Eat your veggies and have your cake too
FOR MANY PEOPLE, quick breads and rustic muffins with grated or puréed fruit or vegetables are defined by either classic banana bread or the wunderkind of the first wave of ’70s California cuisine, carrot cake. But there are so many other variations and twists on these classics that an adventure into this genre of baking is irresistible.
The possibilities are unlimited as the health benefits spiral up. You don’t have to be Dr. Oz to know that the more fiber, roughage and deep-hued, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables you can pack into your daily diet, the better. To my baker’s mind, that translates into taking the harvest of ingredients most of us have in our kitchens, such as carrots, bananas, squash and beets, and using them in main-event desserts, breakfast breads and snacky treats, instead of their usual roles as side dishes.
Who said vegetables can’t be recast in appetizing ways? Sweet potatoes take on a whole new guise tucked inside a spicy sweet potato Bundt cake. Or how about taking some bright A-list carrots, zucchini and tart apples for a new spin in a coffee klatch loaf or zesty morning muffin? Nutrition never tasted so good. Root vegetables, starchy sweet potatoes and squash of every variety also tend to add moisture to cakes and breads.
The moisture-laden starch elements also do wonders for giving cakes, quick breads and muffins added staying power; these sweets are as good after four or five days as they were on day one (plus they freeze like a dream). What’s more, nothing could be easier to make, or more forgiving of occasional bakers, than these homey loaves, quick breads and cakes.
Easy does it, but even this informal sort of baking has some key tips for success. First, use fresh produce; tough, overgrown or old storage specimens won’t yield the best results (unless they are bananas, in which case, the darker and more past-due, the better). Be sure to check that your spices, as well as any dried fruits and nuts, are fragrant and of top quality.
Overall, consider these vegetable and fruit spins not just a nutritionist’s dream but simply wonderful on their own merits: great taste; moist, heavenly scented, unique layers; and the most incredible grain and crumb imaginable. Bake one or two, and in a short time you’ll end up converted to the whole gamut of bakery produce. Carrot cake is just a beginning.