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Turnip Cookies 2 Ways

Now, I know this is a weird one. It is as odd an idea as it sounds, but hear me out. They actually worked quite well. Done the first way, no one could tell they were turnippy. They were moist, tender spice cookies. Here's how I arrived at these.

I've been cooking with Little Bit since he was tiny. He has a toy kitchen of his own, and he frequently "cooks" for us and has us try his meals. Sometimes they are things he has seen us make, sometimes not so much (like strawberry and banana soup). I want to encourage his creativity and interest in cooking, so I like to try out his ideas. Sometimes they are a direct request to cook together, like "Mama, we can make pear sorbet", sometimes just an idea in play, like "Mama, smell my turnip cookies". Either way though, I try to honour them and make his ideas a reality, and show him that they are viable.

So hence the idea of turnip cookies, from my 3-year-old asking me to smell his turnip cookies. I don't know if he really registered that it was an unusual idea, or when a few weeks later, we bought a turnip and made the cookies, I don't know if he made the connection between the two. Cooking to my 3-year-old's imagination is an interesting challenge though, which I enjoy taking up.

I spent a couple of weeks turning the idea over in my mind and playing with flavours I could pair with the turnips before settling on these two variants. The first batch, I had wanted to be almond and spice cookies, and so they were, but less almondy than I wanted as I discovered that I was out of almond extract when I went to start baking. I played around with different proportions of different sugars to achieve the flavour I wanted in the first batch, too. The second batch is a heavily adapted spiced molasses cookie from Claire Saffitz's book.

As for the turnip itself, I wasn't sure how best to include it. Raw, like grated carrot in a carrot cake? Or precooked somehow? And if precooked, then in what way? I ended up going with the pre-cooked idea, first boiled and mashed, then roasted and blitzed. In terms of just eating the turnip, the roasted one was beautiful, but in terms of the cookies, the boiled ones were more subtle. The roasted ones somehow developed a strong negative turnip flavour from somewhere that wasn't apparent at every bite, but often enough that it bugged me a little. I would therefore steer clear of that method and boil the turnip for both cookie variants. I decided against the raw, grated ones as I wasn't sure how bits of turnip would work, rather than being smoothly incorporated into the cookie dough.



Cook time: approx. 1 hour -- Portions: about 30 cookies -- Difficulty: Easy

Almond and Chocolate Spiced Turnip Cookies


1/2 turnip (small) for 1/2 - 3/4 c boiled and mashed turnip

3/4 c butter, soft

3/4 c light brown sugar

1/2 c white sugar

1/4 c dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/4 c ground almonds

2 1/4 c flour

5 cloves, ground (5 is Little Bit's favourite number. Very important!)

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp cumin

1 tsp bicarb

1 tsp vinegar syrup (from pickled peaches) OR 1/2 tsp molasses and 1/2 tsp vinegar

100 g dark chocolate chips

1) Boil the turnip until fork-soft and mash. Cool.

2) Cream the butter and sugars together in a bowl. Beat in eggs, then the turnip.

3) Mix in the dry ingredients and combine well. Add vinegar and chocolate chips.

4) Place teaspoonfuls of cookie dough on a lined cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes at 180°C.

Molasses Turnip Cookies


1/2 turnip

2 tbsp butter

3/4 c butter, melted

1 1/2 c dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1/4 c molasses

1/4 c liquid honey

1/4 c milk

3 3/4 c flour

1 tbsp baking soda

2 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 c oats

2 tsp apple cider vinegar (Or homemade rosehip vinegar)

1) Cut the turnip into cubes and roast with the butter at 180°C for about 20-30 minutes, until fork-soft. Cool.

2) Cream the cooled, melted butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, then the molasses and honey.

3) Blitz the cooled turnip with the milk until smooth and add to the batter. Mix thoroughly.

4) Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing well, then add the vinegar (this is important both for the flavour balance and to activate the baking soda).

5) Roll dough into 1" balls and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake at 180°C for 10-12 minutes.


Both of these cookies turned out very nicely indeed, although, as stated above, I would stick with boiling and mashing the turnip for both recipes, as the roasting brought out some less desirable flavours. On the whole, I wouldn't know which of the two I liked better. Everyone I shared either with (and not just sycophantic family members who have to tell me they're good) said that they enjoyed both cookies. Each time, I waited until after they had been tasted to divulge the tuber secret, just to avoid a placebo or nocebo effect. Overall, odd as turnip cookies sound, I can't work out what it should be any odder an idea than carrot cake, or red velvet for that matter, which was traditionally made with beets.

Side note, I've started using a silicone baking sheet mat instead of greasing cookie sheets. I find it works across different types of cookies and therefore doesn't waste the extra butter or shortening. Feel free if you prefer to grease your cookie sheets or to use baking paper instead.

Swaps and substitutions:

  • In both recipes, the different proportions of white to brown sugar can be played around with, although be aware that this will affect the texture and flavour of the cookies.

  • Try preparing the turnip different ways - raw, boiled, roasted - and see how it differs. See how the difference between smooth incorporation and pieces (I would recommend small pieces) of turnip affects the flavour profile.

  • As with the sugars, the proportion of honey to molasses can be played around with in the second recipe. It shouldn't affect texture too much, but it will change the flavour balance a little - darker and deeper with more molasses, lighter and more golden with a higher honey proportion.

  • Try adding some almond extract - only 1/2 tsp or so to the first recipe, as I had intended (and plan to do at the first opportunity).

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