Fresh, local ingredients make a world of difference in cooking. I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where I have access to farm delivery subscriptions, grocery stores that emphasize family-owned and sustainable operations, and local farmers markets – including the Pike Place Market, which has been operating continuously for 111 years! Diane LaVonne, founder and chef of Diane’s Market Kitchen in Seattle, uses these same ideas to craft meals that are deceptively simple but incredibly delicious.
I had the opportunity to attend one of Diane’s classes earlier this year, where we learned tips about how to get the perfect pastry dough (see my previous post here), what to look for in eggs and vegetables to tell if they are truly fresh, and the steps to make a fluffy quiche that truly melts in your mouth. Diane could probably name every ingredient that she uses in her dishes, the farm is came from, as well as the names of the people who harvested it. She even explained why “free-range” eggs are best: unlike cage-free chickens that are still kept inside, free-range chickens have access to the outdoors and sunshine, and are allowed to roam around and eat at their leisure.
“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” – Paul Cezanne
This is the recipe that Diane sent everyone after our class. Full disclosure: I couldn’t find Riesling grapeseed oil, so I used regular grapeseed oil and I couldn’t tell the difference. Also I didn’t make the cream cheese icing, but the recipe is included if you want to add it. The flavor of the carrots and spices was great without it, much more like muffins than cupcakes.
The recipe says it will make “up to 7 dozen mini carrot cakes” using 9-inch round cake pans. Just ignore all of that, I have no idea how those two pieces of information can be reconciled with each other. If you follow the recipe exactly, it will yield approximately 33 muffins. Cook them at 350° for 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I just used cooking spray to grease the tins before spooning in the batter.
If you’re adding raisins, make sure you add enough of them! I found half a bag in the cupboard that I mixed into the batter, but that resulted in the muffins only having 1 or 2 raisins each – we jokingly called it “raisin roulette.” In the future, I might also play around with the combination of spices but that’s just a personal taste.