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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

I decided to try making red velvet whoopie pies because it’s almost Valentine’s day. What an experience! I read many people’s recipes and their comments before I settled on a recipe. Then I drew a heart on some thin cardboard cut it out and and then traced them onto parchment paper so I would have a guide for the cookie dough. I prepared two cookie sheets that had 16 hearts each. Then I whipped up the cookie dough using my stand mixer. I recently bought an electric cookie press that I decided to use today for the first time to pipe the dough into the heart shapes. I had opened the cookie press up earlier and washed it so it would be dry when I was ready to use it. So I filled it up with this unbelievable red cookie dough and then I couldn’t get the tube holding the dough to connect to the rest of the cookie press. After trying and getting way too frustrated, I decided to try my pastry bag, but discovered none of the tips had a big enough hole. So remembering all that I had read, I defaulted to putting the dough in a small ziplock bag and snipping off the corner so I could use it to pipe the dough into the heart shapes. I managed to get fourteen and ran out of dough in the bag. So I baked those and decided it was so time consuming to try to make hearts that the rest of the cookies would be round iinstead. I then dropped of  tablespoons dough onto the other parchment lined cookie sheet using the rest of the dough. Some of my heart-shaped ones came out pretty good while others were so so. The picture below shows four of them that came out pretty well. I plan to take those to my Mother tomorrow. She used to bake Red Velvet Cakes after I had moved away and I thought she’d like them. I’ve never tasted Red Velvet Cake, but these whoopie pies tasted pretty good.
Making hearts is time consuming but worth doing for the experience so you can make something fancy should you need to. However, I would only do it for a special occasion because the round pies taste just as good. I used dark cocoa powder and dark brown sugar for mine so they came out a darker red.

The recipe I used was found the following website:

http://www.tastespotting.com/tag/whoopie+pies/1

At the above website you’ll find many recipes for whoopie pies and several for red velvet whoopie pies. The specific link to the recipe I used is:  http://annies-eats.net/2010/02/08/red-velvet-whoopie-pies/ I hope if you try to make these that you have better success than I did. I think I would have done better if I had not tried to use the cookie press with this recipe for the first time. I ended up having red cookie dough all over the kitchen counter, pot holders, etc. — good news is it cleaned up easily. I felt as if I might have it all over my face and hair too, but luckily I didn’t.

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Shaker Lemon Pie

This a special pie sometimes referred to as the Ohio pie and that is where I originally found the recipe when I was in graduate school at The Ohio State University. I read that it was originally made by the Shaker women who didn’t want to waste any food so they used the whole lemons in their pies. The main ingredient is Meyer lemons and they aren’t the common ones found in the grocery store. They are shown at the right and are a little smaller,  rounder, a more golden yellow,  have a bit milder sweeter flavor and a thinner skin than those the groceries usually carry. They tend to be seasonal and can be difficult to find. After asking around we were told that stores here do get them, but none had any. For this pie we were lucky that my husband’s brother who lives in Florida was able to find them and mail them to us.  Also it is good that only 2 or 3 are needed. Interestingly using the whole lemon in this pie doesn’t give it a bitter taste and the recipe is pretty simple.

Shaker Lemon Pie

2-3 Meyer Lemons

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, beaten

Double Pie Crusts

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Wash the lemons and then slice them as thin as possible. I used a mandolyn set on its thinnest setting. Be sure to pick out all the seeds. Once the lemons are sliced stir in two cups of sugar trying not to tear up the slices. Let them sit for at least 2 hours. (If overnight refrigerate them and bring them to room temperature before using.) Prepare pie crust bottom and set aside. Beat the four eggs and mix in to the lemon sugar mixture.  Put top crust on, seal edges and cut vent holes in top.  Bake in oven at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then lower temperature to 350 degrees F and bake another 30 minutes. Pie is done when a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

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Whoopie Pies

I have had a yearning to make whoopie pies almost since I first ate one a long time ago when we purchased some at Booth’s Corner Farmers Markets at Boothyn, PA just across the DE border. We lived in Wilmington, DE and went to this market for all the Amish produce, eggs, etc. almost once a week. Many years ago while living in DE I was listening to an interivew on NPR about a book by a couple who traveled around the country eating local foods. Their discussion was so interesting that I promptly ordered the book entitled “The Farmhouse Cookbook.” In this book were little discussions of each area they visited and recipes of some of the foods they enjoyed on their travels. In it I found whoopie recipes, but the book languished on the shelf and the recipe went untried. But as my cooking magazines started arriving I found recipes for whoopie pies in one of them. That prompted me to look at a number of recipes online as well as the old cookbook stashed away in seldom used ones. Just before thanksgiving when I was preparing hubbard and butternut squashes for the holidays I decided to try a pumpkin whoopie pie recipe. The recipe I settled on was one from Martha Stewart’s living which follows. The recipe below will make 12 regualar size whoopie pies, but I halved the recipe and made mini pies and got around two dozen.

For the Pumpkin Whoopie Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. Baking soda

2 T ground cinnamon

1 T ground ginger

1 T ground cloves

2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil or a mix of butter & oil

3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled

2 large eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients and mix in oil (or oil & butter) until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and blend well. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine well until everything is well incorporated.

Using a small cookie scoop (1 T) drop dough onto parchment paper about one inch apart. Flattened each one slightly and then bake until they start to crack on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Note: The first time I made these I put in 2 T applesauce to make them more moist, but didn’t do this the second time and didn’t notice a big difference and found both to be plenty moist. Let cool on a rack completely while you prepare the filling.

Cream Cheese Filling

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick)

8 oz. cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer beat butter until smooth, then add cream cheese and beat until well combined/ Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla beating until just smooth. (this can be made up the day before and refrigerated, but let stand to reach room temperature before using).

To assemble the whoopie pies put the filling in a pastry bag  if available or drop a dollop of the filling on the flat side of half of the cookies  and then  top each one with one of the remaining cookie halves pressing down slightly to spread the filling evenly. Place on parchment paper line tray and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. These are good for up to three days after making.

The above picture shows half of the first whoopie pies I made just before Thanksgiving using half of the above recipe. I shared these with my local family members as a taste test and everyone agreed they were really good. I made them again when we went to Delaware for Thanksgiving and again they were a huge success. These pumpkin whoopie pies were very moist and tasted great.

My next plan was to make Chocolate one for the Christmas holidays, however I had seen an idea to roll them in crushed peppermint candy canes. Since I really don’t like hard candy I had the bright idea to try using sugar stick candy. After several shopping trips looking for that type of candy, I went online and located a place that had it. I put in my order by mid-December and eagerly awaited the shipment. Unfortunately by the time we left to spend the holidays in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the candy had not arrived. So I ended up skipping the chocolate whoopie pies but hoped to make them when we returned on Dec. 30th. However, the candy still had not arrived and on checking further it was determined they had been delivered to my closest neighbor ‘by accident and she had taken them to UPS  to be returned to the seller. Eventually my candy was delivered again.

I made chocolate whoopies following the recipe based on Martha Stewart’s that I found online and were filled with the cream cheese filling above and for others I made half the recipe of peanut butter filling I found given below.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies recipe makes about 20 – 22 mini whoopie pies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare two parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

1 3/4 c  Flour                                     1/2 t  baking powder                           1/2 t  salt

1/2 t  baking soda                             3/4 c cocoa

1 c sugar                                               1/2 c butter (1 stick)                           1 egg

1 c buttermilk                                     1 t vanilla

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cocoa and set aside.

Cream sugar and butter (a mix of butter and olive oil may be used to cut down on fat) using an electric mixer until well blended.

Then add egg, buttermilk and vanilla mixing well.

Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing them in well with each addition until all is mixed in.

Using a one Tablespoon scoop drop on parchment lined cookie sheet about two inches apart. Bake about 10 -12  minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center and when center are starting to crack.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before assembling pies. To assemble them put a dollop of filling on flat side of one cookie half and then top with other half pressing down slightly to spread filling evenly. Then  roll in crushed candy if desired. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving or they may be kept for up to three  days.

Peanut butter filling

1/2 cup soften butter (1 stick), 2/3 cup peanut butter (recipe says creamy, but I like crunchy so used it instead) and 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar.

Beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer smooth and then add confectioners’ sugar little by little mixing in each time using a lower speed until it is all incorporated.

Whoopies in back are ones filled with cream cheese filling and rolled in crushed wintergreen stick candy. Ones in foreground are peanut butter filled except for the light one which is cream cheese filling. These whoopie pies tasted very good, but the cookie is less moist than the pumpkin cookies and more crumbly. I think adding a tablespoon or two of applesauce might make them more moist. I might try that although this recipe certainly tasted good.

I think rolling in crushed candy adds a little different taste and  makes the cookie look more festive so it would be a nice addition around the holidays.

I have seen other recipes calling for bananas and I found that very interesting since I was thinking of making some using paw paw puree that I have frozen for my next wildfoods luncheon.  When I make them I will post a comment about them.


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I know people either love fruit cakes or hate them.  So bear with me and read this because this cake changed my mind although it took years before I actually tried it. I used to despise fruit cakes since I couldn’t stand the candied fruits in them. But as I grew older, I longed for some of the things that were always part of the holidays when I was growing up. My family didn’t have many traditions outside of celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And my Mother always made what I considered traditional fruit cakes because my Father loved them. I can’t say whether any of the rest of the family liked them or not . However, I ask my Mother for her recipe and tried making one. She told me how my Dad always wanted her to make extra ones for him to give away to his buddies at work and she made other extras which she gave  to neighbors who loved them too. I must say that after I made one, I had a new and greater appreciation for my Mother since stirring all those fruits and nuts up into the batter took lots of muscles to get it mixed up well. I’m going to share that special recipe since I have to admit that my husband and I really loved the cake so much that second year  I even made little ones to give away to friends and neighbors who also loved the…so the tradition continues and making the cakes bring back some very pleasant memories of my Father too.  Below is Mom’s recipe with her directions; you might have a nonstick pan or other method you prefer instead of her method of preparing the cake pan.

Mom’s Light Fruit Cake

1 1/4 cups Light Raisins

1 cup Currants or Dark Raisins

1 1/4 cups cubed Candied Pineapple

2/3 cup coarsely chopped Dates

1 1/4 cups chopped Candied Cherries

1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped Walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Almonds

1 – 4 oz can Coconut or an equivalent amount from a package

1/2 cup Orange Juice                     2 1/4 cups Flour

3/4 cup Margarine or Butter               1 cup Sugar

1/4 tsp. salt                                                5 Eggs

Some whole Candied Cherries and whole Nuts to decorate top of cake

Preheat Oven to 275 degrees F. Prepare cake pan before making cake.  Oil pan lightly and line with brown paper and then oil paper. Mom used a tube pan with a hole in the center and she oiled and lined it the same way as the sides and bottom of the pan. I use old springform pans lined with oiled parchment paper.  (I think she used brown paper bags.)

Mix fruits and nuts together with 1/4 cup flour to coat them well so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.

Cream 3/4 cup margarine (butter) and gradually add 1 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.

Beat five eggs one at a time until light and fluffy. Measure 2 1/2 cups flour (sift or fluff with a whisk) and add flour to egg mixture alternating with the 1/2 cup orange juice until all the flour and juice are mixed in.

Using a spatula mix in Coconut,  Fruit and Nuts — this is where muscles are needed especially if you increase the recipe to make more than one cake.

Pour or scrape into prepared cake pan and smooth  out evenly. Now add decorative whole fruits and nuts in a design of your own creation. Bake 3 hours (if making small cakes you’ll have to adjust baking time somewhat). Cool on rack 15 minutes and then remove cake from pan. At this point you might want to wrap your cake in cheesecloth once it cooled completely and spritz it with your favorite fruit brandy — I used apricot. My Mom used orange juice since she didn’t drink alcohol.  This should be stored in an airtight non-metal container for about 2 or 3 weeks. Check it every once in awhile and spritz it w/ brandy as needed. It can be refrigerated if you want to keep it longer than the initial 2 – 3 weeks.

I’ve read where some people line an airtight tupperware container the cake will fit in with parchment paper and then it can lifted it out of the container by picking up the parchment paper. Then unwrap the cheesecloth to cut off servings and the remainder can be rewrapped and  lifted back into the container — just be careful not to cut through the paper.  That way the cake and brandy do not come in contact with the container. Anyone out there who tries this, please let me know how you like it.  I’m really sorry I don’t have pictures of the ones I’ve made in the past. If I make it this year I will add them to a later post.

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Wild Fruit Cake

For this post I’m going to start by presenting an Alton Brown recipe which is the basis I used to create a version I called a Wild Fruit Cake. For all of you folks out that who might have discovered this recipe already, I’m going to suggest using it as a start for creating your own version of a wild fruit cake. First of all read over the recipe and then try to imagine ways to tweak it to make it a “wilder” fruit cake as I have done with astonishing results. What I recommend is to use the recipe as a guideline and modify the fruits and nuts by adding a variety of wild fruits and nuts. You want the same approximate quantities, but you can vary the amounts of those in recipe so that you can add more wild ones. I added an array of wild nuts so that my cake included hickory nuts, black walnuts, butternuts as well as the pecans the recipe called for. In addition I’ve added dried elderberries and I’m certain one could add paw paw, persimmons or whatever other wild fruits that are available. I think one could even adjust the recipe to use fresh or frozen fruits by adjusting the wet ingredients a bit so that you obtain the right consistency. I’ve made my suggestions and I would be interested in how this recipe works for anyone who tries to make a wilder version of it as I did a couple of year ago.  I have offered alternate suggestion in the recipe that are shown in parentheses below.  Remember be creative and let me know what you did.

Free Range Fruitcake

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Easy

Serves:
10 slices

Ingredients

* 1 cup golden raisins
* 1 cup currants
* 1/2 cup sun dried cranberries (for fruits you can add or substitute any wild fruits — just try to keep overall quantities the same — I suggest you reduce raisins and currants to compensate for additions)

* 1/2 cup sun dried blueberries (wild one if you have them)

* 1/2 cup sun dried cherries — (any wild cherries would work here)
* 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped –( I’d try paw paw or persimmon here if I had some)
* Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
* Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
* 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped (if you have candied wild ginger that should work)
* 1 cup gold rum
* 1 cup sugar
* 5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
* 1 cup unfiltered apple juice  (or any wild juice you have on hand and if you use any fresh or frozen fruits such as pawpaw pulp, the amount needs to be reduced)
* 4 whole cloves, ground
* 6 allspice berries, ground
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken (or any mixture of wild nuts you have)
* Brandy for basting and/or spritzing (a wild home made brandy would work here to make it more wild)

Directions

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.

When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake’s flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks. If you decide to give the cake as a gift, be sure to tell the recipient that they are very lucky indeed.

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