Ditch the bright red artificial food dyes and instead use the natural pigment of beets to give your baked goods a distinctly red hue. While beets do not produce the same freakishly red color that comes out of a bottle, they are an all-natural substitute that can give your food a pink or red color without the chemicals.
Beet Juice Dye
A couple of drops of beet juice lends enough color to a frosting that it develops a light pink color. Adjust the amount to achieve the depth of color you want, keeping in mind that adding too much beet juice will not only color, but also flavor the frosting. Create beet juice in a juicer at home by juicing uncooked, washed, peeled and trimmed beets. Store the beet juice for up to one day before using. It stains, so protect your hands and clothes by wearing gloves and an apron. If your countertop might stain, protect it, too.
Beet Powder Dye
When you want to create a brightly colored food, but are concerned the excess liquid of beet juice will negatively affect your recipe, use beet powder. Order beet powder online or make it yourself using a dehydrator. Slice peeled beets very thinly, using a mandolin or sharp knife. Spread them on a tray and dehydrate them for three to six hours at 150 degrees Fahrenheit until completely dried. Once cooled, transfer the beets to a clean coffee grinder and grind them to a powder. Store the beet powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark location for up to one year.
Beet Puree Dye
If you don't have a dehydrator or a juicer, don't worry. You can still make your own beet dye at home. Use a blender or food processor to puree washed and peeled beets. Use the beet puree as is to mix it into dishes for color or scrape all the puree into a wire mesh strainer or cheesecloth, suspend the beet puree over a bowl and press to release the juices to use for food dye. Add the remaining pulp to soups or baked goods for bulk. You can also use beet cooking water that has been dyed red, but it will only give a hint of color.
Cooking With Beet Coloring
Beet powder is likely your best bet for baking. Because baking requires strict ratios of dry to wet ingredients, beet juice tends to increase the liquids too much. While you can achieve a vibrant red color using beet powder, the flavor may be undesirable if you use too much. Start with the smallest quantity you can when baking to determine the right amount of beet powder. If you don't have a problem with the flavor or it is masked by other ingredients, add beet powder to achieve the color you want. Use beet juice sparingly in cookies, icing, frosting and pickled eggs. Add beet puree to homemade pasta to make red-colored, beet-flavored pasta.
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