Parsnip Mini Loaves or Muffins (with GF option)

Well, I suppose it had to happen eventually. . . winter has finally arrived in Toronto.  *Sigh*.  I really, really would love to live somewhere that I don’t have to don at least 4 layers of clothing (that would include torso, head, hands, and feet) in order just to walk out the door without permanently damaging my epidermis.  To allow the dogs a mere 12 minutes of romping at the local baseball field (that was all I could stand of the chill), it took 15 minutes to get dressed and another 10 to peel off the top 3 layers when I got home.  Dogs are lucky that way, aren’t they?  Permanent fur coat; gloves not required.  (“That may be true, Mum, and we love the cold, but you do have that opposable thumbs thing going on, which could definitely be perceived as an advantage.”)

Well, cold weather makes me think of soup.  And soup on a winter’s day makes me think of my mother’s chicken soup, a Friday night ritual in our house throughout my childhood, even though my dad worked late every Friday and didn’t even stride through the door until we kids were already in pyjamas.  Friday night was Chicken Soup Night.

And where do I come to parsnips from my mother’s soup, you might ask?  Why, in the soup itself.  The soup was begun early in the day, with Mom pulling out the largest stockpot in the house and filling it two-thirds full with water.  First, she’d tie up a whole bunch of fresh dill with twine (or, in a pinch, white sewing thread) and toss it in; then she’d add whole vegetables: one peeled onion; three peeled carrots; three stalks of celery; and a huge, peeled parsnip.  These were followed by hunks of chicken which simmered through most of the day, the flesh turning from pink to white to gray as it rose to the top of the pot, bobbing like the remnants of an airline catastrophe on the ocean, the heavy scent of chicken grease permeating the house.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy my mother’s chicken soup.

Of course, in those days, I had no idea that the seemingly anemic carrot my mother  used was called “parsnip”; I thought it was actually named “pietroshkeh” (pee-ET-rosh-keh), which is what my parents both called it.  (I also believed that the main character of my first children’s book–a tome I proudly read aloud, using my new skill of sounding out each and every letter–was called “Murse Rabbit,” until I was about 10.  It was then that The Nurse informed me “Mrs” was actually an abbreviation for “Missus.”  The humiliation!).

I still don’t know whether pietroshkeh is the Polish word (from my dad’s childhood in Poland) or the Russian word (from my mother’s ancestors), but I carried it with me until my late 20s, when someone served roasted parsnips to me at a holiday dinner and I asked what they were.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I’d already been eating them–and hating them–my whole life!

Luckily, I adored the roots in their roasted form.  Unlike the mushy, over-boiled parsnips of my mother’s soup, these actually tasted good.  And they had a subtle sweetness about them, the outsides partially caramelized through roasting, flavors mingling with the aromas of rosemary and thyme.  They were delicious!  Who knew they could be used in other ways besides watery, grey, fatty chicken soup?  Thus began a love affair with parnsips, and a quest to afford them their due.

I ate roasted parsnips, parsnips in faux mashed potatoes, or almond-crusted parsnips over the years, but I had never tried a baked good with parsnip.  Then, one Saturday at the organic market where I sold muffins and other treats a few years ago, a colleague brought in parsnip loaf.  Like a winter-pale version of its tanned carrot cousin, the parsnip loaf offered the same warming spices, slight sweetness and flecks of grated flesh distributed throughout.  Indeed, you can substitute carrot here if you prefer, but the parsnip adds its own unique character to the loaf, an understated spiciness and sweet appeal that no other vegetable can provide.

Try these moist, flavorful quick breads, and I bet you’ll end up loving the lowly pietroshkeh, too.

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Last Year at this Time: Herb and Feta “Polenta” Appetizers

Two Years Ago: Turnip and Pear Soup (with apologies to Samuel Beckett)

© 2010 Ricki Heller

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  1. This is awesome! Far too few people bake with parsnips, but they’re so much like carrots, and perfectly suited for any carrot cake-type recipe. I just love their mildly sweet flavor.

  2. Interesting. I’ve never thought to bake with parsnips. Thanks for the recipes.

  3. Ha! That story made me laugh…you set us up with that heartwarming tale of chicken soup and then turned the tables.

    Parsnips always seem to skate a little close to the too-sweet-root-veg side of the equation. Maybe I need to try again.

  4. As a chia seed newbie, I’m interested in your use of both ground flax seed and ground chia seed in the same recipe. What do you see as the differences between them?

  5. cv,
    I generally use both as egg substitutes, with minor differences in how they react in the baked good (I mention this on the blog, here, and talk about it more in my cookbook). In this case, though, since I didn’t use xanthan gum as a gluten replacement, I used both the flax and the chia as added binding “insurance.” 😉

  6. It’s funny, I was just telling my mom how good parsnips are and she had an immediate “blech” reaction. Being from a German family in the midwest, boiling was the method of choice–ick. I assured her that roasted parsnips are delicious and she said she might even try them, hurray! Your muffin loaves look delicious too, I’ll have to forward her the recipe.

  7. I say if winter is “just” arriving, you are pretty darn lucky, lol! It has been in the negative temps here (as in literally negative numbers below 0) for quite some time….burr! I hear ya on the layers and layers and bundling up. It gets old reeeeal fast, doesn’t it!?!?


    • Courtney,
      You have my sincere sympathy. Your winter sounds like ours from last year–I’ve never been so happy to see April arrive! Hope it warms up soon. (And yes, it gets old REAL fast).

      It was a bit of an experiment creating the GF version based on the glutenous one, but the result tasted pretty darned close. In fact, the HH actually preferred the GF ones!

      I love the mini loaves, too, but they also work well as muffins if you don’t have the loaf pans. 🙂

  8. I LOVE parsnips! I never thought about baking with them, though, but if we can bake with carrots and sweet potatoes, then why not parsnips? 😀

  9. what a unique idea! i don’t think i’ve ever had parsnips, let alone baked goods with them in it!

  10. Ricki-
    I love how creative you are! yay parsnips.

  11. I want one now! Great post with your memories of your mum’s grey soup and your memory of parsnips. We only had them as a child in a roast dinner as a treat and so I remember loving them. I had parsnip cake over a year ago and told myself I was going to make it – so am very interested to see these – especially interesting to see the difference between the gf and gf-free version

  12. What a great idea, parsnips in a muffin. Makes me wonder why I haven’t seen this before. Thanks for sharing the idea!


  13. I love this idea! Those mini loaves look so cute!

  14. Ricki, I LOVE parsnips! What a fantastic idea to use them in a baked good!

  15. Hey Ricki,
    Lovely loaves. I wonder how they would do if the parsnips were roasted first.
    I’ve used parsnips in a cake instead of carrots, and they were quite the hit.
    Great use of the winter root veg.

  16. my mom used to make chicken noodle soup and the smell of the chicken grease used to drive me nuts. i never cared for it, and my mom would add in too much celery, not enough carrots, and i don’t think she’d ever heard of a parsnip. ah ha ha! she loved her chicken noodle soup, but the texture of the over cooked noodles and the stringy chicken had me most sadfaced. luckily i became a vegetarian when i started high school so i could opt out, but it’s nice to know that i wasn’t the only one not thrilled with chicken soup, because the rest of my family couldn’t get enough of it. **sigh**

    i need to grab some mini loaves super soon. i could always make the muffins, but the mini loaves are adorable, Ricki! when i’m grabbing mini loaves i need to see if i can find a donut pan, too. ooooh, gluten-free parsnip mini loaves & baked donuts. i don’t know why my mind got to donuts, but your parsnip loaves look beautiful – and i loooove all things parsnip! thanks, Ricki!

  17. Mmmm – homemade chicken soup. My husband makes our chicken soup. Actually he makes chicken broth with meat and then we divide it. I add mixed vegetables to my share and he adds noodles to his. But, parsnips? I don’t remember ever seeing them at the store – maybe because I wasn’t looking. If I can’t find them then I’ll make this with carrots. BTW, I really think it is the coconut flour that gives the extra flavor to baked goods, whether gluten-free or not.

    • Deb,
      I bet roasted parsnip puree would be great in a baked good, just as roasted sweet potato puree adds sweetness and texture. For this recipe, though, I’m not sure. Because they’re measured raw and then baked, you’d have to account for the change in volume/texture if you subb’d them here. Would love to know how it works out if you do try it! 🙂

      The funny thing is, I wasn’t opposed to chicken soup in general, just my mom’s!! For some reason, all I could taste was the chicken fat (gag). She didn’t even put noodles or anything like that in it–just veggies and chicken! Baked donuts sound intriguing, too–I haven’t tried those yet.

      Sounds like a very efficient way to use your broth! 😉 Re: coconut flour, I do enjoy it in baked goods, too. 🙂

  18. i’m new to the parsnip train, but have been enjoying them 🙂 looks like another one to try!

  19. That sounds really intriguing, Ricky. And you are awesome for including a gluten-free version.

  20. How fun! These look wonderful =D.

  21. Oh wow, these would be perfect for brunch!

  22. Thanks, Ricki! I really hope we’re able to get it off the ground. It would be a dream come true.

    And yes, I’m pretty blessed when it comes to a publishing company. They’re really good to me 🙂

    These mini loaves look delicious! I could make them for myself, and my GF lady!

  23. These look so good, and so unique using parsnip!

  24. I love that you included a gluten free version, as well! These sound so delicious, and so unique. I’ve never had anything like them before, but they are filled with so many of my favorite things I’m sure I’ll love them.

  25. I am sort of obsessed with parsnips. This looks awesome!

  26. I know what you’re saying–it seems so cruel that winter is finally here. SIGH. My dog is also a bit confused why the walking regularity isn’t moving at the same clip as she’d really like. Tsk tsk, lazy mom.

    I adore parsnips, but I don’t think I’ve ever put them into a baked good before. Great idea! Sounds like a win-win to me.

  27. When I used to add parsnips to soup when my kids were small I’d cut the pieces so small they’d melt into the liquid. That way the flavor would be there but no one could complain about “white things” in the soup. I agree with you, though, that parsnips are much better roasted. I haven’t tried them in muffins, yet, but I guess I should!

  28. Oh, parsnip muffins – what a terrific idea! I think I still have some parsnips from the last of my winter CSA basket; it would be a deliciously different way to enjoy them.

  29. i saw these in the cookbook and have been wanting to try them oh so badly! i used to HATE parsnips. my mom would try to sneak them into a mixed vegetable roast, but i would have none of that. now, i love them!! their delicate sweetness makes them one of my favorite root vegetables!!
    thank you again for sharing all of your amazing recipes!
    ps. you should enter the super breakfast bowl challenge next week! we’d be honored to have you!

  30. That’s a great story about your mother’s chicken soup. My mother’s chicken soup put me off of carrots for a long time! Could you imagine! Carrots! No worries, I absolutely love them now…

    As for pietroshkas, the Polish/Slovak word is “pasternak” and I think it’s the same in Russian (my Russian is rudimentary at best). Pietroshka sounds like a Russian diminutive form of the name Peter to me, so it could be a sort of colloquial nickname? Sorry I can’t offer anything more definitive!

    Anyways, I can’t wait to try these! They look delicious!

  31. My mom hates parsnips so I never ate them growing up. I bought them recently and roasted them – quite an interesting root vegetable! I love that you turned them into loaves!

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