Oh My! Whoopie Pie!

I go the library a lot. I don’t usually browse, but order my books online then retrieve them at the library. The wonderful folks at the library are kind enough to cull and shelve the books for me, but have also placed a large selection of cookbooks, my personal favorite, next to the reserved pick-up area. The Whoopie Pie Book caught my eye on such a pick-up day. I snagged it and brought it home. The cover is lovely and the information inside is even better! The books author, Claire Ptak, makes the recipes straightforward and easy to follow, though the icing creation is a bit intense, it’s not difficult and well worth the effort..

There are 60 recipes for the popular cake sandwiches, which seem to have become as ubiquitous as the cupcake. Like the cupcakes, I’ve eaten a few whoopie pies, and found many of them lacking. While I appreciate the need to make them quickly, using a boxed cake mix (or worse, canned icing, which I can barely force past my lips these days) does these tender little cakes a disservice. Once I narrowed in on which recipe I wanted to try first, I quickly knew this was THE way to make these wonderful little cakes.

My baby sister had a birthday coming, so I whipped up a batch in her honor. I chose the Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies with Chocolate Marshmallow filling, which I knew she would like. Conveniently, I had the ingredients for these on hand! Sadly, she never got any of the whoopie pies, we ate them all.

Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

Recipes from The Whoopie Pie Book, copyright © Claire Ptak, 2011. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

  • 2 c (280g) all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 9 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in the salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in measuring cup and add this to the mixture, beating until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients in two batches until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. Try to avoid stuffing all the batter straight into your face.
  3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. I use a Silpat.
  4. Using a small scoop (or two teaspoons) drop 18 large or 48 small scoops of batter about two inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes (large) or 8-10 minutes (small), until the cakes are left with a slight indent when touched with a finger. Do not over bake.
  5. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Marshmallow Filling

  • 4 oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 T light corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a tan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off and let the chocolate cool.
  2. Return the pan of water to a boil. Place remaining ingredients into the stainless steel bowl of  a standing mixer, then place the bowl over the boiling water. Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is frothy and slightly opaque (10-15 minutes).
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer to mixer. Whip using a whisk attachment on high speed until it is white and holds its shape. Fold in the  melted chocolate. Ice the cooled whoopie pies immediately.

Don’t be daunted by the icing preparation. I got Mr. Bundt to whip and he felt important. He is also taller and has more muscles than me, so it gave me the opportunity to stroke his ego a bit. Then I fed him these. Now he thinks I’m the best thing ever. Win/win I’d say.

The icing recipe makes plenty, so stuff your pies as full of icing as you can stand. I like just enough to wet them down a little, but you can do yours your way! These would be lots of fun to assemble with kids. Let them fill the sandwiches, then you could roll the edges in sprinkles, chopped nuts, tiny chocolate chips, whatever you like. If you’re too chicken to make the icing, how about filling them with a scoop of ice cream?

Can’t get enough whoopie pies? Check out these recipes!

The Pioneer Woman’s Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Whoopie Pies by bakerella

Advertisements

Spinach & Feta Tartlets

By the time Friday evening rolls around, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking another meal. Usually I’m tired, lately it’s been hot, and half of the time the little Bundlet is at her dad’s. Mr. Bundt rolls in around 8pm (if he’s early) and around 10pm (if he’s late). So I often end up eating alone and heating up his dinner when he gets home. Usually I have a frozen casserole or one-dish-dinner of some sort I can pop in the oven while I catch up on the news or take a quick nap. But I’ve had these tartlets on my radar for some time now and thought it would be a great, easy Friday night dinner. Of course, you could have them for lunch, they’d be great with a little salad. I would even eat them for a savory breakfast.

We have a little pastry shop in town that has stuffed croissants, one of my favorites is spinach and feta (my other favorite is chocolate stuffed, sooo good) and these are similar to those, also simpler than making your own croissants which could literally take days.

Spinach & Feta Tartlets

adapted from a recipe from Sweet Paul

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a pan.

Fry the shallots until soft. I used the mandolin to get thin slices. If you have one, great, use it and watch your fingers. If not, a sharp knife will work just fine.

Add the spinach a little at a time, letting it wilt, stirring the wilted spinach to the top and moving the firm leaves toward the heat.

This is what the wilted spinach and shallots will look like when they’re done.

Mix the feta, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

Then add the wilted spinach mixture. Mix well.

I have little tart pans (Wilton brand, from Walmart). I’m sure you could make one large tart if you have a regular tart pan. You could probably also make these pouches sans pans too. Just make sure to wrap them up well so the tops don’t pop open and leak.

Brush four small tart pans with butter and layer them with phyllo. Brush phyllo with butter between each layer, use 4-5 layers. Make sure you keep the phyllo covered with a wet towel while you’re working. It will be a hot mess if you don’t. Also, if it tears, don’t sweat it. By the time you finish piling the extra dough on top no one will ever know. I swear. And if you’re thinking about making your own phyllo, may the force be with you, you’ve obviously got a sadistic streak. Even I wouldn’t touch that job with a ten-foot-spatula.

Here’s something I learned after my first tart. I was working with giganto sized phyllo sheets. For the first tart I ended up with a lot more phyllo than I thought would taste good. For the three ensuing tarts, I folded each phyllo sheet in half, brushed with butter and it worked wonderfully.

Spoon 1/4 of the spinach and egg mixture in to each of the tarts.

Fold the edges of the phyllo over the filling.

See? Cute! Repeat with the remaining tarts. Make sure to brush the tops with butter.

See the giganto tart? I told Mr. Bundt I made that one for him, special. Men will believe anything. Really.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the phyllo is crispy and golden brown.

Sorry for the lowlight [food] porn looking photos. It was late, I was tired. See paragraph one.

These are so quick and easy! I think they’d be perfect with a nice piece of salmon and a small salad. They would also be beautiful for a shower or luncheon!

The filling is no nice! The salty feta with the earthy spinach is a wonderful combination. I hope you’ll give it a try!

What do you like to cook on a lazy night? Do you have any go-to simple dinners?

Spring Food: Asparagus Tart with Ricotta

It’s spring here, but it’s definitely felt like summer. I refuse to turn on the air conditioning in March, so it’s been pretty steamy here in the evenings. By that time the house has heated up to the point where I don’t feel like cooking anything. What do you do when this happens? I’ll confess that we’ve had some cereal/sandwich dinners, but I really try to limit those. In the summer I’d serve a “cold supper”, mostly vegetables, but it’s spring, there aren’t really any vegetables in season. So I turned to a light tart. You can make this in the morning before things heat up. Eat it at room temperature, or cool it in the fridge and microwave yourself a slice in the evening. It would also be great on your Easter buffet!

This tart comes from the wonderful Sweet Paul, Spring 2012 edition. Paul is a person, but it’s also the name of his beautiful e-magazine. It’s amazing! Take a minute to check out Paul on his blog or the magazine. This recipe and many others can be found there. But it’s not just about the food. There’s a lot of other stuff too. And it’s just beautiful to look at, I can’t overstate that!

Asparagus Tart with Ricotta

Recipe courtesy of Sweet Paul Magazine, Spring 2012

  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 2-3 T cold water
  • 1 lg egg
  • 7 oz ricotta (I used part skim)
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed

This crust is so good! And easy to make. It calls for salted butter, which I normally don’t use. If you don’t have any, toss a bit of salt into your flour mixture. This tart is not meant to be fussy, it’s fine if it’s a little rustic. That’s code for “not perfect.”

Put the flour in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and add the butter to the flour.

Quickly work the butter into the flour using your hands. I use a snapping motion with my fingers to work in the butter. You can use a pastry cutter if you like, but clean fingers are God’s gift to cooks, use them.

You’re looking for a grainy or mealy texture. It doesn’t have to be consistent. You want some little butter globs in the dough. These melt in the oven and release steam which makes the crust light and flaky. And in case you think you don’t learn something every day, there you go, a bit of chemistry.

Add the water one tablespoon at a time and work the dough together quickly. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. My tart pan is nine inches, so I used the nine inch guide to roll out my crust. I also keep a metal ruler (dishwasher safe) in the kitchen to help me get my measurements correct. But this pastry mat is invaluable. Here’s a link to a bunch of different kinds if you want to check them out.

See? Not perfect. No sweat. Use the guides on the mat to cut the circle, or use the tart pan to cut the circle. Or, you can do what I do and just make the pan accommodate the dough. It depends on how perfect you want to be. It will all taste the same, I assure you.

Do you know this trick? To move the dough I roll it around my rolling pin and lay it gently in the pan. It’s easier than folding it or trying to drag it up over the lip of the tart pan. But you do it your way.

Place the dough in the tart pan and press to fit. Prick the bottom with a fork and put the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill it with beans or pie weights. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, remove from the oven, take out the foil and beans, then cool a bit. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees.

This method is called blind baking. See, again with the knowledge!

In a bowl, beat together the egg, ricotta, cream, milk, salt, and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the tart and nestle the asparagus spears on top. Scooch a few into the edges if your pan is round like mine. Put the filled shell back on the baking sheet and bake another 20 minutes (mine took closer to 30) until golden and set in the middle.

Serve hot or cold.

This was such a great supper! I hope you’ll give it a try! I also hope you’ll check out my Facebook page for other links and info!

What do you cook when it’s too hot to cook? Anything you crave when the weather gets warm? For me it’s Mexican and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Weird, huh?

Working Lunch Part Two: Lemon Almond Tart

Lunch is one of my three favorite meals of the day. Sadly, I usually eat lunch standing at the kitchen counter wolfing down some leftovers. But still, there are worse things. I was delighted to make this working lunch and even more excited to eat it. There will be some posts forthcoming with recipes from the amazing Sweet Paul Magazine, Spring 2012, which if you’re not reading, you totally should be. The food is great but the magazine itself is a work of art! Today’s recipe is from that magazine and is the dessert from the working lunch, Lemon Almond Tart. And it’s soooooooo good! It would be perfect for your Easter table!

Don’t be intimidated by the lemon curd. This recipe makes it simple, just follow the instructions.

Lemon Almond Tart

Recipe courtesy of Sweet Paul Magazine, Spring 2012

Dough:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 1⁄2 cups plain flour
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1 1⁄4 sticks salted butter, cold and in pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Filling:

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1⁄2 cup lemon juice
  • 3⁄4 stick salted butter, cold and in pieces

candied lemon, optional

Place almond meal, flour, and sugar in a bowl and mix. Add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingers. The result should be grainy. Add egg and lemon zest and quickly work the dough together. If it seems dry, just add a few tablespoons of ice water. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour. After an hour, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Take out the dough and roll it out to a thin crust. Place in a greased pie tin or tart dish. Use a fork to prick the bottom. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Place over a hot water bath and add zest, lemon juice, and butter. Beat mixture until it becomes thick and creamy. Pour into the pie crust and cool until serving.

Decorate with candied lemons if desired.

I had never worked with almond meal before, but it’s pretty tasty and gluten free! Once you add the cold butter (note that it’s salted) work it into the dry ingredients by snapping it with your fingers. Use this snapping motion to break down the butter and integrate it into the dry mix. I added about two tablespoons of ice water to get my dough to come together. It’s not the easiest dough to work, but it is forgiving so don’t stress.

Pat it together in a nice disk, wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge. After at least an hour, roll the dough out on a floured surface. I made my circle about nine inches because my tart pan is nine inches. This left me some dough which I cut into strips, baked off, and served as an afternoon snack. Very lemony and very yummy!

Many pies and tarts (quiches, too!) call for blind baking the shell. It’s simple. Line the shell with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. You won’t want to used these beans after they’ve been baked, so store them in an airtight container for the next time you need them. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until shell is stable and starts to brown. Remove the shell from the oven and take out the beans and foil. If your crust looks a little anemic (read: pale) stick it back in for another 3-4 minutes. The tart will not be baked so the shell needs to be cooked through.

Once the shell is done, set it aside to cool on a rack and begin the curd.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering (not boiling!) water and add the zest, lemon juice, and butter. Stir, stir, and stir some more. The curd will thicken and darken slightly to a more rich yellow color. Once the curd has thickened, pour it into the tart shell.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. That’s it! Super simple and perfect for spring!

For our working lunch, I set the tart on the side table. I served it like this!

It has a nice tang to it, not super sweet. You could also serve it with a mint sprig or some homemade whipped cream. Either would be lovely!

What do you like to serve for spring? Do you have a favorite Easter dessert?

Spring Birthday Party

Crocuses

It’s spring here! Guess how I can tell? These crocuses were actually a little late to the party, my daffodils had already bloomed before these guys got started. But they’re pretty sweet!

I can also tell you that spring is coming because we’re in full swing with the birthday season here. My Mom and Grandma have birthdays about two weeks apart, so we gathered to celebrate both. I thought I’d share them with you!

The menu was: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches, Kale and White Bean Soup, Green Salad, and Revelatory Caramel Cake.

I also made some PB&J and turkey sandwiches for little ones who might not care of the regular sandwiches. Do you dig my green St. Pattie’s Day nails?

Several years ago I bought the biggest table that would fit in my dining room. I don’t really believe in a table for the kids that’s separate from the adults. How are the supposed to learn to act like humans if they never eat with them? So I got a big bench where lots of little butts can schooch in together.

And this is how I set up my table. I believe in cloth napkins and centerpieces, though we usually have so much food that a centerpiece is kicked to the side. A centerpiece doesn’t need to be an expensive, fussy deal from a florist. My forsythia were already starting to bloom, so a few days before the party I brought some in so they would have time to acclimate to the warmth of the house and open up.

Several years ago I also invested in some rather inexpensive white plates (with matching bowls and salad/dessert plates) and silverware. Enough for 10-12 place settings. We don’t use them everyday, but when we have a special occasion I like to use them. The white is nice because you can add any color plate, placemat, tablecloth, whatever, and it coordinates. These special meals are my gift to my family and I want them to look as beautiful as a wonderfully wrapped present (which I don’t do).

Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

I served these Chicken Caesar Sandwiches for a luncheon a few days prior and am totally addicted to them. My family loved them too! What a great sandwich!

Chicken Caesar Sandwich

Recipe courtesy Barefoot Contessa

  • 2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (I also use a whole rotisserie chicken in a pinch)
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste (don’t be tempted to omit this, stop being a chicken and give it a try, it doesn’t taste fishy, I swear!)
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 large ciabatta bread
  • 2 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
  • 2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

(Skip this step if using a rotisserie chicken). Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds crosswise. Serve at room temperature.

A simple green salad, just dressed mixed greens and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese is a great accompaniment for a flavorful sandwich like the one above. You don’t want the flavors in the sandwich and the salad to compete. Mark Bittman has a lot of great vinaigrettes you can mix up quickly. WAY better than that fat-laden stuff out of a bottle!

Since I served the soup hot, and don’t like to be pointing the camera at my hungry family while they’re trying to eat, there aren’t any soup photos. But here’s the recipe. It’s a great soup. I make a big batch and use it for lunches or a quick dinner.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Recipe courtesy of Real Simple

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, celery, onion, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the beans, pasta, kale, rosemary, 8 cups water, and Parmesan rind (if using). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the pasta and kale are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the Parmesan rind. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan before serving.

Revelatory Caramel Cake
No birthday would be complete without cake! I had a hard time committing to a cake. I wanted one that everyone would like (thereby eliminating coconut) but I also wanted something different than what I normally do (thereby eliminating chocolate). So I decided on a Caramel Cake and it was a great choice. It was soooo good! I had been hanging onto this recipe since it appeared in Food & Wine, September 2010.

Revelatory Caramel Cake

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine 

from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Cake

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
Icing
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter three 8-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and flour the pans, tapping out the excess.

In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of milk. Beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Beat in the egg white mixture in 3 batches.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes and let cool completely.

In a saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms. Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves. Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235° on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Strain the caramel into the bowl of a standing mixer. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes. Let icing cool at least another 15 minutes, longer if your work area is warm.

Set 1 cake layer on a plate. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top. Top with a second cake layer and cover it with icing. Add the final cake layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the cake. Let the cake stand for 2 hours to set the icing before serving.

Tip: This cake is even better the day after it’s made.

Once lunch was over the cousins got to play. This is my niece and my daughter.

We checked out a little more nature in our yard.

And acted silly! See the nice shiner my niece gave herself? It’s hard to be little!

How does your family celebrate big days? Is it a small group of a few or a big extended family? If you could have any birthday cake in the world, what would it be?