A number of baked goods call for a vivid pink or red color, dramatic hues that provide a stark contrast to white cakes or icings. Unfortunately, many red food colorings have a distinctively bitter, chemical aftertaste that can make them unpleasant when used in large quantities. Health-conscious home bakers can make a healthier, more palatable red coloring from beets, as European bakers have done for centuries.
Things You'll Need
- Stiff brush
- Peeler or paring knife
- Vegetable juicer
- Glass or stainless-steel bowls
- Sharp knife
- Sterile storage container
- Box grater or food processor with a fine shredding disc
- Spatula or jam jar
Scrub the beets with a stiff brush under cold, running water to remove any surface soil. Peel the beets and set them aside.
Set up your juicer according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place a glass or stainless-steel bowl under the machine's spout to catch the juice. The pigment in beets is strong enough to stain many kinds of plastic.
Cut your beets into coarse chunks using a sharp knife. The size doesn't matter, as long as they'll fit into the feed hopper of your juice machine.
Process the beets into juice, following the manufacturer's instructions for your brand of juicing machine. Discard or compost the pulp.
Transfer the finished juice to a sterile container, and keep it in your refrigerator when it's not in use.
Without a Juice Extractor
Wash and peel your beets, taking care to scrub away any soil with a stiff brush before you cut the skin.
Finely shred the beets into a glass or stainless steel bowl using a box grater. If you have a food processor, use the fine disc attachment to shred the beets.
Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth, and place it over a second bowl. Transfer the beets to the colander, and use a spatula or the bottom of a jelly jar to press out as much juice as possible.
Pour the juice into a sterile container, and store it in your refrigerator.
Using Your Beet Juice
Add beet juice a few drops at a time to cake batters, cookie doughs and icings until you achieve the shade of pink you're looking for.
Simmer the beet juice until it's reduced by half or two-thirds for more intense colors. This can be especially helpful in icings, where using plain beet juice can dilute or change the texture of your buttercream. You'll need less if you reduce it first.
Add a drop or two of yellow coloring, if necessary, to "correct" the color. Beet juice has a slight blue tinge, resulting in cool reds and pinks. Adding yellow makes the red warmer. This might not be necessary in batters or doughs with lots of egg yolks or other yellow ingredients.
Check the color of your dough or batter a few seconds after adding the beet juice. If your recipe contains baking soda or other alkaline ingredients, the color may turn purple. You can counter that easily by adding a drop or two of lemon juice, vinegar or other acidic ingredients. The color will return to its previous red or pink hue.
Tips & Warnings
- Beet juice will stain your fingers and clothing, so it's best to wear an apron and disposable gloves when you're working with them.
- A pound of beets will yield 1 to 1 1/4 cups of juice when processed in a juicer, or 3/4 cup to 1 cup when processed manually. The fresher your beets are, the more juice you'll extract.
- The dirt clinging to any root vegetable can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli, which could be transferred to the juice if you don't wash the beets first.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images