Pistachio Lime Pound Cake

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When you have a weekly vegetable CSA sometimes you get to pick what’s for dinner but often dinner kind of picks you. The box shows up once a week, full of mystery produce and you have to form your cooking plans around what you find inside. One of the benefits of our particular CSA is that they also grow nuts on their property and when the number of ripe vegetables is low, they supplement the boxes with bags of walnuts or pistachios. The walnuts are easy to deal with – they’re a pretty standard baking nut and show up in all manner of recipes. But the pistachios – they are a challenge.

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The pistachios we get come already roasted and salted, still in their shells. I’m not a big nut eater in general so I’m not likely to be eating these out of hand as a snack. Sure I’ll eat honey roasted peanuts (which, let’s be honest, are pretty much candy anyway and let’s not even get into the fact that peanuts are not a true nut botanically) and maybe snack on some almonds on rare occasion. But I’m often the jerk that eats around nuts in party mix; the one that picks out the peanuts and leaves the rest in a bowl of mixed nuts. I’m sorry. I would say I won’t do it again but I don’t want to lie to you.

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The other problem with the pistachios is that they are already salted which makes baking with them more difficult. I’m all for salt in baked goods and desserts. Salt isn’t just a flavor enhancer, it also covers mild bitter flavors that can occur in whole wheat flour, very dark chocolate, and some kinds of fruit. But the pistachios are heavily salted which makes them overwhelming in a lot of dishes. You can rinse them (which I did in this recipe) but they remain soggy for a while and need a long baking time in high heat to make them crunchy again.

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A few weeks ago, I realized that we had almost three pounds of pistachios tucked in corners of the pantry that I have put away hoping to find a way to use them and I decided it was time to find something to do with them. At this point, I have some tried-and-true recipes for most of the food that comes from our CSA so that nothing goes to waste and I’ve spent the last few weeks trying out different recipes for pistachio baked goods. Some have been too fussy, one was so bad I threw it away before anyone came home to discover it (salted pistachio cookies = too salty).

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And then last week Orangette, one of my favorite blogs, posted a recipe for pistachio and citrus pound cake. I’d already fallen in love with pistachio and lime as a flavor combination and this cake was so easy to put together. Like any true pound cake, it doesn’t have a long ingredient list – the origin of the name pound cake is because it requires a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, and a pound of eggs. It’s not overly sweet and it bakes for long enough to crisp up the pistachios on top. The cake is dense and hearty from the nuts in the batter and it feels almost healthy in the I-can-definitely-eat-a-slice-for-breakfast kind of way. It was so good I almost couldn’t mess with it. Almost. But then I upped the tropical flavor by using coconut oil instead of butter and eliminated the mix of citrus in favor of lime only. I substituted whole-wheat pastry flour for all-purpose (you know, to make it “healthy”), and now? Now I know how I’ll be using up those pistachios.

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Pistachio Lime Pound Cake

Adapted from Orangette

2 ¼ cups (9 1/8 oz) whole what pastry flour
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup (6.5 oz) coconut oil*
2 tbs (1.5 oz) water**
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
5 large eggs
Zest and juice of 3 limes (about 3 tbs of zest and 3 tsp of juice)
1 cup (4 oz) shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 325°F and butter a loaf pan. You can also take the added step of lining the bottom with a parchment “sling” that covers the long sides but not the short sides. This makes it easier to take the cake out of the pan when it’s done. Also line a baking sheet with foil and put it on the lower rack of the oven.***

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and lime zest with your fingertips until the dry ingredients are fragrant from the lime oil. Using an electric mixer, beat the coconut oil and sugar for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until it is well combined and slightly fluffy. Add the water and then the eggs one at a time, beating in between each egg. Pour in the lime juice and beat until well combined. Pour in the flour mixture, reduce the speed to low, and beat until just incorporated but some streaks of flour are still showing. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to mix in any leftover flour and add ¾ cup of the pistachio. Beat until the batter is fully combined, no more than a minute. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining pistachios.

Bake the cake, rotating it halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top is dark brown, which should take about 1 hour. Transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool completely in the pan. Run a sharp knife along the short ends of the pan to loosen the cake; then pull up on the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan.

*If you’re new to coconut oil, please note that coconut oil and coconut butter are NOT interchangeable. Coconut oil is just the oil extracted from the coconut which is solid at room temperature (technically making it a fat). Coconut butter is a puree of the coconut meat which contains the oil but also solids.

**If you’ve looked at the original recipe you may wonder where this added water is coming from. Well, most commercial butter is only about 80% fat and 15% water; the other 5% is air. If you’re substituting another fat for butter in a recipe, it’s generally a good idea to only add 80% of the fat called for and add some water to mimic the composition of butter. Not adding the water can lead to a drier end product.

***The batter of this cake comes up close to the top of the loaf pan and it almost inevitably will leak a little on the floor of your oven. That is, unless you have a sheet pan to catch the drips. Yes, I learned this one the hard way.

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