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Beware of Molly Wizenberg recipes

Don't you hate when recipes don't work out? You go to the trouble to get all the ingredients at the right temperature, you check the oven heat, etc you waste good quality ingredients and then the result is abysmal. Reading her new book, I tried two recipes. Baby Dutch pancakes came out too much kind of rubbery. Usually, I use the recipe called David's pancake out of the
New York Times Jewish cookbook and it comes out great. This time I had lent my book out so I tried Molly's, well not the same at all, kind of rubbery egg. Decided to give the book one more chance and tried the blueberry and raspberry pound cake. Picked the smallest blueberries, got the butter and eggs to room temperature. Followed the recipe to the letter. Kind of wondered why the berries wouldn't sink to the bottom, but went ahead. Well guess what, they sunk to the bottom just as expected. Cake broke coming out of the bundt pan because of all the berries sinking to the bottom. Didn't taste that great either. Going to give the book back to the library.
And then I checked chowhound. Seems some of her recipes have a tendency not to work. Just because it's printed doesn't mean it works.

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  1. i'll only remind you, in her defense, that it's common practice among bakers to toss the blueberries with a bit of flour before adding to the batter when you're using them in any sort of cake or quick bread. no recipe - regardless of how good it may be - can guarantee that your blueberries will defy gravity...however, if she claims otherwise in the recipe, then i withdraw my defense because it was foolish to make a promise she can't possibly keep ;)

    4 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Blueberries were tossed in flour as per recipe. I think the first error is that you can't do this in bundt pan, and the second problem was that the cake itself was not a good combo of ingredients. It was really dense (the better to suspend the berries I guess), even the parts without berries were worthy of the garbage pile. I tossed it, and I'm pretty good at earasing my less than successful creations by eating them. This was not worth the calories.

      1. re: meinNYC

        well if you tossed the blueberries in flour and they still sank, then i was inclined to believe you were right about the recipe being screwy...so i Googled it, and you're right. the proportions are off! the Bundt pan isn't the problem, she's got far too much butter and too many eggs in there for the amount of flour.

        if you're willing to try it again, i tweaked it so that it should produce a much better cake:
        - reduce the baking powder to 1 2/3 teaspoons
        - use 3 eggs instead of 5
        - use 7 ounces of butter instead of 10
        - keep everything else the same.

        apologies for doubting you!

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          I used the barefoot contesta recipe for blueberry coffee cake. Instead of using a round cake pan I made the recipe in a loaf pan. The blueberries were mixed with flour at the end before baking. The cake was devoured in 2 days.

          1. re: classylady

            I have never been burned by the Barefoot Contessa recipes. Thanks goodhealthgourmet for tweaking. There is a lesson for me here, if it sounds off, check other similar recipes before you commit.

    2. Well, fwiw, I didn't like her pound cake recipe, either.

      1. phew! i thought it was me...
        she had a recipe in gourmet / bon appetit (can't remember which mag off the top of my head) that sounded amazing - chocolate, coffee, brown butter...and i made it TWICE. both went into the trash.

        10 Replies
        1. re: mybear

          i remember seeing a thread here on CH about someone's bad experience with that recipe - it was some sort of "crunch bar." was it you who posted that, mybear?

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I'm pretty sure I made her French-style Walnut Cake, as well, and threw it away. Though the recipe was supposedly adapted from Saveur... I was hoping it would bring back memories of the walnut cake I had in the Dordogne (which is where she discovered the cake, as well), but it was not to be...

            1. re: emily

              I make her French Yogurt Cake practically weekly. And all my various variations on it have been very successful- before and after I had measuring cups and had translated my oven marks to F. And many of her savoury recipes are staples in our household... the carrot cheddar sandwiches, chickpea salad, fennel and tomato soup to name a few.

              1. re: emily

                This just reminded me of a much better walnut cake I tried a few months ago: Gourmet's Walnut Jam Cake:
                http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/2000s/...

                1. re: emily

                  Holy cow that cake looks good. Love cakes like this that use stuff I already have in the pantry. I think maybe I'll make this one this weekend. Thaks.

                  1. re: emily

                    This IS a great cake for walnut lovers. I've made this recipe a dozen times. Homemade jam on top, sans whipped cream.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Realized after posting that my husband will be away this weekend - dangerous to have a cake around with just me and a 7 year old. So ... the weekend after. It looks/sounds incredible.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        It is wonderful - I still make it a few times a year.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          Something to look forward to!

                          Thanks for posting the recipe, emily!

                2. re: mybear

                  Yeah, it was like a toffee/coffee bar. I made those too, and was deeply disappointed in the results. They smelled amazing, but the texture was waaaaay too crunchy and the flavor was pale. Bummer.

                3. Have to agree with wholeheartedly on this one - also got the book out of the library. An enjoyable read (one of the only things better than eating food in my opinion, is reading about food!), and I photocopied a few of the recipes, including the pound cake. Decided to make it yesterday since I had all of the ingredients on hand. Used 1 c. blackberries, and 1/2 c. each of raspberries and blueberries; orange and lemon zest instead of the kirsch (I hate buying expensive ingredients for something I may only make once). Despite ample greasing and flouring of the bundt pan, about 1/3 of the cake remained in the bottom. Just tasted the cake, as it would be unfair to comment completely without trying it. And must report that it was certainly unexceptional: berries were suspended nicely (I think the flour trick does work well for that one), but the raspberries became a pale unappealing pink, and I didn't like the seeds in the blackberries. If one were to make this again, I would suggest using an angelfood pan and lining the bottom with parchment before greasing and flouring to facilitate getting it out of the pan (I always do that when I make angelfood cake, minus the shortening and flour, and never have a problem getting it out). Would use blueberries and the orange zest as the flavor came through nicely. However, this is one that I won't be repeating. I did bookmark a recipe for a raspberry buttermilk cake on Epicurious that I may try next (not a Molly recipe). And thanks for the tip on the dutchbaby pancake - I've always loved David Eyre's pancake recipe too (it's an old NYT recipe) - but made a copy of the new one to try. That one will go directly into the recycling bin as well. Also checked Epicurious for the latest results on the coffee crunch bars from Gourmet - not encouraging. Many negative comments and only 62% would make it again. Think I'll just stick to reading her.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Retrokitch

                    It's good to know I'm not the one that messed up, it was the recipe.

                  2. Ok, one more here. Against my better judgment, I tried "Jimmy's Pink Cookies" from Molly's book, which are a shortbread cookies frosted with pink cream cheese icing. The recipe can be found on various blogs and the cookies just looked too darned cute. Huge disappointment. Little flavor (after almost 4 sticks of butter!) -- I was actually told they were the worst cookies I've made.