My Great-Granny Jestine’s Carrot Bread

published Mar 10, 2023
My Great Granny Jestine’s Carrot Bread Recipe

A carrot loaf bread inspired my great granny’s handwritten recipe.

Serves6 to 8

Prep25 minutes

Cook1 hour 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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carrots bread sliced on wood block
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I didn’t grow up cooking alongside my family, but I sure did eat. As far back as I can remember, holidays at my great-grandmother’s house in East Texas were bountiful — very country, very Southern, very Black. My mom and I lived in South Carolina and every year for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we would hop in the car and drive the 12 hours to Texas to descend upon my great-granny Jestine’s house. Once we arrived, there was no shortage of people and food.  

Great-granny Jestine always cooked the house down for our holidays in her tiny country kitchen. And when I say cook the house down, I mean it — there was turkey, roast chicken, a goose and/or a duck, a couple of raccoons and squirrels, as well as a ham and/or pork roast. And those were just the proteins. Between just one stovetop and two ovens, it would all be piping hot and ready at the same time. I’ll never understand how she did it, but now that I cook, I get it.

Turns out, my great-granny had experience. She and her bestie cooked at and managed the restaurant of a fishing lodge called Fin & Feather in Texas. As I discovered more about who she was, it always made me sad that I never had anything but stories from family and a few pictures that made her legacy more than just something I carried with me inside. There was nothing physically tangible that I could hold in my hands that connected me to her (for a host of reasons, it’s been difficult to get my hands on heirlooms and treasures that have belonged to family members who have passed on).

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Then last Thanksgiving, my uncle unearthed some of my great-granny’s handwritten recipes from an old trunk of memorabilia at my grandmother’s house. To finally have her recipes means I have the opportunity to connect with her in a tactile way that I was never able to. I had paid no mind to cooking when I was growing up, but when I finally did, she had been gone for a decade. So there was no chance for her to see me graduate from culinary school. No chance to see me win a scholarship in honor of Edna Lewis. No chance to hold my published recipes in her hands. No chance for me to gift her my upcoming cookbook. And no chance for her to taste my food and tell me it sucked (she was a sass-pot!). It’s heavy, but that’s life.

This right here is a recipe for her carrot bread. After making it her way, I made some changes: I halved the recipe to make a single loaf, replaced half of the granulated sugar with brown sugar, and swapped butter for oil. I also upped the carrots and added a dash of vanilla extract. Great-granny Jestine used only cinnamon in hers, but feel free to play with the spices to make it your own — some great additions would be ground nutmeg, ground ginger, or ground cardamom.

Now that I have some of her recipes, I’ve taken my time cooking through them to try what she tasted. While bringing old recipes into modern times can sometimes be difficult, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I’m more than honored to carry on my great granny’s legacy in the kitchen, and I’m happy to share the parts of her that I loved the most.

My Great Granny Jestine’s Carrot Bread Recipe

A carrot loaf bread inspired my great granny’s handwritten recipe.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 25 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) unsalted butter

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 3

    medium carrots (about 9 ounces total)

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly coat an 8 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray, then lightly coat with all-purpose flour, tapping out the excess.

  3. Place 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Peel and grate 3 medium carrots on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor fitted with the shredding disc until you have 2 cups.

  4. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 packed light brown sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the sugar is incorporated and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula. Add 3 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes.

  5. Reduce the speed to medium low. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined, scraping down the bowl halfway through, about 2 minutes total. Add the carrots and fold in by hand with the flexible spatula.

  6. Transfer the mixture to the pan, spread into an even layer, and smooth the top. Pick up the pan and bang the bottom on the counter to fill out the pan.

  7. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Check after 45 minutes and tent loosely with aluminum foil if the top is browning too quickly. Place on a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour and 15 minutes more.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days or refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can also freeze the bread for up to 4 months.