Tuesday, April 15

Ciambella alla Carote

As many of my guests and friends can attest, I am a recipe junkie. I love browsing cookbooks, magazines, newspaper clippings and websites for new recipes or twists on old ones, using these as jumping off points for creating my own concoctions.

You can imagine my delight, then, when repeat guests of ours gave me a wonderful gift last year: The Silver Spoon cookbook. It's a mammoth tome—nearly 1,500 pages of (mostly Italian) recipes organized by main ingredient or category of dish. It's a staple in every Italian kitchen and has been since the first edition was published in 1950.

It's unlike any traditional North American cookbook I've seen (and I've seen many!). It has chapters on Guinea Fowl, Scorpion Fish, Garbanzo Beans, Anti-pasto and more. I turned to the chapter on Family Cakes for a few reasons. For one, I wanted to make a homey dish, one that would be found in a typical Italian kitchen on any unremarkable day. I also have a practical streak so I wanted to try a recipe that would also be at home at our breakfast table (thus I bypassed the "Calf's Head" chapter).

The first recipe in Family Cakes was for Ciambella alla Carote, or Carrot Ring Cake. Familiar yet different. Just what fits my bill. The recipe called for a "6-cup capacity tube pan". Judging by the picture in the cookbook, it's more shallow and has a larger centre hole than North American tube or bundt pans, and holds about half the capacity. There are a number of ciambella recipes in this section so I assume it's a common pan size in Italy. I used a loaf pan instead. You could also use mini-loaf pans or muffin tins instead. I think I'd have to double the recipe if I wanted to try it in a bundt pan.

The resulting Carrot Loaf was delicious. Moist, not too sweet. Perfect for the breakfast sideboard or for an afternoon snack. I thought I'd share this with you now since a carrot dish seems appropriate with Easter just around the corner. Bake up a loaf or two to have on hand should friends, family or an Easter Bunny drop by.

Buona Pasqua!

Carrot Loaf

Slightly adapted from The Silver Spoon Cookbook's Ciambella alla Carote

The original recipe calls for the batter to be baked in a 6-cup capacity tube pan. If you have one, by all means, use it. If not, use a loaf pan, mini-loaf pans or muffin tins.

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground ginger
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons oil (sunflower or light olive)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for the pan
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium-large carrots, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Make a well in the centre. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, butter, milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until almost combined. Stir in carrots, raisins and walnuts.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes for a loaf or ring, about 25-35 minutes for muffins or mini-loaves.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then unmold. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Buon appetito!

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