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

Veggie Pita With Hummus & Feta

It’s been too long friends! Spring Break hit us over the head, then a few days out of town, plus regular life stuff, and now I’m just getting back up to speed! So sorry for the absence. I brought you a rather wonderful sandwich today, so hopefully you’ll forgive me. Or at least have your mouth so full that you can’t complain.

I love sandwiches. Hot, cold, white bread, buns, whatever. I love them. This pita stuffed with goodness is no different. I’ve eaten this sandwich like it’s my JOB for about the last two months. It’s that good. And it’s meatless. Which is kind of just an added bonus. 

It’s super easy to assemble, I’d recommend doing a lot of chopping at once so you can just pull what you need each day. You’re going to want to eat this all week, so no reason not to.

Ingredients

recipe adapted from Cooking Light

If you have a mandoline type slicer this can go super fast. I have a cheapo one from Crate & Barrel so don’t feel like you have to spend a ton on one. And if you don’t have one at all, that’s cool too. Don’t sweat it.

Thinly slice the radish and cucumber. Chop the red onion into small pieces. I want to take a bite and not have stuff hanging out of my mouth. If you like, add a little lemon zest to the hummus, it adds a nice dimension. Slice your pita in two.

Smear the hummus on the inside of the pita. Add the greens (baby lettuces, spinach, mache, whatever you like), cukes, radishes, and red onion. If you like, a little salt and pepper is also fine. But the feta is salty so you might want to try it without salt first. Then, sprinkle on the feta cheese. Presto! A magic and wonderful little lunch! Of course you could add meat if you like, but it’s perfectly satisfying without it. As the season provides them, I’m sure some tomatoes would also be great tucked inside.

I sliced up a little mango to go along with mine. You can choose whatever your normal lunch accoutrements are. Sweet potato chips are also tasty.

What do you think? Would you give it a try? I could definitely see serving these at a luncheon, they’re easy to make and perfect light eating for spring and summer. You just FEEL healthier eating them.

Do you have a favorite sandwich? Will you eat the same thing over and over, or do you always fix something new?

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?

Bake the Blog: Easy English Muffin Bread

I’ve been feeling some breakfast frustration lately. Does that ever happen to you? I have a pretty standard set of three or four things that I eat regularly. Lately I’ve been trying to drop a few pounds, so I like to have some protein in the morning. It helps get me through til lunch. However, eating a solitary egg doesn’t seem like much of a breakfast. I like my eggs runny and it’s nice to have something to dip in them or put them on. So, I turned to English muffins. Or, well, I tried to turn to English muffins. Have you tried English muffins lately? They’re not how I remember them. They were a colossal disappointment. In my head they were crispy and chewy with little pools of butter in those nooks and crannies. That’s not how they were in real life.

So, I set out on the interwebs to find a recipe to make my own. And, frankly, English muffins seemed like a lot of work. More than I had time for anyway. What about English muffin bread? I’ve always loved it. Let’s be honest, it’s bread, of course I love it. But I’m kind of picky about my internet recipes. I have to trust that this isn’t someone impersonating a bread lover and passing me a crummy recipe. I found this one I’d like to make, but, I can’t be trusted with that many loaves of bread. So when this one popped up in my blogroll from My Baking Addiction, a blog I’ve cooked from before and know to be a good source, it was ON.

This bread is quick and easy. Definitely worth a shot. But a note here, English muffin bread is good toasted. I wouldn’t eat it any other way. But that’s just me. You do it your way. Then remind me that I’m right.

English Muffin Bread

recipe courtesy of My Baking Addiction

3 cups All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Gather the ingredients

With the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, blend the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast.

Mix the dry ingredients

In a bowl, combine the milk, water, and oil. Microwave until the temperature of the mixture reaches 120-130 degrees. This took about 1:15 in my microwave, but check at intervals. Make sure to stir the mixture before you check the temperature. The mixture should be pretty warm to the touch. As you can see, I let mine get too hot. If this happens, just let it cool on the counter or in the fridge for a few minutes.

Take the temperature of the wet ingredients

Pour the hot liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients already in the mixer. Beat at high speed for one minute. Use a timer, just to be safe. The dough will be soft and sticky.

Mix the ingredients

Grease a loaf pan with some cooking spray and dust it with cornmeal. A handful will do.

Grease and dust

Scrape the dough into the loaf pan. I smoothed out the top.

Dump the dough into the pan

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with more cooking spray and let rise in a warm, draft free place about and hour. I like to heat my oven to the lowest temperature (175 degrees for me) when I begin a bread recipe. When it reaches 175 degrees I turn it off and leave the door closed. By the time I get the bread ready to rise it’s still warm enough to do the job, but cool enough not to cook it. If it seems too warm you can always crack the oven door. Since I keep my house as cold as a morgue, this is an important step.

Cover and rise

After an hour the bread should have barely crested the top of the pan.

After rising

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic and bake for 22-27 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown. The interior temperature should be 190 degrees.

Bake until golden brown

Let the bread cool in the pan for five minutes. Then turn it out on a rack to finish cooling.

Cool the bread on a rack

Slice it up! Like I said, I think it needs to be toasted. It was good warm from the oven, but WAY butter crispy out of the toaster!

Warm from the oven

And here’s what it looks like on my breakfast plate. Soooo good.

Yummy!

I think a nice, dark toasting really brings out the nooks and crannies. So what have you been craving lately?

Meal Planning Part Deux: Five Meals You Can Make This Week

Wordy title, huh? So how’s that meal planning going? Remember, from my post here? Hopefully you’re making a few more meals each week than you were before. I found these WAY prettier meal planners I wanted to share with you, in case you, like me, are motivated by pretty sheets of paper MORE than you are motivated by, well, less pretty ones.

Check these out!

This one’s from Jen Allyson at The Project Girl. Pop over to her site and snag yourself a copy. There are two versions. I love them both. Tell her I sent you.

The Project GIrl Meal Planner

This one is from Ali Edwards. Her blog is awesome and you can head over there to pick it up! This would be great in a binder if you want to keep your recipes, coupons, and meal plans together.

Ali Edwards WeeklyDinner Menu

Okay, now that you’ve got your meal planners and your fav-O-rite pen in hand, here are five easy meals you can make next week and all the stuff you need to make them.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Chicken Taquitos

Photo courtesy of Annie's Eats

We’ve been chowing on these taquitos from Annie’s Eats A LOT lately. They are SOOOO good! Make some extras and pop them in a bag in the freezer. So quick and easy for lunch!

Get the recipe here. We’ve substituted pork for chicken, and I use low fat cream cheese and shredded cheese. We also use whole wheat tortillas, but you can pick your favorite.

Calzones

Calzones

Photo courtesy Simply Scratch

So easy! Grab some prepared dough and your favorite toppings from the store (if you want to make your own dough, try this recipe from Simply Scratch) And dinner’s ready pronto!

Divide dough into four portions. Roll out into four circles. Spoon one tablespoon of marinara on one half of the rolled out dough. Top with your favorite toppings, keep them to one side.

If you’re using sausage or hamburger, cook it first, and drain off any grease. You don’t want that in your calzone. If you don’t like a strong onion taste you can brown those as well.

Make sure the topping stay about 1/2 in. away from the edge of the calzone. Fold the un-topped half of the dough over the toppings and roll and pinch the two edges together to seal. Use a knife to crimp the edge if you like. Cut a small slit in the top of your calzone so steam can escape. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Place your calzones on the baking sheet and brush with a beaten egg. Bake 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

Slow-cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Photo courtesy of http://www.myrecipes.com

I know this recipe has a lot of ingredients, but don’t sweat it. You do a little chopping (or buy pre-chopped veggies if you have to) and dump all the stuff in the crock pot. That’s it. And it’s chock full of veggies so you can serve it up with a little cornbread and have a great, healthy meal for your family. Plus leftovers!

Barbecue Chicken Sliders

BBQ Chicken Sliders

Photo: John Autry; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

These are SOOO good! And kids love tiny sandwiches. Let’s be honest, so do grown-ups. Put a little slaw on the side and you have a meal! Get the recipe here.

And finally . . . drumroll please!

Leftover Soup

Whaaaat?? Seriously, leftover soup. It’s time to use up all the bits of stuff that you haven’t used up in your meals this week. Check out this post for help. Start by sautéing anything crispy (celery, onion, carrots) in some butter or a teaspoon or two of vegetable or olive oil. Add some broth (chicken, beef, veggie, whatev) or canned tomatoes (the diced in juice kind, preferably) and bring to a simmer. Add your protein (meat or beans, or both!). Let it simmer for a bit. When things have softened up (15-20 minutes) drop in anything delicate like frozen veggies, greens, or mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes. Taste for seasoning as you go. A little salt and pepper go a looooong way. Serve up with a nice piece of crusty bread (or leftover cornbread, if you made that with the chili) and enjoy!

So there you go! Enjoy an easy week on me!

Download and print the meal planner 5 Easy Meals Meal Planner Printable.

5 Easy Meals Meal Planner

What meal do you think you might try? Is there a type of meal you’d like to see more of? Have you been using your meal planner?