Spring arrived early this year, like an unfashionable guest. The cherry trees in Washington’s Tidal Basin– gorgeous with their full, pink flowers — have already bloomed, days before they were supposed to. The daffodils have been out for a while, and the tulips are beginning to bud. March is all dressed up in weather that would be best suited to May.
Early this morning I woke up when a thunderclap crashed overhead, a common May phenomenon. Opie scurried upstairs to get into bed with me and Lucy ran into the closet to burrow into a hiding place.
To be honest, I feel a little cheated. The anticipation of spring is almost as delicious as the season itself, but this year we have been robbed of it. Just like we were robbed of the snow and of the comforting chill of an icy winter. Meanwhile, my dad in Goa and my relatives in Chennai have been telling us of an uncharacteristically cold winter in these cities where typically the weather– in my dad’s words–tends to be hot for 10 months and hotter for the remaining two.
While the unusual weather might appear to be a great respite in the short term, it is sobering to be reminded that these changes could be permanent. According to a recent article in my hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, plant zones around the U.S. are shifting north– which means that more areas higher up on the map are getting warmer. While the U.S.Department of Agriculture, which comes up with the plant zone maps, has yet to connect these changes to global warming, likely for political reasons, there is little doubt in most scientific minds that this is the reason why warm is becoming the new norm.
Spring may be here, but my refrigerator is still overrun with carrots– one of my favorite veggies to have on hand year-round, but especially in winter. This past weekend, looking to make a healthy snack for my sweet-toothed Desi, I baked up this luscious Carrot Bread that comes with all the deliciousness of carrot cake and just a fraction of the guilt.
My Carrot Bread is whole-wheat, extremely low-fat, and it contains the wholesome goodness of applesauce and flax. I sweeten it– as I do all my sweets– with turbinado sugar, a raw sugar with the flavor of molasses.
I tried to reproduce in my carrot bread the flavor of a carrot halwa, a popular Indian sweet, by adding to it cardamom and cashews. It is a great idea that I first ran across on Suganya’s blog years ago when she posted her carrot halwa cupcakes. My recipe is an adaptation of my zucchini bread recipe– a good one to keep in mind for the summer bounty of squash.
Oh, and my friend Margo’s little boy Danny loved this bread, so it’s kid-approved as well.
Here’s the recipe now. Enjoy, all!
Whole-Wheat Carrot Bread
(Makes 2 loaves)
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp powdered cardamom (run the whole pods– about 10– in a coffee grinder with a tablespoon of the sugar to get a fine grind)
1 cup cashew nuts, chopped into large pieces
Mix the ingredients together and set aside.
In another bowl, mix together:
3 tbsp flaxmeal and 9 tbsp water
4 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup turbinado sugar
Then whisk in:
1 3/4 cup applesauce
2 1/4 cups grated carrots
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
Add the wet mixture to the dry, with a spatula or a whisk, using 1/3rd of the flour at a time. You want a lumpy but well-integrated batter. Do not overmix because you don’t want to develop the gluten in the flour.
Grease and flour two standard-size loaf pans. Divide the batter equally between the two and smooth down the top.
Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a rack about 15 minutes, then slide a knife around the edges to unmold. Place right-side-up on a rack to cool