Monday, November 23, 2009

A little bit of Maine for you. Ayuh!

I think I've mentioned before that once a month 3 friends of mine and I get together and make a big dinner. We rotate hosting and whoever hosts picks the theme and makes the entree, the others bring appetizers, sides and dessert. We've been going strong since last October, which is pretty impressive that we've kept up the tradition, and it shows no signs of stopping. Good thing, because I love it. Anywho. I pride myself on my dessert abilities, and I hadn't been in charge of dessert for a while, so when I was given dessert duty this month, I thought, CHEESECAKE, that'll impress 'em. I was so pumped. I read through the recipe, made my grocery list, and was all set to go, and then saw the final two directions. Cool for 2-3 hours, then chill for at least 4. Uh. That's minimum 6 hours between finishing cooking the thing, and eating. And dinner is at 6. So. Shoot. I decided that the cheesecake would have to wait for another time, when I plan ahead a bit better and prep the night before.

So here I was, it's 11 am, I have tons of time till dinner, but I had a friend in town that I wanted to see for an hour or two, and bear in mind I take the bus over to my friends house, so it had to be something portable. I came across Creme Caramel in my cookbook and had pretty good feelings about eating that for dessert, but realized that was not something you can make at home, then carry on a bus for 15 minutes, walk a few blocks with, eat dinner, then serve and have it look the way it should. So that was out. I found 3 or 4 different chocolate cake recipes, each with their own variation, that sounded fantastic, but I always make people chocolate cakes (they're my weakness, and most other people's too, so they're usually a good choice). So I gave up and went and hung out with my friend for a bit. Now it's nearly 1 pm and I still haven't picked a dessert. First I flipped through the dessert section of a bunch of my cookbooks (Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, The Art of Mastering French Cooking, Craig Claiborne's NY Times Cookbook, and last but not least, Cook's Illustrated's 'Best Recipes' book). Nope. Nothing that yelled 'make this Elspeth!'. So then I went over to my stack of magazines. I subscribe to both Cook's Illustrated and Bon Appetit, and both offer, so nicely, and index, by category, of all of their recipes in the issue. So I frantically flipped to the last page of each magazine, making piles of yes or no. The yes pile is where all the delicious sounding chocolate cakes came into play...oh those will be made one day, and they will be so delicious! Anyway, back to my mission. I got to the end and last but not least, in the October 2005 Bon Appetit, which I bought at a used bookstore for 80 cents, had a recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. Ohhhhhhhhhh boy. Not only are whoopie pies a Maine thing (people say they're a New England thing sometimes, but Maine is the state that fully embraces them) but they are pumpkin (!) just in time for Thanksgiving, when pumpkin is on the mind. I baked 'em up, put them together and voila, in no time I had a dessert that was quickly (and happily) gobbled down a few hours later.

Whew. This post is a bit longer than I originally planned, and I haven't even talked about the fabulousness that is whoopie pies. In short, whoopie pies are two chocolaty cake cookies (excited yet?) with super sweet white sugar something in the middle. They're wrapped in plastic wrap and in every general store in Maine. I promise. Usually with a sticker on it saying that they were made by so and so, who is the owners sisters aunt or something. Pure delicious. Also pure 'bad for you' but, it's worth it.

This recipe, which is a bit more refined, seeing as it IS in Bon Appetit, not Uncle Henry's (the local weekly classifieds booklet, preferred over Craigslist by Mainers I'm sure, and also found in every store in Maine). You'll find it's cream cheese mixed with the powdered sugar rather than shortening, and you can make these a bit more manageable size wise, rather than the huge ones you'll find in Maine. These cake cookies are so moist, and the overall taste is quite delicious, and for not much work too, so this is a great party pleaser.

Here's the recipe, from Bon Appetit's October 2005 issue (and from the RSVP section, where it states that the recipe is actually from Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe in Brattleboro, VT...bah. Vermont. Whatever).

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Makes about 24 (I halved the recipe this weekend and it worked just fine!)

2 3/4 cups flour
4 1/2 t ground cinnamon
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 1/2 t ground ginger
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cloves
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T dark molasses
2 t vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups canned pure pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk

2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temp (that is two 8-ounce, not 28 ounces)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
2 t vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Begin with the cookies. Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, molasses and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating until just combined. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 1 sheet at a time until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 13 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. While cookies are baking, make the filling. Beat all ingredients for the filling together in a medium bowl until smooth. Adjust sugar amount to your liking. Once cookies have cooled, spread 2 tablespoons of filling on flat side of 1 cookie. Top with second cookie, forming a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling, and of course, adjust filling to cookie ratio to your liking. Let stand at room temperature for up to a few hours, if it will be longer than that until you serve them, refrigerate until ready, but try to serve them at room temp.


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