Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Big Woop

Atlanta is completely iced over as I write this.  I am not kidding.  It's like one huge skating rink around here.

I know you folks up in Massachusetts and Chicago are laughing at us, but it is what it is.  We got a big 'ol snowfall last night, followed by sleet and freezing rain today, so we ended up with a thick layer of ice atop a thick layer of snow.  Schools are closed, grocery stores are closed and even the airport is all but shut down.  Jacknifed tractor-trailer rigs have closed down the highways and abandoned cars are everywhere.  Driving anywhere is impossible.  Not that anyplace is open anyway.  This city is virtually shut down.

All of this makes for a great snow day (the kids on our street are proof of that) but here's the bad news ... temps aren't expected to get above freezing for ANOTHER 5 DAYS!  Oh dear.  Henry and I may kill each other by then if we are stuck in the house together for that long.  I'm not kidding about that, either!

The good news is that we were invited to dinner last night at our friends' house.  The better news is that they live next door, so no driving was necessary.   Whoopie!

Which brings me to my dessert contribution to that dinner.  Since our friends have two engaging little boys, (oh, the memories!) I wanted to bring something "kid-friendly."  Whoopie pies, anyone?

There is a lot of debate these days about whether whoopie pies have replaced cupcakes as the next trendy "thing."  Maybe, maybe not.  I just know a lot of folks seem to think so.  Even Nabisco jumped on the bandwagon with their "Oreo Cakesters."   (Do not accuse me of eating these.  I took this photo in the grocery store and I promise on the lives of my dogs that these things have NEVER graced my pantry shelves).

But here's the deal with Whoopie Pies.  THEY ARE FUN!!  You giggle when you eat them, kind of like when you go to Miller-Union here in Atlanta and treat yourself to one of their ice cream sandwiches (served at lunch only) which come in flavors like "butterscotch-marshmallow" or "cardamom pepper."  Happy food!


So when I decided to make whoopie pies, I turned to my new favorite baking gurus, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of BAKED. Here is their version. I normally tinker with recipes, but not this one. It's absolutely perfect as written. The only thing they forgot to include were the giggles and laughter!

CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES (from “Baked Explorations” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

For the cookies:
3 ½ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
½ cup hot coffee
½ cup hot water
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ cup canola oil
1 egg (I used extra-large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powders. Add the hot coffee and water and stir until dissolved.

In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk. Whisk until smooth.

Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.  Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping spoonfuls of the dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the cookies just start to crack on top. Do not overbake. Let cool slightly in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

For the filling:
5 egg whites (I used extra-large)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, slightly softened, but still cool in middle
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is milky white, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter, one cube at a time, and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla and beat to combine.

To assemble:
Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up).

Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookies. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all of the cookies are used. Place the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up slightly before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Yield: 29 cookies, enough for 14 pies with one cookie left for the cook

A couple of things.....

* The scoop I used was a 1.75 oz scoop which resulted in a 3 1/2-inch diameter cookie. A perfect size.

* I found it helpful to chill the dough briefly before scooping (about 15 minutes). Additionally, I put the unused dough back in the fridge while waiting to use it.

* When you scoop the dough, use a wet finger to smooth the edges so you end up with pretty rounds of baked cookies.

* Don't overbake. Remove them from the oven just as they start to crack on the top. I can't speak for your oven, but 11 minutes max was the sweet spot for mine. It's also good to rotate the pans halfway during the baking process.

*I was probably too cautious, but I only baked 6 at a time on one baking sheet. I put two pans in the oven at a time and just made sure I rotated them. It worked for me.

* More frosting is better, if you ask me.

Since I am a prisoner in my house this week, I have nothing to do but bake.  I will not be losing any weight over the next few days.


  1. Oh I am so jealous! Times like this (after reading your article), I really wish we lived CLOSER! Love you!

  2. Is there a vanilla whoopie pie version? I am going to investigate. So good to see you today, even if just for a few minutes.