Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Carrot Ring

Last week I talked about the virtues of a corn-syrup-free pecan pie. There's just something about using plain sugar that seems more wholesome than corn syrup. In a way, it's like serving dishes using ingredients available at the very first Thanksgiving. (Of course, I'm not sure what that means for our stuffing, but I'm working on that front.)

And while I'm not so big on pecan pie because of its inherent sweetness, I am a devout lover of carrot ring.

You might be wondering what "carrot ring" is. It's somewhere between a souffle and a pound cake in texture. It's simultaneously dense and light. As for the flavor, it's certainly more intense than run-of-the-mill carrot cake, but it's not so overpoweringly sweet as to be considered a dessert. In fact, it's a side dish on our Thanksgiving table, and it has been for as long as I can remember. Quite simply, I adore it. Not only is it a wonderful supporting member of the Thanksgiving cast, but it is also delicious for breakfast (or dessert).

Like the origins of pecan pie (dark, mysterious, corn syrup-laden origins), the beginnings of carrot ring were somewhat questionable. While corn syrup irks me a little, shortening just plain freaks me out. The combination of its color, flavor (ahem, lack thereof), goopy texture (reminiscent of Vaseline), and solidity at room temperature are enough to make me rid all recipes I come across of this "ingredient."

(Now that I've thoroughly grossed you out talking about a "food" resembling Vaseline, please read on. I promise it gets better. And tastier.)

Luckily, my mom shares similar feelings when it comes to shortening (only countered by the fact that she a) tried the whipped lardo at Del Posto ["It tastes like bacon fat"... duh] and b) continues to grease the bundt pans for carrot ring with shortening). When my mom first received this recipe from my paternal grandmother (Nama) many years ago when she started to host Thanksgiving, she immediately set out to rid it of the unnecessary fat and calories. (Indeed, you can see the original ingredients on the recipe card below.)
Another heirloom recipe, but (warning!) these directions are super confusing.
Terse instructions on old recipes really annoy me.

Thankfully, she succeeded exceptionally well. By replacing the fat with whipped egg whites and applesauce, she both lightened the texture and moistened the crumb. She cut back on the sugar substantially, which lets the carrot flavor really shine through and justifies its side dish status. Of course, I've never had the original version, but my guess is that her changes accomplished these feats. Either way, the result is a dish that I eagerly await every year and one that will forever be on my Thanksgiving table. Enjoy this - it's a Rogovin family classic.

(Unfortunately, I have no picture to show you of this beautiful carrot ring. However, I think I successfully identified it in this picture. It is just below the wall outlet, to the left of the large green bowl. Note to self: take pictures of everything you make this Thanksgiving!)

Carrot Ring
Adapted from Nama

To cook the carrots, we place them in a microwaveable dish with some water and cook them until they're very tender. Then we put them in a food processor and process until they're mostly smooth. You don't want them to be completely pureed; lumps are perfectly fine. You could also just use a potato masher or fork to mash them up. You can use either a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the egg whites. This recipe makes 2 carrot rings. We bake one in a pretty Bundt pan mold and serve it on Thanksgiving. The other we keep, unbaked, in the refrigerator for a few days and bake it whenever the first carrot ring is almost gone. I prefer carrot ring either warm or cold. It's a delicious complement to a sweet/tart cranberry conserve.

Yield: 2 carrot rings

1 3/4 cups applesauce
8 large egg whites, divided
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 pounds carrots, peeled, cooked, and mashed (see note)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two Bundt pans (or ring-shaped cake pans) with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce and 4 of the egg whites. Add the water, lemon juice, vanilla, and brown sugar and mix until well-blended. Mix in the carrot puree.

In a separate bowl, mix the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just blended.

Meanwhile, beat the remaining 4 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the carrot mixture. Divide the batter between the two Bundt pans (they should be about halfway full).

Put a kettle of water on to boil. Place the Bundt pan in a larger roasting pan. Put the whole set-up in the oven. Quickly and carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan so that it comes about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Let cool before inverting onto a serving platter. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature. The carrot ring will keep, covered well with plastic wrap, for at least a week.


  1. thanks for the recipe sara, love this dish and andrew is on board with fixing it-yea first year with a helper in the kitchen. never thought about having it for breakfast-interesting.

  2. I am SO enjoying seeing our traditional recipes (re?!)interpreted! four things to add:
    1. your dad's family called it "carrot cake" (we renamed it - and took away a lot of the cake-y sweetness!).
    2. it is in the photo you linked, to the left of the wall socket kind of behind the cranberries (great note to self - let's hold ourselves accountable for that one!)
    3. we only have one bundt pan, so the 2nd one goes into a very antique circular jello mold
    4. we make this T'giving morning, through the "divide the batter" step - we cook the bundt pan for T'giving dinner and the jello mold pan for Friday night leftovers.