicious, however, far fewer of us are the ones out there writing our own cookbooks. While I have zero aspirations to make baking a profession, I am interested in experimenting a little more in the kitchen and coming up with some of my own creations.
In an attempt to make use of the quickly aging bag of carrots at the back of the refrigerator, I scrambled to find recipes that could turn the vegetables into a sweet baked good. Because my resources are limited (haven’t shopped in about three weeks due to the pandemic), this task was much easier said than done. After what seemed like a tireless online search, I settled on this recipe for cinnamon carrot bread. Honestly, this recipe would not have been my first choice. The loaf pictured on the website is an anemic shade of brown with a sharp fissure dividing the dehydrated-looking bread. However, the reviews for the recipe were good overall and I had enough ingredients (or simulacra) to make the loaf, so I went ahead!
The recipe called for white and brown sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sunflower seed oil, cinnamon, salt, eggs, carrots, pecans, and vanilla extract. I took some liberties, however, in my approach. To make the bread “healthier,” I substituted white sugar for honey. I learned online that for every 1 cup of sugar, one may substitute 1/2 to 2/3 cups of honey. Additionally, because I only had olive oil, I used this instead of sunflower seed oil. When I combined the brown sugar, honey, and olive oil, however, I felt like I had already made a grave mistake. I was stirring together a liquid mess that smelled very strongly of olive oil. Undeterred, I continued to mix the dry ingredients and eggs into the batter. Before I transferred everything into a greased loaf pan, I tasted the batter… yikes! I always taste the batter and while I consider this to be a bad habit in myself (I usually do more than just ‘taste’ the batter…) I’m glad I stuck a spoon into it this time.
The batter was not very sweet tasting and was pungent with olive oil. In a mini panic that I had wasted so many resources on a failed product, I quickly pulled out the white sugar and crudely determined that a half cup of the stuff would suffice to ameliorate the mix. Quieted but not relieved, I decided that I should add a streusel (a sweet crumbly topping) to give the loaf another sweet buffer against the olive oil taste. I looked up a streusel recipe on the spot and settled on this one for applesauce carrot cake loaf. Additionally, I mixed a few dry oats into the streusel because I thought it would make the loaf look “fancier.”
In the oven, the loaf got off to a seemingly rocky start. I could see oil pooling up in the corners and on the top of the loaf. Because I had never seen this happen before with my other baked goods, I assumed it was an error on my part and I drained the excess oil before sliding it back into the oven. I checked back on the bread several minutes later. Perhaps the streusel topping that I had added to the batter was too heavy, because the loaf was not rising very high. After a total of 50 minutes, I removed the loaf and saw that the sides and tops were already a dark brown. This surprised me because the recipe indicated a 60-minute bake time.
I let the bread cool but was nervous to taste it. After much hesitation, I cut off a crusty end piece. The crust had a burnt taste, of course, but golly, the middle was delicious! The bread looked much softer than the original cinnamon carrot bread posted on the website and was sweet like a cake—perhaps this was due to my addition of honey and streusel.
Although I think the bread turned out well, I don’t feel comfortable posting my version of the recipe. I am still a sloppy baker and I’m unsure which of my modifications helped the bread and which ones were unnecessary or led to errors (i.e. like the pooling oil around the corners of the loaf while it was baking). While the loaf was not perfect, it was fun to make, and got rave reviews (all from my boyfriend 😉 ). This carrot cinnamon streusel was my first ‘creation’ of sorts and makes me hopeful that I can begin to come up with my own recipes that can suit my kitchen rather than rely on online recipes.
Wishing you as always, Dear Reader, safety during this time, but also moments of amusement and lots of sweet treats.