Typically, I'm not a baker. My happy place is in the kitchen, but it's when I'm cooking. With cooking, you can experiment as you go, layering flavors and textures until you have created something perfect to your palette. With baking, there are rigid guidelines you must follow to the letter, if not, all kinds of things can go wrong: miss an ingredient, your bread won't rise, over-stir your batter and your cake will be hard, cook for too long, and your muffins come out rubbery! Ugh. Why is it such a headache to freaking bake sometimes!! Slowly, I have learned to tap into the part of the brain which allows you to bake (I think it's near the part of the brain that allows you to do long division as well, that part hasn't been tapped into for years, I'm afraid). Baking things from scratch used to give me some weird form of anxiety, but now, I rather enjoy it. Sure, I can't just throw in extra ingredients the way I do when I make spaghetti sauce, but I'm beginning to enjoy the challenge of baking. You have to be fully engaged and focused to be successful at baking, I guess it is another one of those sneaky metaphors for life. In September, I caught a major baking bug. It started with cinnamon rolls, then it was pumpkin spice cookies, banana-nut bread, and finally, pumpkin bread— let's just say, I'm all spiced out. I wanted to make a recipe that didn't call for cinnamon, nutmeg, or some seasonal ingredient.
A few months ago, I bought Baked Explorations cookbook for like $6 at Marshalls, the recipes inside looked amazing, but I actually bought it for the aesthetics; I love the typography, the layout, color palette, and photography. This is how I pick my cookbooks, people. I am not ashamed.
The other huge reason I bought this book, is because the authors are men! I am not sexist by any means, and I know men bake, but I've never owned a baking cookbook that was not made by a woman. So, immediately, I was onboard.
Upon getting the book home, I gave it a second look, reading through each recipe, drooling over the pictures and bookmarking the ones I would try first, if I had the chance.
The Chocolate Whoopie Pie looked legendary. Two dark chocolate cakes (or cookies? cookie-cake?), sandwiching a pillow of dreamy vanilla creme. It had me at hello.
The only hesitation I had with this recipe was the creme filling. I have never had success making my own whipped cream, or frosting; it's so temperamental! This time was no different, I only destroyed half of my kitchen (no pictures to capture this moment, oh darn) trying to make this creme filling. Let's just say, in the end, I won. Let's just also say, I need to get a stand-mixer. ASAP.
Enjoy some pics of my process with baking this amazing treat. And, it is amazing. Unfortunately, these are possibly the most addictive things I've ever made.
FOR THE CHOCOLATE COOKIES
3½ cups all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon salt 1¼ teaspoons baking powder 1¼ teaspoons baking soda ¾ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder 1/2 cup hot coffee 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar 3/4 cups canola oil 1 large egg, room temperature 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature, shaken
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, and set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.
In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
Using a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as you fold.
Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1-inch apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pans while you make the Swiss vanilla filling.
FOR THE SWISS VANILLA FILLING
5 large egg whites 1½ cups sugar 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cool but not cold ¼ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is milky white, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the buttercream looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together.
Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.
(I don't own a stand mixer, so I had to use an electric hand mixer. With just the listed ingredients, my butter cream remained a goopy mess, and never fluffed up after almost 20 minutes of me mixing it, so, I added a few tablespoons of cold heavy whipping cream in an act of desperation, and it finally came together!)
ASSEMBLE THE WHOOPIE PIES
Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up).
Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop if filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.
The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring the whoopies to room temperature before serving.
Excerpted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Copyright © 2010 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Excerpted by permission of Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
If you make these, tweet me a picture @theglossier, if there's anything I love more than food, it's pictures of food!