Friday, December 12, 2008

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Castsugar included this recipe in her blog, and having epically (EPICALLY) failed my previous attempt at whoopie pies I was leery. I had gotten a recipe for something similar, chocolate whoopie pies with pumpkin filling. But I digress, I should probably explain what a whoopie pie is before I say how to make one.

I'd seen these things in the little bakeries and general stores in the town where my mom loves, I'd always wanted to get one but they seemed sort of intimidating. What I was seeing were these huge pies with a dubious looking white filling -- probably something shortening based, which I am staunchly against. Whoopie pies are an Amish dish, especially popular in that Western VA/Pennsylvania area. The original dish are two crumbly chocolate cookies with marshmallow fluff on the inside. So how could someone mess that up?

Apparently I can! My first attempt resulted in misshappen, almost bitter cakey cookies and runny, chunky filling. It was a nightmare. Then I found this recipe, which calls for pumpkin cookies and a regular icing filling. Sure enough, it worked out fine and these babies were a hit among each final exam study group.


3c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1c sugar
1c dark brown sugar (I took 3/4c white sugar and combined with 1/4c molasses, shhh)
1c oil
1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs. Follow with your spices and dry ingredients. Carefully spoon 1 tbsp gobs onto a greased baking sheet, you want them to be around "2-"3 in diameter and not too flat or too tall. Bake for 10-12 minutes, the cookies will be very soft and cakey so just let them cool completely.

3c confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup

Using an electric mixer, cream all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy. I just used a rubber spatula to spread it onto one side of the cookie, but a lot of people like to use a piping bag because it looks a little more sophisticated. Just sandwich them up, and you've got whoopies! I kept mine in freezer bags in the fridge because of their moist consistency, I would definitely recommend storing them this way.

Beet Salad

As a part of a dinner party at my parents' house one of their friends brought this dish and I was heartily impressed. I'm not too familiar with beets but after trying this at home I'm definitely going to have to use them more often. It's a bit labor intensive with the boiling, peeling and pickling but it's worth it -- just trust me on this one. This is a great pre-workout meal because it gives a nice burst of energy without being heavy or greasy.

The key to this dish are the preserved lemons, without which it might taste pretty boring. They take from 3 to 7 days to make and last up to a year in your fridge; I will be including more recipes containing them since I have a jar waiting for me!

Lastly, this recipe can easily be made vegan by substituting soy cheese or nuts for the feta. The primary effect is textural so feel free to experiment.

To preserve lemons:
6-10 medium lemons
kosher salt (just buy a can of it, you won't need the whole thing but you need a lot)
a quart mason jar or tupperware

Slice the ends off the lemons and juice them into the jar, there's no need to pickle them. Slice the lemons thinly and create a layer then a layer of salt (a few tablespoons). Do this until you've used up all the lemons. Some people might add vinegar but I think they're fine without it, fill the jar with just enough water to cover the lemons. Let them chill in the fridge for three to seven days, shaking every few days to dissolve the salt.

3 medium sized beets
2 bartlett pears
around 1/2-3/4c crumbled feta or cubed ricotta salata

Chop the the tops off the beets and boil for twenty to thirty minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool. Peel them over a sink, this can get messy so I suggest using gloves. Follow up by julienning the beets, or slicing into long, thin strips. Chop the pears in a similar fashion, I don't peel mine. Add the cheese and then bring out your preserved lemons. The membrane and rind aren't needed so free up the pulp, similar to a relish. Add to the pears and beets and toss -- everything will turn red, but it will taste delicious :)