Saturday, 30 April 2011

(Almost authentic) Whoopie pies

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I'm a sucker for original, authentic recipes. I think its the inner conformist in me - I have to use the 'right' recipe. But, of course, when it comes to baking there are so so SOOO many versions of everything that it is hard to work out what is 'authentic' anyway. I keep telling myself that its okay, as long as the recipe tastes good, but it doesn't stop me from doing a whole heap of googling everytime I want to try something new.

Today I decided to tackle Whoopie Pies. These American baked goods are something that I have seen popping up on blogs for a while now, but I have never seen one in person, let alone tasted one. Like the Macarons I tried to bake a few months ago (and what a disaster that was!) I have no way of working out whether my whoopie pies are good or not, except by the 'did my taste buds like it?' test. Maybe it's better that way?

According to Aleta @ Omnomicon, a lot of the whoopie pies out there are not real whoopie pies at all. She is quite passionate about how whoopie pies shouldn't use such things as fluff (I know, I had no idea either - google reckons it has something to do with marshmallows), must use shortening in the filling and can't simply be dollops of cake and frosting (which, frankly, doesn't seem such a bad idea to me!). She seems to know what she is talking about so I thought I would give it a try.

So how did they turn out?
Well... not as well as I hoped. In Australia we don't have Crisco, not readily available anyway and the only vegetable shortening available at my corner store was Copha (which is based on coconut oil). While searching for substitutes online there were mixed opinions about whether it can be used instead. Then I checked the nutritional labels and it was 98% saturated fat. I just couldn't do it. So what did I grab instead? I remembered someone suggested using lard in one of the comments on the recipe. So that is what I grabbed.

Have you ever used lard? Can I just tell you, it stinks. Not in an 'I'm off' way but in a definite 'I don't really taste good on my own' way. Even my mum who was visiting for the day and sitting on the other side of the room commented on the smell - and I wasn't even cooking it, just mixing! But it's okay, I thought, this will work. So I persevered. About five minutes in I hit my first hurdle. The original recipe blended all the wet ingredients at once, but I just couldn't get it to emulsify, and I had it beating for about fifteen minutes. I even tried switching to the whisk attachment but no luck. So in the bin it went.

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Yuck!

Second attempt I creamed the lard (that really is such a horrible sounding word) with the sugar before adding the egg and then alternating the milk and dry ingredients. When I added the egg it looked a little curdled (and I was thinking 'not again'!) but it came together when everything was combined.

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That looks better

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Mmmm... chocolate. Except this looks better than it smells.

They even looked right! Unfortunately, when I had a taste I got just the hint of lard. Urghhh! I was almost ready to throw them out and give up there and then but I thought, seeing as I'd already wasted so many ingredients, I may as well see what happens when I added the filling. Then I hit my second hurdle. I'd just thrown all the ingredients together and was beating it into submission when the lard smell hit me again and I realised that there was no way uncooked lard was going to be palatable. So in the bin it went and I went to Plan B: vanilla buttercream frosting. I hope Aleta will forgive me but there was nowhere else to turn! And you know what? It worked out pretty well. The vanilla and chocolate were a really great combination (aren't they always?) and the lard taste was gone.

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Ready to go in the oven

These are really interesting - not quite a biscuit, but not a cake either. They're almost like a spongey biscuit, if that makes any sense - soft and a little chewy - the filling really makes it though, I find the cookies a little boring on their own. The buttercream adds a touch of sweetness and helps to add a good contrasting texture to the lightness of the biscuit. I'm going to try these again, but this time I'm going to make sure I have proper shortening. And I might even try the buttermilk based recipes that are floating around. Who knows, my taste buds might like them!

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Whoopie Pies
Makes approx 16
51g vegetable shortening
240mL milk
128g caster / confectioners' sugar
1 egg (I use 59g eggs)
1 tsp vanilla
256g plain flour
48g cocoa powder (I use plain old baking cocoa)
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
125g butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar
3T milk
1t vanilla extract
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 190C/375F (I did 170C since I can't turn my oven fan off)

Blend the shortening, milk, sugar, egg and vanilla together.

Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and mix to combine.

Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon, drop uniform sized amounts of batter on a baking paper lined baking/biscuit/cookie tray and bake for 7-9 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. I found they still looked undercooked when they were actually done, so make sure you do the toothpick test, even if you think they're underdone. Transfer to a wire rack straight away.

For the frosting, beat the butter and icing sugar together until combined (it will look crumbly). Add the milk, vanilla and salt and beat on high speed until smooth and fluffy.

Sandwich cookies together with the creme and enjoy!!!

Ps. These are definitely better the next day - the cookie absorbs some of the moisture from the buttercream, which provides a slightly denser and more enjoyable texture.

1 comment:

  1. Mrs P's Mum6 May 2011 at 13:37

    I tried these, quite reluctantly I might add, as I had smelt them in their mixing process. I was pleasantly surprised and could have eaten more. I am definitely looking forward to your second attempt with the vegetable shortening.

    ReplyDelete

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