I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.
But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.
Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.
I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!
Then I wanted to make icing. And use it.
I grabbed Nigel Slater “Tender” where I located the recipe for his justly famous “An extremely moist chocolate-beet cake with creme fraiche and poppy seeds” (the recipe is available online). Made the cake, barely deviating from the instructions:
1. I peeled, trimmed, cut and simmered the beets stove-top in a lidded saucepan with just enough EVOO to prevent the beets from sticking. I pureed. Then I measured 8 oz of beet puree – so it’s a little more beets than his recipe.
2. I add the espresso AFTER adding the butter to the chocolate (I shiver at the idea of chocolate seizing)
3. I used two well-buttered and parchment paper-lined cake pans, not a spring-form pan. I ended up with 2 flatter cakes. You could stack them and put icing in the middle. I froze one instead. We like our sweets in moderation.
4. I made icing: in a blender or food processor, process 4 oz cream cheese, 1+ cup sour cream, 2 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1 tsp beet powder. This is more icing than needed for 1 cake, it would be enough for 2. I expect sour cream or mascarpone would work. The point is a slight sourness and that gorgeous pink!
All I can say is: yes, please! Nest time, I’ll add some poppy seeds to the batter, not just as decoration on the cake.
So…. the morale of the story is that while I like pickled beets, I plan to make beet powder as well as freeze cooked beet puree with all those extra beets. Catering clients, rejoice!