Don’t like carrots; never have. Not since the very first school lunch I ever had, back at Academy Elementary School in Glastonbury, Connecticut in 1959. I still remember the basement lunchroom, institutional-green walls, brown linoleum, the folding tables with attached benches, and the overwhelming smell of cooked… something.

That day, I’d bravely forsaken my red plaid lunchbox filled with comfort food—a Gulden’s mustard sandwich, cookie, and apple—for School Lunch. Egged on by my older brother, Mike, I’d stood in the lunch line, and watched apprehensively as the Lunch Ladies, in their blue nylon dresses and hairnets, plopped food onto thick plastic plates. Hamburger bun: that’s a good start. Sloppy Joe filling on top—well, OK, I can live with that. Next: a square of red Jell-O in its own separate dish. Good; red’s my favorite color. Finally: a big scoop of… cooked carrots.

EWWWWWWWWWWWW! THAT’S what I’d been smelling. I looked balefully at Mike.

“Mikey, you didn’t tell me I’d have to eat carrots!”

Mike and his 3rd-grade buddies snickered, enjoying my horror. But I could see Mike was uncomfortable, having to laugh at his little sister in order to be one of the guys. He gave me a quick “have courage” glance, and went to sit at the older kids’ table. Leaving me with a steaming mound of smelly, overcooked carrots, and murder in my heart.

I don’t remember quite what happened to the carrots that day. Lunchroom monitors (the REALLY big kids, the 5th graders) used to walk around and threaten us with severe punishment if we didn’t clean our plates. I think I finally pushed some of the carrots onto the tray, hiding them under the plate; and covered the rest with a crumpled napkin.

I know I didn’t eat them. And I never took school lunch again.

To this day, I don’t like cooked carrots. Unless they’re disguised in carrot cake, or in these moist, fruit- and nut-filled Carrot Muffins.

Oh, by the way, Mike—the Sloppy Joe was really good; I forgive you.

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The muffin on the right was my first attempt with the recipe I developed. This is why I work in the “test kitchen.” It's considered a very lucky day when any of us test bakers nail a recipe the very first time we try it. With this one, after assessing the damage—good flavor, very unimpressive rise—I cut back on the carrots and water. And that was all it took to yield the high-rising, better-looking muffin on the left.

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OK, let's get started. First, chop your carrots. You'll need 2 medium-to-large carrots. A mini-processor will make quick work of them. They should be very finely chopped, but not puréed.

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This is one of those super-simple muffin recipes where you combine the  dry ingredients, combine the wet ingredients, mix the two together, and scoop into the muffin pan. Here are the dry ingredients, ready to be whisked together: flour, sugar (granulated and brown), baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, raisins, and walnuts. Stir them together thoroughly.

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Whisk the  eggs, water, and vegetable oil, and add to the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine.

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Stir in the carrots at the end.

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The carrots will thin the batter a bit, making it the perfect consistency.

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Scoop into paper-lined muffin cups. If you grease the paper cups, they won't stick to the muffins. You can also forego the cups, and simply grease the metal pan itself.

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Bake. Nice rise!

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Cool by tilting the muffins in the cups. This is where the papers come in handy, as you can easily tilt the muffins fresh out of the oven, rather than having to wait till they're less fragile. And why do it this way? Because it's really key to allow the steam to escape from underneath the muffins, lest they get soggy bottoms. Since they're really hot right out of the oven, it's tricky to pick each muffin up and get it onto a cooling rack without a lot of "ow ow ow." Thus this interim step.

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Now, is that one good-looking muffin, or what?! And you'll feel so noble, too, getting some of that healthy beta-carotene into your family's diet. These are particularly good with ginger spread.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Golden Nugget Carrot Muffins.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Woodshack Bakery, Klamath Falls, OR: carrot-apple muffin, $1.00 ea.

Clinton Street Baking Company, New York, NY: carrot-apple bran muffin, $2.50 ea.

Bake at home: Golden Nugget Carrot Muffins with raisins and walnuts, 27¢ ea.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!