Saturday, 1 March 2014

Getting Rid of Reminders, Deliciously: Pistachio Pound Cake

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I once shared my life with a boy who adored pistachios.  He demolished them roasted and salted, and thoroughly enjoyed them in biscotti, but his absolute favorite form was gelato, preferably consumed in Rome.  Whenever I see pistachio gelato, I think of him.  Another of his favorite treats is a bag of traditional Italian almond cookies, and when we were together I made these knockoffs for him – the same day I bought the almond crème I used in that much loved recipe, I also picked up a jar of pistachio crème, with the express intention of using it to make pure pistachio cookies for him on some special occasion.

Unfortunately, despite there being many ‘special occasions’ that last year, somehow the cookies were never a top priority.  The jar sat in the kitchen, patiently waiting to be used by some day before February 28, 2014.  At the time that seemed miles away, yet February came upon me so fast and here was the jar, still staring at me; when the boy it was intended for broke my heart I had thought to pour the crème all over his expensive clothes and fancy felt hat, but instead I packed it in my suitcase and took it with me to America, hoping to one day make something sweet for someone else.

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Well, I didn’t make it for anyone else, but that was a silly thought – and a spiteful one – anyway.  I don’t really bake for the men I date, after my banana bread received a middling (and I’m pretty sure pure negging) review from someone I dated back in October.  The sheer blasphemy was enough to end that brief dalliance (not really, but it was one of the nails in the coffin).  No, these days I bake for family and friends, and for myself, and I try to pour as much love as I can into those treats, as if to make up for all the love I spent on the boy who threw it all away.

But enough about that.  This pistachio crème was staring at me!  And it was about to expire.  I thought about making the cookies I’d originally planned, but I decided against it – I’m trying to avoid repeating patterns.  I could make gelato or something, but I’ve never really been one for sorbets or ice creams and who needs that kind of icy reminder?  Nope, I settled on a pound cake: a slightly sweet, aromatic, buttery beauty that pairs perfectly with tea (the one part of my British life I can never disavow).  Oh, and most importantly, easy.

My mom’s ancient Silver Palate cookbook provided the perfect base recipe for my experiment – a simple pound cake called Bishop’s Cake.  I swapped fresh lime for lemon juice and cut a quarter of the sugar to counteract the sweetness of the pistachio crème and figured if the batter looked too wet I’d just add a bit of extra flour.  I would have liked to swap out some of the flour for ground pistachios but I didn’t want any more ‘potentially great’ substitutions to stop me from actually making the damn cake so I worked with what I already had.

The batter looked great without any additional flour, and although it was a bit green and I was leery of the lack of raising agents, I was quickly reassured by the smell that emanated from the oven within ten minutes of putting the cake in.  The whole house filled with buttery, nutty sweetness and by the time my parents got home from Napa I was feeling pretty confident – the cries of ‘what are you making and when can we eat it’ didn’t hurt, of course.

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In the end, we ate way too much pizza for dinner and couldn’t fit any cake in that evening, but I actually think the overnight sit helped the flavors meld nicely (I always hear that’s a thing, but I never have the patience to test it).  By the time we had it for breakfast the cake was ready for us, and it was as delicious as it smelled: barely sweet, with a hint of pistachio and a tiny tang from the lime.  I thought it could have done with a bit more pistachio flavor but everyone else who tried it was super impressed – I just had a hard time letting go of my ground nut plans… but overall I will agree with the rest of the taste testers that the cake was a resounding success!

So if you have any melancholy-inducing foods sitting around, I highly recommend experimenting with them.  After all, the worst that happens is that the result is a failure, in which case you still got rid of the offending ingredient.  No use crying over wasted pistachio crème, and if it comes out in a transformed, even tastier form, then all the better.
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Pistachio Pound Cake 
     adapted from The Silver Palate

Preheat oven to 350F/175C and grease and flour a 10” bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream until fluffy:
     ½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
     1.5 c sugar
Stir in, just enough to blend:
     2 c flour, sifted if you’re not lazy like me

Add, stirring well:
     1 tsp fresh lemon juice (I used lime because it’s what I had and it worked really well)
     1 tsp vanilla
     1 190g jar of pistachio crème

Add, one at a time, stirring after each addition:
     5 eggs

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  If the cake starts to brown too quickly, cover the pan with aluminum foil.  When cake is done, cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes then remove from the pan to cool completely.

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