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

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that if you screw up, you may never be forgiven. So, to aid you in achieving the goal of a successful Mother’s Day, I’m offering a few tips. If you were tuning in for a food post today, sorry. But food is mentioned, so maybe keep reading.

Mothers are not hard people to please. I know this because they wear necklaces made of macaroni noodles as if they were of rarest gold, they exclaim over someone using the potty in the actual potty, and they will snuggle you even when you have the most fierce morning breath and have food stuck in your hair. They have an amazing capacity to make the best out of things and lift you up when you feel like you can’t possibly feel better. And yet, it seems that many mothers are let down on Mother’s Day. It need not be this way.

A small gift and a card

A small gift and a card goes a long way on Mother’s Day. No, a chocolate rose from 7-11 doesn’t count as a small gift. How do you know what Mom might like? Ask yourself, what would Mom do if she didn’t have to be Mom? Would she read a book? Garden? Go to dinner with her girlfriends? Take a walk? Go to the bathroom alone? What kind of gift can you get her that would help her pursue her pleasure? No, not toilet paper, but maybe a lock for the bathroom door and some earplugs. Fling back the shower curtain and sniff the bottles. What bottle smells most like Mom? Buy her more of that.

What she doesn’t want is something the folks on TV are pushing. If you see a commercial telling you how much Mom would love a vacuum, necklace, or deodorant, ask yourself, should I believe everything I see on TV? Unless Mom has asked specifically for the Jane Seymour Open Heart necklace, she probably doesn’t want one.

Mother’s Day doesn’t end at the small gift and card

This is where the wheels fall off the wagon. Picture it: Mom is awakened with breakfast made in her honor. She smiles, cuddles everyone, chokes down the coffee and over-done toast. But then what? Does she walk downstairs to find dishes, coffee grounds, and eggshells everywhere? Let’s hope not. What will make YOUR Mom’s day is this phrase, pay attention, this is the key: YOU DO IT. What?? I do it? What does this mean??? Here’s a decoder chart you can use.

  • At the first noise from kids, cat, or dog, YOU get up and handle it. Soothe the kid, feed the cat, let the dog out. DO NOT WAIT for Mom to roll over and give you the look or the elbow. Just LEAP out of bed at the first moment you notice something’s up.
  • Meals are your gig today too, all three of them! Maybe you can’t cook an extravagant (or even mediocre) meal. Do you have fingers? Can you order a pizza? Can you pick up a bucket of chicken? YES! You CAN! So do it.
  • YOU do the dishes. Yep, we don’t care if it’s paper plates every meal. Just don’t expect Mom to get up and do dishes on Mother’s Day.
  • Let Mom shower in peace while YOU referee a fight between kids, choose Sunday clothes for church, and put Suzie’s hair up. YOU do it. And while you’re at it, no one under four feet tall should be banging on the bathroom door. YOU stop them.
  • Is there vomit or poop between the bedroom and the coffee pot? Don’t step over it as if you don’t see it. YOU clean it up!
  • Suggest Mom go take a nap or read a book in the afternoon. Then YOU play with the kids. No, not while watching the hockey game. YOU go out with them, YOU find the bubbles, YOU keep them from killing themselves on the swing set. And under NO circumstances should someone go and get Mom unless the house is on fire.
  • Kill the Honey-Do list. Remember all the little tasks she’s mentioned? Knock them out. Likely as not, she does your laundry, cooks your meals, cleans your house, totes kids and pets, buys groceries, pays bills, and fights with the cable company on a daily basis. It won’t kill you to clean up the dog poop, fix a squeaky door, or put some windshield washer fluid in her car. Really it won’t.
  • Yes, you MUST get your wife something for Mother’s Day even though she’s not your Mother. She gave birth to your children and hasn’t eaten them yet. She deserves a gift.

A note about single moms

I have spent my fair share of Mother’s Days as a single mother. And sometimes it’s one of the most painful days of the year. I can recall sitting in church listening to other Mom’s tell all about the fun things they were going to do with their families, while all I had to look forward to was a long day alone with a toddler. Many single Moms may have families of their own to visit. But some of them don’t. Some of them would LOVE to be invited to your cookout, or get a card or some flowers when her child is too young to be able to provide something for her. It’s not about the gift, it’s about her being equal to a Mom who has a spouse. Often, single Moms are treated like second-class citizens, as if they are contagious. Remember, it could happen to you in the blink of an eye. Most of us don’t set out to be single with kids. It’s not that it’s twice as hard, it’s exponentially more difficult to do it alone.

Don’t forget other mothers, too

Maybe you’ve got your Mom and Grandma covered, that’s great! Don’t forget that there may be other Mothers that are alone or lonely on Mother’s Day. Daughters who have lost their own Mother may be sad, older Mothers whose kids live far away may be alone. Please make a point to reach out and include these ladies. It could make their day! There may also be other women who mother your child in your absence. A daycare provider, a step-mother, the mother of your child’s friend. You are not in competition with these women. You will always be Mom. But don’t overlook the significance they have in your child’s life. They provide an important influence when you’re not around. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them. No child ever suffered from being loved too much by too many people.

I hope all the Moms out there have a great Mother’s Day. And if all else fails, they’ll go back to school and work Monday, you can go to the bathroom alone then. Happy Mother’s Day!

Easter Lunch

I think you’ll understand how my day is going if I tell you I’m writing this at the car repair shop. And that this is the third repair shop the car has been at this week. And I’m sick. And feverish. And frustrated. It’s been that kind of week. Do you have these weeks? I feel like life has been beating us up a bit lately.

But, it’s almost Easter, a season of hope. And it’s spring, what could be more uplifting than little green shoots forcing themselves up out of the ground? The weather here has been beautiful. I’m trying to take a few minutes each morning to just soak in the spring air, the beautiful view of my backyard, and be grateful that God has given me another day, another chance.

Photo courtesy of JJ Harrison (http://www.noodlesnacks.com/)

I hope life is treating you well. And, if not, I hope you know that you’re not alone. That there is some peace to be had. I’m hoping that by the time we get to church on Sunday morning I can feel some of that peace in my bones, soak it up, and let it be the salve that my wounds need.

Photo courtesy pf CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

But enough sad blithering, you’re here for the food, right? So let’s talk about Easter food. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m pretty traditional in my holiday menus. I like to mix it up for parties, but I find that my family appreciates the more traditional foods at the holiday. Here’s the Easter menu.

  • Ham
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Asparagus
  • Peas or lima beans
  • Potato Salad
  • Deviled eggs
  • Rolls
  • Dessert (usually a springy cake)
  • Tea

Um, starch much? Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad. It’s one meal. We have protein and vegetables, too.

I don’t have lots of prep photos for you today, but I will share my recipes with you. None of this is hard. You can easily make this meal, even if you’re headed to church. I still manage to get the whole meal on the table at noon, we go to the 8:30 am service.

The day before:

  • Prep the ham – If you want to take the path of least resistance, get a spiral cut ham and prepare it according to the package directions. The key to making it awesome is garnishing. Once the ham is done (and they only require heating, not cooking) let it rest, then place it on your serving platter. Surround it by some dark (cheap) lettuces or herbs from your garden. If you have a few oranges or pineapples, slice those up and place them around the tray. Voila! No one will know Paula Deen isn’t in your kitchen.
  • Make the tea. Set the table. Put out all the platters and serving pieces you’ll need for tomorrow. Label them with post-its in case people show up and want to “help”.
  • Boil the macaroni noodles. It’s best to slightly undercook them because you want them to absorb the wonderful creamy sauce you’re going to make on the fly tomorrow.
  • Snap the ends off the asparagus, but keep them in water just as you would cut flowers. You can also use a vegetable peeler to shave down the stems. Don’t throw away the ends and peels, save them for soup or stock. Or compost, that’s fine too.
  • Make the potato salad. Oh, how I wish I cold share a recipe with you. But alas, I make it much the way my mom and grandma do, by taste and sight. Here’s a recipe that would be a good jumping off point. I would add a little sour cream and a tiny tiny bit of mustard to this. Most importantly, use a firm potato, fingerlings are my favorite. You don’t want a mushy potato for potato salad. And in our house, potato salad isn’t a garish yellow nor does it include pickles or pickle relish of any kind. If you like it that way, find your own recipe. :) Slice some hard-boiled eggs on top.
  • Make the Deviled Eggs. There is nothing more wonderful than a perfect deviled egg. But again, no pickles or pickle relish here. And no paprika on top. Only things that add to the flavor. Hard boil your eggs, peel them, slice them in half and remove the yolk. Mix the yolk with good, full fat mayo, a tiny bit of mustard, and garlic salt to taste. I like to make it a little saltier the day before then let them sit overnight in the fridge. Like the potato salad, they taste better the next day.
  • If you want to make homemade rolls, you want to start them today. Honey Butter Wheat Rolls would be awesome! But, because you might be rushing home from church, I’d recommend buying frozen roll dough from your grocery store and just thawing overnight in the fridge.
  • Make your dessert. I love a beautiful coconut cake, white and fluffy, or some kind of fruit dessert. This is one of my FAVORITE spring desserts. This Bunny Butt Cake from Betty Crocker is all over Pinterest. Personally, I would make it with a real cake, not a cake mix cake, but again, don’t kill yourself over it. A cake out of a box isn’t the worst thing ever. Icing out of a can is. My Nana used to make this bunny cake.

Photo courtesy of Betty Crocker

Easter Sunday: I find it helpful to create a timeline of when things need to go on the stove or into the oven. Work back from the time you want to eat. For instance, if you want to eat at noon and the ham needs to cook and rest for a total of 75 minutes you’ll want to start it no later than 10:45, but I’d shoot for 10:30. The mac and cheese needs 20 minutes of oven time and about 10 minutes on the stove. So you’d need to start it no later than 11:30. See where I’m going here? It’s also helpful to have this plan in case someone offers to help. Then you can tell them exactly what needs to be done. Little kids can put ice in the glasses, set out the butter, remind folks to wash up. Grown ups can follow behind, pouring tea and placing pre-prepared items on the table. Everyone else can get the heck out of the kitchen. Oh, wait, did I say that?

  • Heat the ham according to package directions. Let it rest. Garnish as mentioned above.
  • Make the cheese sauce for the Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below), assemble, and bake.
  • Boil water and steam asparagus.
  • Heat milk and butter to cook peas or lima beans.
  • Grease your muffin tin. Let the rolls rise. Put rolls in the oven and bake.
  • Dish up the potato salad and Deviled Eggs, garnish the Deviled Eggs with chives if you like. Spring onions would also be fine.
  • Pour the tea.
  • Put out butter for the rolls.
  • Done. Sit and enjoy!

Macaroni & Cheese

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/4 cup store-bought or 3/4 cup homemade breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound grated white cheddar cheese (4 cups)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces cream cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and 8×8 or 9×9 pan. In a small bowl, toss 1 tablespoon melted butter with breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup cheddar.
  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook macaroni until al dente, according to package instructions; drain.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add cream cheese, cut into cubes, stir until melted, 2 minutes. Gradually stir in remaining cheddar until melted, 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Bake until bubbling, 10 minutes. Remove from the oven; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until golden, 10 minutes more.

What does your family like to eat for Easter? Are you brunch, lunch, or dinner people? Do you eat out or does someone cook?

Hoppy Easter!

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?