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|
"... [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?