Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Carrot cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, apple pie: I think we can all agree that these are classic, timeless desserts. But what makes them so?

Photo Blog Chocolate Whoopie Pies Book

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (2010 Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is a new cookbook based on recipes from Baked, a Brooklyn bakery opened by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who left their day jobs in corporate advertising to pursue their dream of opening a bakery. An out-of-the-gate success, they have since opened another Baked in Charleston, South Carolina, and their gooey goodies can now be found in stores like Whole Foods. The bakers and cookbook authors have been featured on the Today show, the Food Network, and The Martha Stewart Show. Their sweet and salty brownie is Oprah’s favourite. Their success is largely based on the popularity of the type of nostalgia-inducing treats (brownies, blondies and the like) that they sell at their shops, so I asked Baked’s Matt Lewis, why it is that some desserts achieve cult status while others fizzle in the baking pan.

Photo Blog Chocolate Whoopie Pies Bakers

“Generally speaking, I think baked goods that are highly adaptable (in terms of flavours, design, etc…) have the most ease in transitioning into an omnipresent bakery item,” explains Lewis. “Cupcakes, whoopie pies, and macaroons are examples of baked goods that have many variations — you can swap fillings and frostings with ease, and people adjust them to their preferred palette or regional sourcing (seasonal local fruits, chocolate, caramel, etc….).”

On the other hand, he says there are some fantastic regional cult desserts that might not spread across the country (or internationally) simply because they don’t lend themselves to interpretations (after all, there’s not much you can do with an NYC Black & White Cookie), or the main ingredient is hard to source (read: Cloudberry Pie).

Luckily, the whoopie pie is both adaptable and its key ingredients are easy to find. Here’s a recipe for this timeless classic from Baked Explorations.

Photo Blog Chocolate Whoopie Pies Dessert

Chocolate Whoopie Pies Recipe

(makes 10-12 large or 15-17 small pies)*

* I am hesitant to place a typical yield amount on this recipe. I encountered so many large, sandwich-size whoopie pies during my travels that mini whoopies seem disingenuous. Still, the final recipe is written for smaller whoopies. If you aim for the larger version, you will need to increase the cooking time by a few minutes.

Chocolate Cookies
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

Swiss Vanilla Filling
5 large egg whites
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes, cool but not cold
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Cookies

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and set aside.

Step 3: In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.

Step 4: 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.

Step 5: Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.

Step 6: Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1” apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the Swiss Vanilla Filling.

Swiss Vanilla Filling

Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together (remember to substitute the sugar for the optional peanut butter filling**).

Step 2: 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 colour is a milky white, about 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: 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.

Step 4: 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.

Step 5: Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

Step 6: To assemble the 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 of 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.

** Variation: Replace the sugar with 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed tightly). Fold in 1/4 cup unsalted smooth peanut butter after adding the vanilla extract.

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Photo credits:
1-3. Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (2010 Stewart, Tabori & Chang), photography by Tina Rupp

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