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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:

                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.

                    1. I also tried the blueberry raspberry cake thinking it would be lovely for a friend's baptism party and we both agreed that it was a dull cake, definitely not worthy of a celebration. It was a lot of dull cake to throw out! Disappointing. I did, however, love her little tuna bouchons, tho must advise you to grease yr cups well before cooking, and to possibly lighten the mixture by adding maybe one egg white whisked till stiff, as they are quite dense. and maybe some more herbs. V tasty tho.

                      1. I've made the Dutch Babies a few times (albeit, the recipe on her blog, not from her book, so they could be different) and they've always turned out great for me. Actually, everything of hers I've tried has worked. I think it's a little unfair to warn everyone against all of her recipes based on a disappointing pound cake.

                        1. According to these posts, it looks like more than one recipe didn't make the cut, not just a pound cake...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Cherylptw

                            Admitting that I can't speak to any of her cake recipes, one of the most delicious things I've ever made was her leek tart recipe in Bon Appetit. Possibly the leeks slow-cooked in butter plus crispy crust and goat cheese put me in a forgiving mood but then again I've not tried any sweet recipes yet.

                          2. Oh dear, this is disappointing as I loved her book and blog and had bookmarked several recipes, and the (very) few recipes I've tried have come out pretty well: the yogurt cake, the orange marmalade cake (which I've probably made 10 times since first trying it), the oatmeal-apricot-pistachio cookies (which i just posted about in the baking thread--good, but not tasting too much of apricot).
                            I also tried her banana bread recipe--w/choc. chips and candied ginger: it came out fine, and my sister loved it, but I didn't care for the flavor combination, too busy.

                            1. has anyone tried her cinnamon roll recipe; I found it on Epicurious and it is highly rated.....

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: foufou

                                I suppose this is the hazard of food bloggers, they are home cooks usually not professional chefs. I've been reading her blog for years and even went to one of her book readings and her her book signed. I've had some great experiences with Molly's food, her winning hearts and minds chocolate cake was hit with my family as was the chocolate yogurt cake, as well as the turkey meatballs were really good. I also loved her cookie recipes. I can't really say I've had a bad recipe yet. I guess i should steer clear of the poundcake?

                                1. re: msjess

                                  I had forgotten about her turkey meatballs, the ones w/pine nuts and golden raisins. Those are great--and we liked them even better made w/lamb.

                                2. re: foufou

                                  I've made the cinnamon roll recipe more than once exactly as written (except I put it in the fridge after they are in the pan and rise in the morning until they are warm and puffy which might take longer than 1 1/2 hours if the house and pan are icey cold) and it has turned out fabulous every time especially if you like cream cheese glaze (frosting) which I do. I always thought there was a high number of naysayers on the reviews and chalked it up to people just not knowing how to bake.

                                3. To those of you who had trouble with her berry pound cake, there was a mistake in the printing: instead of 2.5 CUPS of butter it was supposed to read 2.5 STICKS. Which makes a big difference, obviously. She noted this on her website around the time of the book's publication.

                                  1. Hi, all. I just found this thread today and wish I weren't late in joining the discussion!

                                    First, I am so sorry to hear that you've had trouble with a few of the recipes in my book. I have not had the problems you're describing with the pound cake or the Dutch babies, and my recipe testers (a mix of professional and home cooks) did not report problems, either. There's nothing I dislike more than a recipe that doesn't work, so it's especially upsetting to see that you've run into trouble with some of mine. I take your comments seriously.

                                    As for the coffee crunch bars from Bon Appetit, that is an interesting case. That recipe was altered without my permission by the magazine's test kitchen, and it was published in its altered form. I have made the recipe in the magazine, and like you, I was not happy with the results. Here is the recipe as it was intended:

                                    Coffee Crunch Bars
                                    Adapted from Leah Reich and her grandmother, Mamie Chaiffetz

                                    2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
                                    1/2 tsp. baking powder
                                    1/4 tsp. salt
                                    8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
                                    1/2 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
                                    1/2 cup tightly packed dark muscovado sugar
                                    1/2 tsp. almond extract
                                    2 Tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee
                                    1/2 cup sliced almonds
                                    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

                                    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer, beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the almond extract and instant espresso, and beat 1 minute more. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture in three doses, mixing until just absorbed. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips. The dough will be thick. Turn the dough out onto an ungreased (approximately 12-inch x 17-inch) rimmed baking sheet. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into a 12-inch by 12-inch square. [Note that it will not fill the entire pan.] Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top looks set. Cool in the pan for 1 minute; then, while still hot, cut into 24 (2-inch by 3-inch) bars. Transfer immediately to wire rack to cool completely. Bars will crisp as they cool.

                                    Note: Bars will keep, sealed in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 5 days. Their flavor improves with time.

                                    Yield: 24 bars

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: mollywizenberg

                                      Thanks for caring what we Hounds think and posting your version of the coffee crunch bars; it must be frustrating to get criticized for a recipe that was altered against your will.
                                      I loved your book and love your blog and have been generally quite pleased with your recipe (esp. Doron's meatballs). Now I must try these bars.

                                        1. re: mollywizenberg

                                          How very irritating that must have been for you, to have a recipe altered w/o permission. It was especially sad because it just sounded soooooo outstanding. I'll give your true recipe a try sometime soon and report back, and thanks for being so conscientious!!

                                            1. re: mollywizenberg

                                              These bars are great btw. Thanks for posting the recipe!

                                              1. re: mollywizenberg

                                                SO neat that you wrote in. Just so you know, I just devoured the book. Made my first recipe-- the ratatouille-- and it was out of this world. My family is a protein family, so I browned some crumbled ground beef with onions/garlic so they could scoop it up on the side if they wanted, and no one touched it. The ratatouille and rice was more than enough. Delicious. Your book was amazing! Thank you!

                                              2. Has anybody tried Molly's recipe for Fruit Balls? They sound so good.

                                                1. I made her orange marmalade cake and my goodness, it was terrible! It was super-moist and extremely, extremely bitter. a A waste of expensive ingredients too (at least for me) - olive oil and almonds. But I must say, I have also discovered some excellent recipes of hers - I love her chana masala recipe, for example!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: SydAll

                                                    That's interesting. I make that cake all the time, and we love it. I've given it as gifts and been asked for the recipe. I'm guessing the bitterness must have had something to do with the citrus you used, assuming you only made this once? I've used various combinations of citrus--but always find the cake to be outstanding.

                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                      You are right, I think. I had bitterness issues with another marmalade cake (I think Nigella's). Last night I made a different marmalade cake (no almonds) and no problem (actually no bitterness at all). I had excellent oranges.

                                                  2. As reported upthread, I haven't had good luck with her recipes, but I did find one that I really like - oatmeal pancakes:

                                                    You soak a large amount of oats in buttermilk overnight and then add some flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, egg and butter. Not as healthy as oatmeal (though I usually end up adding a good amount of sugar and milk/cream to oatmeal), but given the large percentage of oats in them and how much better they taste, I'd take them any day over oatmeal.