Mark Bittman’s classic How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, with its distinctive yellow color, has sat on our bookshelf, terribly underused since we got it as a wedding present last year. I think, perhaps, that its sheer size and titular claim of instruction on cooking everything has had me, well, a little intimidated. I tend to pick recipes by paging through cookbooks, especially those with pictures, and How to Cook Everything just isn’t the kind of cookbook you flip through idly. There’s just too much to look through. So it’s really best used as a reference, when you have an idea in mind but aren’t quite sure how to execute it.
What finally drove me to How to Cook Everything were the gnarly, knobby carrots Dylan picked up at the Pasadena farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago. Well, that and the excruciating boredom that comes from being unemployed and waiting anxiously to hear about the jobs you’ve applied for. I thought a baking project might perk me up and for whatever reason, I got the idea of transforming those misshapen old carrots into a carrot bread. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a carrot bread before, and I certainly haven’t made one, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give Bittman a whirl. Sure enough, carrot bread was included as a variation to his apple quick bread recipe.
What follows below are his instructions, which naturally I tried to follow to a tee. But the more I write this blog, the more I realize how many ridiculous things I do when I cook. Like this time, as I put in the 1/2 cup of cornmeal, I thought to myself, “Well that seems a weird addition!” only to realize later that perhaps I should have dug around the kitchen cabinets a little more to retrieve the fine cornmeal rather than using the coarse-ground stuff that practically jumped out at me. (While I wouldn’t advocate intentionally choosing the coarse-ground cornmeal, it did add a little crunch that was kind of interesting and different.) Also, Bittman suggests using one carrot, but I found that while the recipe was quite yummy in that typical quick bread way, there wasn’t a ton of carrot flavor. Were I to do it again, I would certainly increase the number of carrots to at least 2. I would say this quick bread is also on the drier side, which is good or bad, depending on your tastes. It doesn’t have the moist, rich quality of say, many banana breads. But it has a nice crispy crust and is perfectly lovely on its own or with a spread.
Mark Bittman’s Carrot Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peeled and grated carrot
1. Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9×5 inch pan (or use non-stick).
2. Combine all the dry ingredients. Beat the egg with the butter, vanilla, and milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pout the wet ingredients into it, along with the carrot. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather that beating, and stopping as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.