(From Nancy Olsen, via Gilt Taste)
I have never had a whoopie pie in my life. In fact, I am still not entirely sure what they are, except for being told by several people that they are overly sweet. These are not overly sweet – in fact, the reason I chose to make them as my contribution to Thanksgiving dessert this year was that I saw they had cream cheese filling, and, given how good a nice, tart cream cheese icing (frosting) is, I decided that, whatever their origins, these would either be good, or I would make them good. The biscuit (cookie) is soft, and the filling is thick and tart – someone pointed out that they taste like carrot cake with cream cheese icing (frosting), and this seems to me to be a pretty accurate description.
Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
(Makes about 25 larger ‘pies’ – which is what I did – or 36 small ones)
60 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
200g (7.75 oz/ 1 cup) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon Angostura bitters
140g (5 oz/ 1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
70g (2.5 oz/ 1 cup) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grounded (powdered) ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ cups canned pumpkin puree*
The very first thing to do, before you have gotten together all your ingredients, is leave out 145g (8 oz) of unsalted butter – this is the butter for the biscuits (cookies) and for the filling, and it should all soft, at room temperature. Next, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 fahrenheit), and line some baking sheets with greased baking paper (as in, grease it yourself, just to make sure that nothing sticks).
In a medium bowl, cream together (i.e. mix together with a wooden spoon, or with hand-held beaters) the butter and brown sugar. (Remember you are only using 60g (2 oz) of butter for this part of the recipe – the rest is for the filling). Slice lengthwise down the vanilla pod, and scrape out all the seeds into the butter-sugar mixture (you can still use the pod in another dessert so don’t throw it out). Mix until combined. Slowly drizzle in the oil, mixing until it is combined. Add the egg, vanilla extract and bitters, and mix together until smooth.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add 1/3 of the butter-sugar mix, and mix in. Then add 1/3 of the canned pumpkin and mix in. Continue, alternating between the two, until you have mixed in all the butter-sugar mix, and all the canned pumpkin. Scoop (or, if you want it to be less ‘rustic’ looking, pipe) the mix onto your greased baking paper in rounds about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I made them a little bigger than this, but next time I would probably do the properly mini version. Place in the preheated oven for around 8 minutes, if small, and around 15 minutes if larger, until they are still soft, but a skewer or toothpick comes out dry. Put to one side to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Filling
85 g (3 oz) unsalted butter. Note: I thought this was actually a little too much butter, and would probably cut it down by a third next time.
4 tablespoons of icing sugar (confectioners sugar). Note: The recipe called for 6 tablespoons, but I felt that would be too sweet. Do feel free to add more – you can taste as you go.
The zest of half an orange
1/2 teaspoon of ground (powdered) ginger
170 g (6 oz) cream cheese
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the orange zest and ground ginger, and mix in well. Mix in the cream cheese.
When the filling is made, you can store it in the fridge for a day or so. We iced the first batch just by scooping a dollop of the filling between two of the biscuits (cookies) and then pressing them together, but this made for less pretty end products. When I did the second batch (or five remaining ‘pies’) I used an icing bag. It was a little difficult a first, because the filling was a little hard having been in the fridge overnight, but it quickly softened as I worked with it, and I thought there was a much better end result. Just do a big swirl in the middle of one biscuit (cookie) – there is a lot of filling, so you can be pretty generous – and then press another one on top of it.
I would think these only keep for 2-3 days at most, as the cookie is likely to go stale pretty quickly. But who knows – this lot got eaten up too quickly to put it to the test.
* This is an ingredient I have only seen in the USA, and it only ever comes to my attention around Thanksgiving, when it is all over the supermarkets here. If you have difficulty finding it, I know you can substitute for fresh pumpkin, though I don’t know the details of how you would prepare it.