The Caramelized Carrot Soup recipe from Modernist Cuisine is not only a favorite of ours, but is also the most popular among readers for its silky, sweet, intense carrot flavor. We knew we had to include it in Modernist Cuisine at Home, but first we had to make a few adjustments because the original recipe used a centrifuge. So we simplified it by using simmered, strained carrot juice and refrigeration to get the carotene butter to congeal and separate.
The recipe still works because it’s the pressure-cooking that really allows the flavors of this soup to flourish. The flavors are a combination of caramelization and the Maillard reaction (what people commonly call “browning”), which produces a rich, caramelized, nutty flavor. Pressure cookers are particularly suited for promoting the Maillard reaction because elevated temperatures encourage foods to develop their characteristic flavors far more quickly than conventional cooking methods (such as roasting) do, thereby transforming a long process into a short 20-minute cook time. Adding 0.5% baking soda when pressure-cooking further speeds flavor reactions by producing an alkaline pH of about 7.5.
By using this technique, the carrot flavor is further heightened because no heavy cream is needed. It’s just carrots, carrot juice, and butter. It is so delicious that you can only taste two things: the pure intense essence of the carrots, and a warm undertone of caramel flavor.
I like to serve it with a combination of coconut foam, fried curry leaf, glazed carrots in carotene butter, and chaat masala. I usually serve it warm, but it can be served cold too.
Simply put, this recipe is delicious, rich, silky, simple, convenient, and efficient.
Anjana Shanker, Development Chef
- Make sure to core your carrots. The soup will be sweeter because the cores tend to carry a bitter aftertaste.
- Melt the butter in the pressure cooker before adding the carrots. When you add the carrots, stir them until fully coated with butter. This will prevent burning.
- We like to give the pressure cooker a shake every now and then to prevent the carrots from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Do not leave out the baking soda because it helps to facilitate the Maillard reaction (this is the technical name for what we commonly call “browning”) by creating an alkaline environment (about 7.5 pH) normally not found in pressure cookers (due to the wetness).
- Vegetables are made up of cells with strong walls that soften at higher temperatures than the cells in meat do. But because they are made up of mostly water, their temperatures normally won’t exceed the boiling point of water. The high heat of the pressure cooker (around 120 °C / 250 °F, which is hotter than the boiling point of water) also helps to thoroughly caramelize the carrots without drying them out.
- Because the air is sealed inside the pressure cooker, you don’t need to add much water, so juices can be extracted without becoming diluted. We’ve found that the melted butter and 30 g of water are all you need.
- When simmering the carrot juice, do so until the layers separate (a lighter orange layer will float to the top).
- To make carotene butter, bring 450 g (about 450 mL / 2 cups) of carrot juice to a simmer. Using an immersion blender, blend the same amount of unsalted butter with the carrot juice. Simmer for 1 ½ hours. Remove the mixture from the stove and blend in an additional 250 g of carrot juice (about 250 mL / 1 cup). Let the mixture cool, and then refrigerate it overnight. Once congealed, scoop the butterfat into a pot and warm it until melted. Strain the melted butter through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth. Pour the strained carotene butter into half-sphere molds to set. The carotene butter will keep for two weeks when refrigerated, or up to six months when frozen.
- Regular unsalted butter can be substituted for the carotene butter.
- Run the pureed soup through a fine sieve before serving for a smooth, consistent texture.
- There are many ways to top off this dish. We like to serve it with a little coconut milk and fresh tarragon, or shredded young coconut and ajowan seeds (which you can find in Indian grocery stores, but make sure to get the ones for cooking, not those used for making tea). We’ve also paired it with chaat masala (see page 136 of Modernist Cuisine at Home) and our Coconut Chutney Foam (see page 4·282 of Modernist Cuisine).
- This method works for a variety of vegetables. In Modernist Cuisine at Home, we have recipes using vegetables such as squash, artichokes, mushrooms, cauliflower, red bell peppers, and corn. We also have recipes for delectable combinations such as broccoli and Gruyère, apples and parsnips, and leeks and onions. We even have a variation that uses bananas!
- To see a video of this recipe, click here.
- For the original recipe that first appeared in Modernist Cuisine, visit our recipe library.