I recently tried a recipe for Paleo Chocolate Studded Pear Bread from www.forageddish.com and had an experience which is quite typical for me. It turned out OK – tasted nice enough but didn’t look like the photo on the blog and I suspect the result was a very different confection. I want to emphasise that it is a great recipe and that the blame is entirely mine – I will try again and I will succeed.
The reasons for my failure are numerous but they demonstrate why “just follow the recipe” isn’t a guarantee of success. The main issue here I suspect is that this is an American recipe with quantities in cups. It also has some ingredients which could vary quite significantly from their UK equivalents. Finally, as ever I had almost all the ingredients “near enough” and that small variation could be crucial.
The recipe called for separate preparation of the dry and the wet items. The wet includes 8 eggs, 1 1/3 cup of coconut milk (I guessed this meant 1.33 cups rather than 1 x 1/3 cup) and some vanilla extract. I had eight eggs but I only had light coconut milk. This tends to result in a wetter mix and so I thought I needed to put some fat content back into the batter. I also had to convert cups into something I knew about. After Googling I settled on 320ml as an equivalent and had 270 ml of the coconut milk and added single cream to add in the fat content. My other option was to use coconut cream and try and make the ingredient right. In any case I suspect this is at the heart of the problems.
The dry ingredients consisted of coconut flour, baking soda and salt. I’ve never used coconut flour before and I have no idea whether what I bought from our local health food shop is the same as the US ingredient. It seemed quite “loose” and coarse compared to normal plain flour. It’s a small point but I even had to double check that baking soda is the same as bicarbonate of soda as the label on the pot in my cupboard reads.
A final factor is that seeing a picture of the finished product isn’t the same as knowing what you are going to make. In the end the produce is similar in consistency to a savoury loaf of Rachel Khoo’s that I really like and knowing that may have helped me in preparing this. When I folded the wet with the dry I was left with a very wet batter – so wet that I wasn’t even confident it would bake through but that amount of egg content is what would drive the cooking – I then had the challenge that the batter wasn’t stiff enough to hold the flavour ingredients – the pear and the chocolate chips. In the end I cut the pear pieces small enough that they dotted through the batter quite nicely whereas I should, have done some thing with the chocolate chips to make them lighter – they just sank to the bottom. Even the pears were a challenge. I don’t know what the US pears are like at this time of year. I knew that the pear would add even more moisture and that, in my opinion, British pears are not the most flavoursome anyway.
I don’t have two nine inch baking tins so I used one and a second which is slightly larger. The loaf in the right-sized tin definitely turned out better. They are both tasty enough but more eggy than bready in consistency. Given my time again I would have followed my instinct to stiffen up the batter a little. I may have left one egg out and added a little plain flour until I felt comfortable. In doing so it would have brought it onto more familiar territory but made it less Paleo – although the choc chips did that anyway. I’ll definitely try it again with a little adaptation just for my own peace of mind. This demonstrates that the first time you follow a recipe you try and do so rigidly, trusting with blind faith. There are so many variables involved though that sometimes it is better to go with instinct while preserving the “spirit” of the recipe. I guess that will come with experience.