I was lamenting in December that what I missed most about working at a bakery was the company of other bakers. But maybe I just need to bake with my foodie friends more often, because I had a rather lovely time baking whoopie pies last weekend with Mary (of The Arugula Files) and Olga (of Mango and Tomato). Although, I admit that I did quite a bit of ordering around. Once a baking manager, always a baking manager.
We chose whoopie pies because Mary put them on her culinary resolutions list – and they’re, you know, kind of delicious. I picked a recipe from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, because every time I look through that book the photos call to me like sugary, perfectly styled sirens. And I’ve been on the hunt for a new whoopie pie recipe these days, so why not kill two birds with one stone?
The day started with a delicious brunch supplied by Mary and Olga, followed by much girl talk (and a deep discussion of what we all have for breakfast), followed by “oh yeah, right, we have to bake, right?”
The pies came together pretty easily – the hardest part is dissolving the cocoa powder in coffee and whisking out all the lumps. The filling is a Swiss buttercream, which Mary and Olga had never made before. It was fun to show them how cool it is when the buttercream magically transforms from curdled goop to a fluffy, shiny, beautiful frosting. I also showed them how to pipe the pie batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets (tip – hold a round tip at 90 degrees about ¼ inch from the pan – press firmly on the pastry bag and count to three, then stop the pressure and pull up. If you’re using the same pressure and counting at the same speed, all your pies should theoretically be the same size. Theoretically).
However, I still haven’t found my perfect whoopie pie recipe yet. These pies were pretty, but they were too sweet for my taste. The chocolate cake tasted more of sugar than chocolate, and the buttercream was very sweet – the ratio of sugar to egg whites to butter definitely uses more sugar than the one I usually use. This definitely confirmed my observation that Baked favors southern-style recipes, which are usually very sweet. It’s not that there’s something wrong with the book, I just like a little less sugar in my whoopies.
Still, it was an experiment that was definitely worth it! I want to make these co-baking and blogging adventures a regular treat.
Chocolate Whoopie Pies
From Baked Explorations, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Yields 10-12 large whoopie pies, 15-17 small pies
3 1/2 cups (17.5 oz) All Purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (2.18 oz) dark cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) hot coffee
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) hot water
2 cups (15.32 oz) light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup (6 fl oz) canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) buttermilk, shaken
Swiss vanilla filling (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the AP flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Pour the hot coffee and hot water over the cocoa mixture and whisk until the mixture is completely smooth.
In another medium bowl, combine the canola oil and light brown sugar. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture.
Spoon into a piping bag and pipe into 2 inch rounds on prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart (or scoop onto sheets with a small scoop).
Bake 10-15 minutes, until the cookies crack slightly on top and spring back in the center when gently pressed. Let cool completely, then remove from sheet with an offset spatula. Pipe or scoop half of the rounds with the filling. Top each piped round with another cookie and serve.
Swiss vanilla filling
5 egg whites
1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz) sugar
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites and sugar. Place over a pan of simmering water and gently whisk until the sugar dissolves (test this by dipping your finger into the mixture – when you can no longer feel grains of sugar when you rub the mixture between your fingers, then the sugar has dissolved) – the mixture will be slightly warmer than body temperature.
Transfer bowl to mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth, white, and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add the butter, one piece at a time. Add sea salt and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Beat until the filling is smooth and glossy (it may look curdled, but just continue to beat – eventually the mixture will come together).