Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nutty Carrot Snack Bread

My mom makes a killer carrot cake.  Layers of moist sweet cake filled with a sort of a pecan caramel and topped with billowy cream cheese frosting.  She even does the little carrots piped on top in orange frosting.  It's the most incredibly decadent cake which takes days to make and is best only indulged in once a decade.  But it's worth every calorie, trust me. The recipe takes up two and a half tightly packed pages to completely describe.  I have never attempted to make it (though I did buy the cookbook just to have it on hand should the mood strike me).

If you're curious, you'll find it in the Frog Commissary Cookbook.  Crazy name, I know.  I don't know where the Frog part comes from, but the Commissary is a restaurant back home in Philadelphia famous for this very carrot cake.
This bread is NOT that carrot cake.  By a long shot.  But don't dismiss this sweet little bread as the ugly step-sister of the carrot cake.  What it does have going for it is a wonderfully moist crumb, caramelly brown sugar and a nuttiness that reminds me of my favorite part of that cake- the pecan caramel filling.  Not to mention that the bread is packed with the nutrient rich carrots and the good-for-you oils of the nuts.  It's the perfect after school snack that you won't feel guilty for indulging in.  And I promise, your kids will like it too.  Even my incredibly picky 3 year old asked for seconds thirds.

Oh, and the only fat added?  A tablespoon of hazelnut oil spread over two loaves of bread.  Seriously, that's it?  Yes, it is...
Nutty Carrot Snack Bread
Makes 2 8x4 inch loaves (or in my case 4 6 1/2x 2 inch loaves)

Though I used walnuts, I would venture to guess that pecans or hazelnuts would work equally well in this recipe.  Perhaps even pistachios.  It's all up to you.  And while it is a pain, shredding the carrots on a box grater (as opposed to using the shredding blade of a food processor) results in carrots with a much finer and more pleasing texture.  It's worth doing the shredding by hand.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour ( I used whole wheat pastry flour which is milled more finely that the regular stuff)
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbs hazelnut oil (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups finely shredded carrot (about 3 large carrots)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.  I was giving gifts, so I found smaller 6 1/2 x 2 inch paper pans and used 4 of those.

In a bowl, mix together the flours, ground nuts, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and brown sugar together.  You can do this with a mixer or by hand.  Drizzle in the hazelnut oil (if using) and mix.  Add the applesauce and carrots and stir until well incorporated.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Repeat with the other 2/3 of the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the two (or four) prepared pans.  Place the pans in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes for the larger pans and 30-35 minutes for the small ones.  The bread is done when a tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean and the bread springs back when gently pressed.

Cool completely on a baking rack.  The bread will keep well wrapped on the counter for 3-4 days.  You could also wrap the bread in foil and place in a zip top freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months.

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