Chocolate Chip Pistachio Pound Cake : A Baking Fail

 

If you've been reading along with this blog for a while, you may recognise that Chocolate Chips and Pistachios are two of my favourite ingredients. Chocolate Chips have featured in some of my favourite recipes, such as Chocolate Chip Marble Cake and Chocolate Chip Cookies. Pistachios have made an appearance in Pistachio Macarons and Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti. So for me, to find a recipe that combines both is a Very Good Thing indeed. One of my newer cookery book acquisitions had just such a recipe, and I thought you might like to hear about it. However, it's a brilliant example that in baking things can go wrong, too!



First though, I should explain that a few years back, I discovered Food Network on our cable box. Sooo, fast forward a few years and I am now in the midst of a love affair with Americana, especially baking (I suspect I am not alone if the proliferation of US style bakeries in the UK is anything to go by). I blame Ina Garten for this. Her show, recorded at her home in East Hampton, NY, was for me, a breath of fresh air compared to some of the British cookery programmes we had. Not so much because of the format, as Jamie and Nigella had gone there first, but because of the glimpse into the American lifestyle - albeit the wealthier side of it. The beautiful house and garden, the abundance of local produce available to her which she gleefully promotes, and the good ol' homestyle recipes that are completely devoid of fuss and faff. The image of Ina chucking her coolbox into the back of her Merc and heading to an East Coast beach for a surprise picnic, was a complete contrast to Nigella impatiently feasting on chocolate in the back of a London taxi cab. I was hooked.

Since then, I have begun collecting American cookery books, and amongst these have quite a few which have been published by successful local bake shops, following in the trend first set by Magnolia. One of these is One Girl Cookies, which is a neighbourhood bake shop located in Brooklyn, New York. It began when it's owner, Dawn Casale, began baking cookies from her apartment to sell. The business took off, and pretty soon it became clear to her that she needed to find premises and employees, including Dave Crofton, who in time became her husband. They are the team behind One Girl Cookies.

Picture from Amazon
I first discovered this particular book whilst browsing Amazon. It didn't have a UK review, but had 4.5 stars from American reviewers. Intrigued by the description, I decided to give it a go:

"... [Dawn] often names her cookies for people special to her: Lucia (Espresso Caramel Squares with White and Dark Chocolate Swirl) is in honor of Dawn’s beloved grandmother, and Lana (Bittersweet Chocolate Sandwiches Filled with Raspberry Preserves) was created for her favorite teacher, who was a little bit bitter but mostly sweet ...

From simple old-fashioned confections such as Lemon Bars and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Spiced Oat Crumble to modern treats like Orange Butter Drops with Shredded Coconut and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Spiced Filling, the recipes featured here will impress and delight anyone lucky enough to get a taste. With beautiful color photos and tips for wrapping and gift-giving, One Girl Cookies will become a cherished addition to every passionate baker’s kitchen." from Amazon UK


The book has a lovely feel to it, and runs to 160 pages (including the introduction and index). There are plenty of intriguing sounding recipes to tempt you, as well as classics such as Red Velvet Cake and Chocolate Chip Cookies. There are 7 chapters - comfort cookies, party girl cookies, cakes, whoopie pies and cupcakes, pies and tarts, breakfast and family recipes.The Orange Butter Drops mentioned above look heavenly and are definitely on my to-bake list. As are the Espresso Caramel Squares - a coffee version of millionaire's shortbread topped with a white and dark chocolate swirl. The recipes are set out very clearly, with steps that are easy to follow. Not every recipe has an accompanying photo, so some imaginative guesswork is required to picture what the finished result should look like. The recipes, of course, use American cups as measurements, so for a UK baker, this needs some translation. I've never had a problem doing this though, and it's relatively straightforward if you follow some basic principles and know your way around US ingredients (see my previous post on Using American Recipes which is not definitive in anyway but could give you a few starters - there are plenty of other sites on the web where you can gain advice and information).


So, last week I decided to actually try out some of the recipes. One that had immediately caught my eye involved the aforementioned chocolate chips and pistachios : Chocolate Chip Pistachio Pound Cake. I'd love to be able to tell you what a success it was. Sadly, this turned out a bit of a disaster and I'm still struggling to work out what went wrong. The instructions were clear and simple, the ingredients list not unfamiliar (and although the recipe calls for US cake flour, I had some of this from an internet order so used some of my precious stash!). I even weighed my eggs to make sure that they were truly US size large for the recipe (as US large is nearer UK medium). I preheated the oven properly and used the centre shelf, baking for the stipulated time. 


The ingredients include a hefty dose of chocolate chips and pistachios, which are blitzed briefly in a food processor before incorporating into the batter. At this stage, the recipe was promising as a heady aroma of cocoa and pistachio pervaded the air.


They are folded into what is an otherwise fairly normal cake batter (although the recipe calls for milk mixed with lemon juice - you could just use buttermilk).


It smelt great, tasted great (yes, as you know, spoon licking - guilty as charged), and appeared to bake well.


The cake was risen and springy to the touch (perhaps even feeling a little over cooked). But there was one fatal error I did make. I forgot to use a skewer to test the inside of the cake. In greedy anticipation, once it had cooled, I cut it open to reveal a totally uncooked interior. The chocolate chips seemed to have coalesced together, rather than dotting themselves jauntily through the cake. It was a soggy mess and totally inedible.


Mike and I did nibble on a piece cut from the cooked end, which did taste nice, albeit with something in one bite that Mike had, that just did not taste right. I would love to try this recipe again, as I'm sure that it's probably something I did, rather than the recipe (and possibly that was not blitzing the chocolate and nuts finely enough, so they were too heavy and sank), but with the amount of pistachios and chocolate chips involved it's not a cheap cake, so that will just have to wait.
 
I'm going to try some of the other recipes in the book first, and will just have to see how I get on with those. I know some other bloggers have tried some of them. You can find Kelly, of an American Cupcake in London, trying out the Orange Butter Drops here. Clearly, they were a success, so they'll be next on my list.

So help me feel a little better - what have you made that's gone wrong?
Susie

Comments

  1. Just out of interest, how long did the recipe say to bake the cake in the oven for, and at what temperature?

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    1. Well the recipe says 350F, so that translates to 180, but I have a fan oven so I drop it normally to 160. Timing was 45 minutes, and I wondered if that was long enough. Have just checked the recipe for the other loaf I did recently (so both used a 9 inch x 5 inch tin) and that says 50 mins. So 45 does seem a little short? Maybe should learn to trust instincts ... And always use a cake tester! :)

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  2. Oh Susie I loved this post and can agree with so much of what you wrote! When we lived in the Caribbean for the year one of the most exciting things was that we got US T.V and Food Network was never off in my house - I love all their shows!! This book sounds really great, such a shame your recipe didn't work out. One tip I could give regarding the chocolate chips is to cover them in flour before mixing them into the loaf..this is what I do when I add them into cakes and cupcakes and it helps disperse them evenly throughout the cake so they don't sink to the bottom? otherwise it might just have needed slightly longer in the oven? but to make you feel better I tried making carrot cake cupcakes for the first time last month...I didn't have quite enough grated carrot that the recipe called for but went with it anyway thinking they just wouldn't taste as carrot like - wrong, I had to take them out and just bin the whole lot. They were liquid-y pools of goo that were never going to cook, later my food technologist sister told me that the carrot absorbs the liquid and helps with the structure of the cake! but it was a big baking fail so we all have them! p.s I'm starting a new challenege this month which from the sounds of things you might love - United Bakes of America, check it out, it would be great to have you join in. Sorry for the super long post!

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    1. Thanks Gem - had thought about flour and was kicking myself I didn't do that. I've already checked out your challenge - it looks right up my street so you can definitely count me in! It'll give me some focus to try out all these great recipes I've seen from my US books! :D

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  3. I have a baking fail about once a month! These things happen sometimes! I'd try making your own cake flour with fresh flour?

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    1. It's good to know it's not just me. I'll have a go next time with the plain flour/ corn flour mix and see what happens. Should be an interesting comparison! :)

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  4. Ooooo great looking cake...I bet it has a lovely texture too! Sounds like Cupcake Crazy Gem's challenge might be a good one for you too! :-)

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    1. Yes, it's a shame mine didn't turn out so good, but I will try it again. I think I will hand chop the pistachios and chocolate chips though, so I have more control over the size of the pieces, and will sprinkle them with flour before adding to the mix so they hopefully dont't sink. And will play around with the cooking time and temperature. So excited by Gem's challenge - have lots of ideas and it will be great fun! Hope you enter too! :)

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  5. I too covet Ina's home and all her worktop space in the kitchen.
    I wonder if the cake cooked too quickly hence the top being done and the bottom not - a cake tester would have helped you spot that.

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  6. I too covet Ina's home - particularly all her countertop space in the kitchen.
    I think a skewer to test the cake would have avoided this - it does sound a short cooking time... but it was obviously enough to bake the top and make you think the whole thing was ready.

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    1. I know! If only we could all have a purpose built kitchen and barn in our garden *sigh*. The skewer was the obvious thing, but I think the chocolate chips clumping together probably meant there was a pool of mix that didn't cook in the time - so definitely two things to play around with, flooring the chips and the oven. I think BA's suggestion below of covering the cake with foil part way is also a good one! Will see how I get on next time as it clearly turned out well for Kelly. That's baking for you! :)

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  7. It's a shame it didn't work out as it looked really promising. The book sounds really good too. I have baking failures all the time! My macarons are top of the list. My cake yesterday was a disaster so it's being turned into cake pops/cake truffles! I forgot to add sugr once to cookies and they were inedible. All the tips above are great - it was probably just the temperature and timing? Maybe you need to cover the top with foil and continue cooking?

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    1. The book is lovely - lots of fab recipes. Brilliant idea with the foil - I will try that next time! I have failures quite often, too, the orange Victoria sponge polo mint being another prime example. I guess it keeps you on your toes ;)

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  8. Susie,

    I feel completely responsible for the troubles that you are having with this recipe - I am the Chef/Author. I hope that I can help you fix the recipe; it is one of my favorites. I have read through your notes, and I see a few areas that may have caused trouble.

    First, the recipe calls for a baking time of 45 minutes. Although many people have baked the cake for that time with satisfactory results, some of our testers have had to bake the cake for up to one hour. I urge bakers to use a cake tester because some ovens run hotter than others. (Some baking pans can affect the baking times as well.) Also, I would recommend is making sure that your oven has been properly preheated, and that your oven temperature is accurate. We rely on placing thermometers inside the oven, and not on the temperature setting of the oven itself.

    Second, judging from the photos of your cake, the pistachios and chocolate chips all sunk to the bottom of the cake batter before it was baked. Normally, this batter would be very thick, but I wonder if yours might have been thinner because of the eggs. The large eggs we use are 1.75 ounces (50 grams) and the yolks are .75 ounces (21 grams) - both measured by weight. It is possible that the eggs you used were a bit larger than what we normally find here. Since the nuts and chocolate all gathered at the bottom of the pan, it tells me that the batter was too thin. Thus, the cake turned out to be painfully dry and overbaked on top and a soupy mess on the bottom.

    I truly hope these suggestions will help. If you have any further questions, please contact me at info@onegirlcookies.com

    Warm regards,
    Dave Crofton
    One Girl Cookies

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    1. Wow, Dave, thank you so much for taking the trouble to comment. I'm really pleased and flattered that you have. Your suggestions are really helpful, particularly the egg sizing. I weighed mine in the shell, and they were at the larger end of what I understand US sizes to be (57-64g or 2.0 - 2.25oz), so I will definitely try and weigh them as you suggest next time.

      On the oven temperature, although I regularly test mine against an oven thermometer, I don't routinely keep one in my oven (perhaps I should :) ), and I always preheat it for 15 - 20 minutes before baking. But thank you for the great advice. I would definitely agree to using a cake tester. It would have to be on this recipe that I forgot!

      My feeling is that it was definitely the sinking of the pistachios and chocolate that caused the problem. Although I had tried to adjust the recipe for our UK sized eggs, It does seem that the batter being possibly too thin because of the egg sizes is the key, so I will definitely try again.

      Once again, thanks for your help and advice. I hope I get to do your recipe justice, as it certainly looks and sounds incredibly yummy! I just wish your bakery was in my neighbourhood, but I guess it's a long way from NYC to Cardiff :)

      Best wishes,
      Susie

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