Red Velvet Cookies (no food coloring added)
If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you might have noticed that I have a bit of an obsession with natural food coloring: red velvet pancakes; red, white, and blue popsicles; St. Patrick’s Day pancakes in green, soft sugar cookies with pink icing – and that’s just a few.
I love using fruits and vegetables to make my food pretty (instead of petroleum dyes that have been increasingly linked to all kinds of problems).
But here’s the catch: I want my food to taste really good, so I’m not going to sacrifice flavor for color. Ever.
Along those lines, let me say that kale juice is a great colorant but makes icing that tastes like the bottom of a shoe.
But beets, on the other hand, are awesome. Their earthy sweetness is the perfect partner to chocolate, making these healthier red velvet cookies delicious AND beautiful. My husband ate a couple and said in happy surprise that they taste absolutely nothing like beets. If you add pumpkin purée to desserts, this isn’t really that different.
These cookies are beautiful with a soft, almost cakey inside and a slightly crispy/chewy exterior that reminds me of a brownie.
A little bit of chemistry helps a lot when cooking for color. You want to keep the acidity high for brightness, which means baking powder (chemically balanced) instead of baking soda (alkaline) and lots of lemon juice (or vinegar) for increased acidity.
This recipe includes two options for a sweet topping: cream cheese icing and glaze. You can do half and half, which is what I did, or just one. I suppose you could leave the beet out of the glaze and frosting entirely, but I’m smitten with the gorgeous pink color.
Both the icing and glaze dry nicely, but the icing stays slightly soft to the touch when dry.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Yield: about 30 cookies
Red Velvet Cookies
Chewy-soft red velvet cookies and hot pink icing - and no artificial colors
1 large roasted and cooled beet*
1/4 c. water
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c. brown cane sugar
1 c. unbleached white cane sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 T. baking powder (yes, tablespoon)
2 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 c. cocoa (use regular - dutch process will mess with your color)
Glaze and Icing Ingredients
2 t. lemon juice
2 T. grated cooked beet (from the cookies)
5 T. milk
2 c. powdered cane sugar
(Optional Icing Ingredients: all of the above PLUS 3 T. cream cheese and 1 c. powdered sugar)
Preheat oven to 350.
1. Blend together the beet and water until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl (or save some dishes and use an immersion blender).
2. With a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix together the beet purée, lemon juice, sugars, butter, and egg.
3. In another bowl, stir together the baking powder, flour, salt, and cocoa. Slowly add to the beet mixture, beating just until combined.
4. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 to 14 minutes or until barely browned around the edges. The cookies will appear a little crinkly on top.
5. Cool completely before icing.
1. Stir together the lemon juice, milk, and grated beet. Press the mixture through a sieve into a mixing bowl.
2. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat the mixture. Stop here if you're happy with glaze only and drizzle over all of the cookies. It will harden a bit as it dries.
3. To make half glaze and half icing, remove about half of the glaze from the bowl, reserving for later decorating. Add 3 T. cream cheese and an additional cup of powdered sugar to the remaining glaze in the bowl. Beat until smooth.
4. Top each cookie with frosting and drizzle the glaze over top (or get extra fancy and dip the glaze in cookie cutters to "stamp" the cookies with hearts).
*To roast a beet, scrub it and cut off the little tail. Wrap the unpeeled beet in foil and toss it in a 400 degree oven until soft (about an hour).
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