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carrot

Gluten Free Carrot Cake-Do(ugh)-Nuts + Blood Orange Cream Frosting

Gluten Free Carrot Cake-Do(ugh)-Nuts + Blood Orange Cream Frosting

Carrot cake is quite popular in my house. Consequently, several variations of it feature on this blog as well like frosted layered cakes to mini cakes to cup cakes and more. But, none of them have been gluten free, well, because I did not need to. I need to now.

So, recently, when the desire to have carrot cake set in again, it was the perfect opportunity to test how the recipe work when the chemistry of flour ingredients are changed on their head. Fortunately, I struck gold with the first recipe I tried and it was also the one that had worked best for regular flour and has been particularly popular with readers.

In this post, I catalog some of the factors that I work with when transforming recipes with regular flour to gluten free creations in my kitchen. In this recipe, I used a blend of oat and almond flours, which, I think works wonders for sweet stuff.

Continue reading to find out why and get the recipe for these adorable cake-do-nuts!

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A Pudding + Friday Links

Carrot Bread Pudding served

One day as I was walking past a restaurant by me, I spied a banana bread pudding on the brunch menu. Now, after reading Bourdain's book, I am not sure, I want to eat brunch out again. Nevertheless, the idea captivated. Here was a non-traditional bread being used for making a brunch staple. Indeed, it was really cake being used. It makes in the way that American bread pudding is most often made with challah, brioche or other small crumbed, sweet and eggy bread.

Now, I liked the concept but clearly did not want to copy it. So I decided to change the base and add a few bells and whistles and call it my own. I have to caveat that I am NOT a bread pudding person. Rarely, have I come across one that is light and airy and most often I take eggs more than anything else in them. And, that is not the way I want to end the meal. Since then, I have had the fortune of indulging on a croissant pudding at the Old Ebbit Grill in DC and that was divine! I must recreate that soon. It had the perfect balance of soft and cakey with a little crunch (the croissant flakes I presume) while obviously enough egg had been added to hold it all together. It was most definitely not eggy.

Now that has become the hallmark for my attempts at making pudding. The quest to find just he right ratios. Less egg more milk yet still pudding.

Carrot Bread Pudding
Carrot Bread Pudding for you
Berry Coulis
Carrot Bread Pudding ingredients

I decided to play with

this carrot bread

. Since the bread was already sweet, I did not have to use more sugar in milk mixture. Also, I used a small egg. I get eggs from the farm and they come in varying sizes in a box. I just chose the smallest of the lot. Btw, as an aside, have you ever gotten a double yolk egg? It isn't common in the industrial eggs but I hear quite an occurrence when you procure from a normal farm.

So, well, that's really it to it. I used more soakage liquid and then let is settle in overnight and then baked it to a light crumb. This one was actually light but not light enough. A good enough back up. But, I intend to keep testing more. It has become an obsession I think. oh well!

I served with delicious fresh cream and a berry coulis made from frozen mix of berries and unsweetened with any added sugars.

Carrot Bread Pudding out of oven

Meanwhile, I leave you with this recipe and a few links of interesting reads.

This

is what I have been yelling about all along! :)

Another pudding recipe

, just because!

Cannot to lay my hands on tomatoes like

these

!

This bay leaf cake

is my list to make, after I made my

first pound cake

.

Carrot Bread Pudding served

Somewhat cool and

sexy

;-)

Another

coffee shop

opening in Grand Central. I hope they plan for proper baristas. The last one is an epic fail!

A new found

magazine

I am loving.

I really, really, want to go

here

. Soon.

She

is my spiritual guide, of sorts!

I find it hard to believe that we have grown to be

so glued to phones

. Oh well!

Carrot Bread Pudding

{serves 4}

Carrot Bread Pudding

6 slices of

this carrot bread

1 egg

1/4 cup brandied raisins, drained

1 cup whole milk or almond milk

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1 T raw sugar

1/2 tsp salt

To serve,

Whipped cream

Berry Coulis

1 cup thawed frozen berries

1/2 cup water

To make the coulis, bring the berries and water to a boil. Then simmer for 5 or so minutes until the sauce has thickened a little.

Arrange the slices of bread tightly in a baking dish. Warm the milk to melt the sugar. Whisk in the egg and nutmeg quickly. Fold in the raisins.

Pour the milk mixture over the cake slices. Gently press down so the crust get to soak in the liquid as well.

Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. At this point, nearly all of the liquid should have been soaked through. If it looks a little dry, pour some milk over to moisten.

Prep the oven to 400F.

Bake the pudding for 20 minutes until the liquid is just set.

Cool for a few minutes and serve with berry coulis and cream.

On an Easter Monday I wrote

Carrot Bread

Come to me and I will whisper secrets in your ears.

Walk with me and I will let you see where I live.

Listen to me and I will let you hear how I laugh.

Open to me and I will show you a surprise.

Tell me your worries and I will soothe you to be calm.

Hush, my love!

Take me not at face, for I run deeper than you perceive.

- Asha

These are the words that would come to me on a rainy day, huddled around a candle that shows off the sparkle in the eyes and the glint of suspended laughter while the sky breaks outside.

These are words that come to me after a weekend spent in the nation's capital - Washington DC.

Rain drops on the window

At first glimpse, you probably thought this was a love note. It could be. It is also to me what the capital of 'power stands for, shifting sands, changing faces, emerging trends, whispered promises, vibrant laughter at unexpected quarters.

So, yes that is what I did over the Easter weekend. Took a bus down. Sans camera. Walked around the capital. Sans camera. Visited a Smithsonian museum. Sans camera. Dined and libated very well. Sans camera. Throughly enjoyed. Sans camera. Oh! I made memories. Sans camera.

As I was packing on Saturday morning for a bus leaving an hour, I spent 15 minutes wrestling with myself on the subject of bringing my camera with me. The advantages were obvious - great shots of a new city and new experiences, another catalog to add to the book on how I lived and yes, I will feel normal, like me. I am always capturing the moment, so to speak. It only made sense I should continue to do so! Yet, yet, there was a part of me that simply did not want to. A part that harkened back to the good old days of walking into something new without worrying about how to record it for posterity, the part that brings back rich memories imprinted in my mind at whim, the part that languishes as my camera has become my bff, the part that had had simply enough. So, in the end, I made a conscious choice of leaving the big camera behind and if need be, use my phone camera.

Simply the best decision ever!

Jefferson Library
Capitol Hill
Union Station DC

Not only, did I not have to carry a whole other bag that was camera friendly, but I found that I was simply more in the moment. Instead of spending my time viewing through the lens and composing shots every step I took and in the process, half-ignoring all other stimuli and the company, I was watching, listening, absorbing.. Ahem, being normal! Instead of shooting every glass, plate and whatever else was put in front me, I turned to my neighbor at the bar and had a chat. I had a blast!

I loved the freedom of not picture perfecting my break.. :)

So, my impressions of the city. It is one in transition. The food scene seems to be just breaking. As is the coffee scene. Staying close to the Hill was good for tourism and museum hunting but not so great for life. That I found in DuPont circle and the area. I may be forgiven for drawing comparisons to Boston and New York but that part of DC reminded me of both cities in parts. It also helped that we had some really tasty bites and the best coffee in DC here!

Oh! and the awesomest thing about DC is that it is much cheaper than NYC. If you hunt around and prepare, you can find nuggets of gold, in whatever your choice of poison, at prices far lower than NYC or Boston standards. People are amazingly friendly, open and chatty, but not everywhere. Bobby Van's in Downtown is a miss, Old Ebbitt Grill by the Treasury (of all places) is a vibrant bar with awesome food, amazing bartender (Joe) and a completely unpretentious atmosphere. José Andrés rocks! His concept bar, bar mini, is amazing. Do not miss! And ask for Carly. She is fun, quirky, CIA grad and amazing mixologist. Also, settle for a few hours there. Totally worth it! Oh, and get the foieffle. If that is the last bite of your life, you will die happy!

I took a sparing few photos, of my trip to DC on the phone, that I have shared here.

Carrot Bread
Carrot bread with brandied fruits

And, now, because we started this post with the romantic image of a rainy day, let us finish with that.

Nothing beats baking on a day when you are forced to stay indoors. of course, you can get through that backlog of work, writing, editing, proofing, thinking, reading, etc. But baking is more fun, more fulfilling, more sparkling and laughter enabling. Trust me! I have a lot of experience in this.

Also, I love the light on rain days. They make amazing shoots. Case in point.

I was meant to share this pre-Easter but well, things got away and this is going to be your weekend brunch or weekday dessert. Make it any day. You will be happy and nothing wrong with a treasure hunt on a normal day. Break it up. Make Carrot Bread. With brandied fruits. Don't skip the brandy. It is perfect for the rainy day.

This carrot bread is like any other quick bread. If you have a recipe for a zucchini or banana bread that you love, simply use that. That is what I did. If you don't I have one here just for you. As it is a little denser than cake, I would not recommend simply baking in a round tin and calling it cake. It won't work.

Cracked Eggs

Part 2 of this recipe, involves more baking and will be telecast in another episode. Until then, as the days warm up, lets just make sweet breads and call it a day, shall we?!

Happy week! xx

Whole Wheat Carrot Bread

{makes 1 five inch loaf}

Carrot Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 medium carrots, grated

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

5 T butter

1/4 cup whole milk or almond milk

1/2 cup raw sugar, ground + 2 tsp to sprinkle on top

3 T brandied fruits (I used raisins and cranberries)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt together the butter and sugar and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

Whisk in an egg to the cooled butter mixture and add the milk. Pour mixture to the dry ingredients to create a batter.

Fold in the carrots and brandied fruits. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.

Pour batter into a lined loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until browned and springy to touch.

Cool on rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with honey, more brandied fruits and chopped fresh fruit or creme fraiche.

Oh Sweet Roses

This is the best carrot cake I have ever tasted. Period.

Carrot Cake & Roses

There is something inherently alluring about tall cakes. As with most things tall in life - men, women, buildings, mountains - there is that fascination of mingling of art and science. The sheer gravity defiance of height co-mingled with the majestic beauty.

Tall is simply sexy!

In the context of food, there is more than just the visual that appeals. It is an admirable feat to make tall and well tasting specimens of baked items. By the very nature of it, baked goods are expected to be light and fluffy and give the intention of making you float with each bite. I secretly suspect that the French use oodles of butter in their pastries to accomplish just this uplifting effect! Nevertheless, barring few exceptions, such as chocolate based items that are inherently denser, the harmony of elevated and levitated is a hard one to achieve.

With the explosion of visual sharing, I see layers happening all around me. So, ok the bug bit me. A few days ago, I was rummaging through some notes and I found my illustrations of a several layered cake entirely adorned in roses of frosting. It was a captivating image even on this perusal, so I imagine I must have been particularly moved when I had originally drawn them, the summer that has passed.

Carrot Cake Sliced

I was smitten. I wanted to make it now, make up for the lost months. Except, the flavors I had noted and the colors were so last season! Nay, really, two seasons too late. But, that only worked in my favor. Truth be told, as happily as I had sketched those glorious towering layers of lemony sponge interlaced with thick and lusciously silken berry mousse, in the dampness of the drafty Winter, the grounding sensibilities of physics weighed on me.

The drafting board of my mind, yielded me a simpler solution. Why not do this in steps. For the first iteration, I would simply focus on creating the layered effect without the pressure of lightness. This meant that I could go with hearty winter cake options that are naturally robust enough to stand up high. Carrot cake is one of those seasonally perfect creations. Not only is it warm and soothing in flavor, the molecular structure of the cake is fortified by the weave of grated carrot and flour bound into the common purpose of the batter.

Four Layer Carrot Cake with Berry Frosting

I have experimented with carrot cakes several times and many are perfect for various purposes but I just did not think any of those would be right for my current purpose.

This one

is wonderfully airy and perfect for cupcakes, and, for being lost in the moment. But, I feared that it may be too momentary to achieve the stratified effect.

This one

, was well, was more work than I wanted to do. {Yes, there is an irony there :)}. I wanted a recipe that would rise loftily yet be of delicate crumb befitting a fancy tea cake.

It was to be a witch hunt then. There is no one perfect recipe that I could use. I found many that were written for commercial kitchens and really would not do well scaled down. There were some that simply did not fill me with confidence. There were others that were really heavy on butter (Oh! I didn't have any butter at home and was determined to do a non-dairy cake. I get into these moods!). There were those that were very promising in different aspects. In the end, I pulled together all the bits from the difference pieces I liked and worked them together. You would think I waved a wand and it simple came. No, this was more pouring over, cross checking, googling the science and then putting together the list I was somewhat confident of.

Lo behold! It worked. Just to be sure, I made it twice, you know, to negate the luck bit. OK, two is statistically insignificant but I warrant it is better than one!

Carrot Cake sliced and filled
Four Layer Carrot Cake with Berry Frosting + Orange Filling

Like I said, there are a tons of recipes for carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting out there and I am not saying this is the best one. I am, however, saying that of all the recipes I have tested, this one hits the right balance of flavor, moistness and lightness and works wonderfully for multiple layers. I made four but this one can well handle a couple more. And, there is a delectable nuttiness running through the layers from the pecans and the whole wheat flour.

Also, on that frosting bit. I was simply appalled at the amount of frosting I needed to cover the whole cake in rosettes. So, I chucked the roses from the sides and I think it looks just fine! Besides, all that matters is the taste, right? Right!

So here is my Monday offering to you - a

tray of edible roses resting on some really lovely cake

. A week started sweet is gonna rock!

Carrot Cake Layered with Orange Cheese Filling and Berry Rosettes

Carrot Cake slice closeup

For the cake:

1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour, sifted

1 cup unbleached white flour, sifted

1 T + 1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt

2-3/4 cups grated carrots

4 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup olive oil {you can just double the olive oil and skip the canola oil}

1 cup raw sugar

1/2 a nutmeg nut

2 tsp whole cloves

2 T almond milk

1/2 cup or more chopped toasted pecans

For the frosting + filling:

Notes -

1. If you want make the roses on the sides as well, increase all the quantities by a quarter more. So, instead of 20 oz cream cheese, you will need 25 oz

2. It is not berry season. So, I highly recommend using ones that you froze over summer or flash frozen in the freezer section. The organic ones are better as the chemicals are not seeping into the fruit for all that time.

20 oz neuschaftel cream cheese or regular as you prefer, at room temperature

4 oz strained yogurt

5 T raw honey

zest of one orange

Handful of frozen berries, thawed

Baking the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare two 8 inch cake pans.

Process the raw sugar and cloves into a fine powder. Mix with the sifted flours, baking soda and salt. Grate in the half nutmeg into this mixture.

Make a well in the center and add all the liquid ingredients - eggs, oils, and almond milk.

Fold in the wet into the dry to make a thick batter.

Add the grated carrots and fold. The batter will loosen from the water of the carrots. Fold in the pecans quickly without working the dough too much, just like folding in whites.

Divide the batter evenly into the cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 mins until they are springy to touch.

Remove from pans and cook on rack. Do not touch them till they are completely cool or the frosting will not stick.

Whipping the frosting:

While the cakes cool, whip together the frosting ingredients other than the berries. Set aside until the cake is ready

Assembly:

Using a bread knife or other serrated knife cut out the domed bit of each cake, so it is relatively flat. Slice each cake horizontally in half.

Flip one of the cakes, so the top of the cake touches the cake base and makes the bottom layer.

Spread a generous amount of frosting on top. Place the other (bottom) half of this cake on top and then slather on more frosting.

For the next layer, use the bottom half of the second cake. More frosting and place the final layer.

Next, pulse the berries with the remaining frosting. Chill for 10 minutes. The cooling lets the frosting firm up and that is a lot better for piping roses.

Make yourself a cup of tea. Relax.

Phase 2 begins. Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the berry frosting.

When you are happy with the coverage, spoon the rest of the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a wide ridged icing tip.

Squeeze out the frosting to make small rounds that look like roses. Fill the surface of the cake.

If you are covering the sides as well, continue piping.

Voila! Thats it. Brew a second pot of tea, cut yourself a huge slice and read a book. Or, if you insist on begin generous share with someone but tell them to stay silent, so you can enjoy this cake without distraction.

Romancing the Cake

Do you have compelling visions that drive you into the kitchen?

Carrot and Cashew Cupcake

Hello again from India!

No, I have not forgotten about my promise to keep up with you while on the road. It is just, I found the internet connectivity to be relatively spotty by the beach, and, in the forest; Surprisingly so! ;-)

It is silly to suggest I have been holding back on the experiencing the cuisine, while I am here. Honestly, I have been eating like I am going on a starvation diet after this trip! I have managed to ingest as much of the local cuisine both in Goa and Coorg as my body could handle, three multi-course meals a day. Fortunately, as South Indian cuisine is naturally low on gluten and grease and rather healthy (when made as at home), I have managed to thoroughly enjoy every bite without worrying about the consequences. For a view into what I have been experiencing, have a peek at my

Instagram feed

.

DSC_0121-3

Now, let me tell you about these

Carrot and Cashew Cupcakes

that came to be as a vision...

I am usually not a cupcake person, but, on the day I made this, the snow and overcast sky outside filtered a really soft winter light through the window suggesting a ton of mysticism in the very air. A vision came to my mind, sudden and strong.

Of sitting on the cushion by my window, slowly unwrapping the cupcake liner, taking a bite of the half unwrapped delicacy inside, tilting my head back while savoring the flavors and then looking out at the flurrying snow and smiling at the romance of it.

Carrot cake collage 2

This was as I was making my morning cuppa. As I sipped that awakening beverage, the vision gripped me with a fierce passion and I simply could not ignore it. I attempted to carry on about my day as scheduled but well, after about a couple of hours, I knew it was wasted effort. The mythical lady in my head had to become me in reality. So, I gave in.

I have been on a long term mission to find that perfect recipe for a carrot cake. I want one that is just moist, full of flavor, healthy and yet not a lot of effort. One of those cakes that you can whip up at the drop of a hat and one that will leave you feeling happy eaten on a cold Winter day with a cup of strong coffee and can stand up to the beverage and say "Hello there!".

DSC_0136-2
Carrot cake collage 1

It seemed, now was a good time to look into making just that kind of cake. I had made the last ones with pureed carrot. Using a liquid form of the vegetables makes for a really moist cake but it is a fair bit of effort to boil and then puree. So, I chose to go with the grated version this time.

I find that using olive oil instead of butter and baking for fewer minutes than usual, results in a much moister cake with a lighter crumb. I spiced these cakes with cardamom instead of cinnamon because the former feels warmer to me. Besides, cardamom was part of the spice route blending with my vision of mystery and mystique....

Carrot and Cashew Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

(for 6 cupcakes)

Carrot and Cashew Cupcakes

For the cake:

1/2 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup + 2 T whole wheat flour

1/4 cup olive oil

2/3 tsp cardamom

1 egg, whisked

1/4 cup raw sugar, powdered fine

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

handful of roasted cashews

For the frosting:

3 oz cream cheese, room temperature

2 T almond milk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

roasted nuts to top, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the flour, salt, cardamom and baking soda. Whisk together the oil, egg and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three parts. Fold in the grated carrot and nuts.

Divide into six cupcake liners. Bake for 17-20 mins until the toothpick test is clear. Cool the cakes on tray. Meanwhile, whip up the cream cheese, almond milk and vanilla together. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle chopped nuts, if using.

Enjoy the cake and live your own visions.. :)

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