Today, in honor of "Super Tuesday" and the 24 caucusing states, I thought that it would be fitting to bake a traditional American dessert (with a Peanut Butter and Julie twist of course), in order to display my patriotism. O.K., honestly, my first choice was to make a King Cake in honor of Mardi Gras, but then I realized that most people wouldn’t even read this until after Fat Tuesday and that I was fresh out of purple, yellow, and green sprinkles, so I decided to put that idea on hold until next year.
Whoopie pies are a dessert with a Pennsylvania Amish heritage, but they are a popular comfort food served all over New England, especially Maine. A whoopie pie is like a sandwich, but it is made out of two soft cookies and a fluffy white filling. In Amish culture, these cake-like cookies were considered a special treat because they were originally made from leftover batter, and according to Amish legend, when children would find these cookies in their lunch pails, they would yell out "Whoopie!"
Whoopie pies come in all sizes, from bite-sized to creations large enough to feed a small family, which need to be eaten with a knife and fork. Though the desserts are usually made with chocolate, I have seen variations that come in flavors like pumpkin, oatmeal, and ginger spice. One thing that every whoopie pie has in common, regardless of flavor or size, is that it is mandatory to eat it accompanied by a cold glass of milk. While these peanut butter and chocolate versions would be great to make with kids, they will be found irresistible by all ages. Perhaps a good campaign strategy would be to get the word out that a big batch of these are waiting for voters at the polls! Here are some tips for wonderful whoopie pies:
- The whoopie pies are best if eaten within a day or two of being prepared. Store at room temperature in a tightly covered container, or store in the refrigerator, covered. Be sure to bring to room temperature before serving.
- The batter for the cookies and the peanut butter buttercream can be made one day prior to baking and assembling. Refrigerate both, tightly covered.
- If you don’t have a pastry bag and tip for decorating the top of the whoopie pies with the melted chocolate, then you can make a homemade version by snipping a very small corner off the bottom of a zip-top bag that has been filled with the melted chocolate. Decorate the top of the cookies by piping in a spiral pattern, zigzags, or large polka-dots.
- If you don’t have fine sea salt for the cookie batter, you may use the coarser kosher salt, however, the mesh of the sifter usually doesn’t allow for the coarse salt to go through, so you will need to add the salt separately.
- Using a miniature ice cream scoop when portioning out the batter helps to make uniform looking cookies.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Makes 15-18 Sandwich cookies
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Buttercream:
2/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
8 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and both sugars at high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until fluffy, 2 minutes. Add half of the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the remaining half of the flour mixture and beat the mixture, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Drop 12 heaping tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart on each baking sheet. Bake the cookies in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 8 minutes. Switch the positions of the baking sheets, rotate the sheets, and continue to bake the cookies until they spring back when lightly touched, about 4 minutes longer.
Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Meanwhile, repeat the baking process with any remaining batter.
Make the peanut butter buttercream: Cream the peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed. On low speed, mix in the confectioner’s sugar until combined, and then beat the mixture on high speed until fluffy and smooth, 2-3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt to taste, if desired, and mix to combine.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the buttercream on the flat sides of half of the cookies. Top each half with the remaining cookie, flat side down, and gently press together.
Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Transfer the chocolate to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the chocolate decoratively on top of each whoopie pie. Let set for one hour and serve.