In honor of Valentine's Day.......Eric went golfing. Actually, this is probably one of the nicest things that he could have done for me today, a day when I have so many odds and ends to take care of that an empty house is a gift. Not that I can't get things done when he is here, I just find that I am much more productive when the dogs aren't going crazy and ESPN isn't on in the background--go figure.
I've never really been one to expect lavish gifts, jewelry, candy, etc. on Valentine's Day. Eric and I sometimes celebrate by going out to a nice dinner someplace new, as we are this evening, because this is something that we both enjoy. Other years, we'll just cook something at home, or rather, I'll cook--he'll uncork the wine. Holidaysays like today can prove to be unnecessarily stressful for men, what with the constant cheesy ads from Kay Jewelers on T.V. and the flower stands that have suddenly popped up on what seems like every street corner. I'd much rather be surprised by flowers on some random run-of-the-mill day of the year as opposed to getting the $9.99 Valentine's Special identical to the one that every other woman on my street also received. My dad's always been really good about doing this sort of "random flower" thing for my mom, and they've been married for over 40 years! Maybe he's on to something......
Golfing with the guys can be stressful, strenuous, and physically exhausting (ha!) But seriously, Eric usually rummages around for a little something to hold him over until dinner after he returns home from the course. Because it's Valentine's Day, I thought that I'd make something sweet for my sweetie, who happens to be a fan of oatmeal raisin cookies. Ever since I first made whoopie pies, several years back, I've become a bit obsessed with the concept, often testing out new flavor variations. This is my latest creation, based on an oatmeal raisin walnut cookie and filled with a rich custardy buttercream. The oatmeal cookies are fabulous on their own, but the decadent buttercream takes them to the next level. If you don't want to make a traditional buttercream, feel free to make a simple vanilla butter and confectioner's sugar variety. Here are my extra tips for making these fun, cream-filled cookies:
- The whoopie pies are best eaten the day that they are made. The buttercream can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, tightly covered, and chilled. Let it sit at room temperature prior to spreading. The cookies can be prepared one day in advance and stored at room temperature, tightly covered so that they remain soft. The cookie dough can also be prepared in advance and chilled, covered.
- To give these treats a more adult twist, you can replace the orange juice with orange liqueur, rum, or even a coconut-flavored rum.
- If the buttercream has become too soft after preparation, then refrigerate it for 10-15 minutes before spreading it on the cookies.
- For variation, use a mix of dark and golden raisins, dried cranberries, or dried cherries. Replace the walnuts with pecans or hazelnuts and play around with the spices (ginger, allspice, cardamom, or cloves would all be good choices.)
- If you don't have a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, then use either a 1/4-cup measure or estimate the amount using a large spoon.
- Don't replace the vegetable shortening with butter. The shortening helps to keep the cookies slightly "puffed" as opposed to flat and crisp.
Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Whoopie Pies
Makes 8-9 large whoopie pies (you can probably share one!)
1 cup orange juice
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
For the buttercream:
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
11 ounces unsalted butter (22 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice and the raisins. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a full boil. Cover the saucepan and remove from the heat. Let the raisins soak for 20 minutes. When the raisins have finished soaking, using a slotted spoon, remove about 1/2 of the raisins from the orange juice with a slotted spoon and coarsely chop them. Place the chopped raisins in a small bowl along with 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Reserve the remaining raisins and juice in the saucepan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, shortening, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Mix in the orange zest and vanilla extract. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add the milk and beat until smooth. On low speed, mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Mix in the chopped raisins and orange juice and the walnuts. Using a level 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, drop the batter on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until the cooking are lightly browned and just set. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the buttercream: Place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup and set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly, and then immediately scrape the mixture into a 1 cup glass measure. With the mixture on high speed, pour a few tablespoons of the sugar mixture into the yolks and beat for a few seconds. Repeat until all of the syrup has been added. Continue to beat until the bowl has cooled to room temperature.
On medium speed, beat in the butter a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. The frosting will begin to come together after all of the butter has been incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Mix in the reserved raisins and 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice. Using a piping bag with a large tip or an offset spatula, spread a generous layer of filling onto the flat side of a cooled cookie. Place another cookie on the sandwich and lightly press to adhere.