From The Chef
I knew that whoopie pies had made a successful transatlantic journey when they turned up front and center in the showcase of La Grande Epicerie’s pastry department. La Grande Epicerie is to epicures what Disneyland is to kids: heaven. You could call it a supermarket, but you wouldn’t be doing justice to its wine, meat, caviar, seafood, exotic fruit and extensive bread offerings. Or to its fabulous candy section. Or its selection of jams that goes on endlessly. Or its cutting-edge pastry stand. When something shows up there, you know it won’t be long before it will be everywhere. And so it was with Les Whoopies.
Those whoopies—delicate cakes sandwiching thick, creamy fillings— reminded me of dainty Parisian macarons. Unlike so many others I’d seen, which were too large, fat and messy, they were small, elegant, precisely constructed and decorated with sophistication and restraint. Each was finished with a shiny chocolate glaze and some had little spots of color.
Makes about 24 small cakes
IngredientsFor the whoopie pies:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 3/4 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- To make the whoopie pies: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter or spray a whoopie pie pan; you might want to do this even if your pan is nonstick. Or if you’re making whoopie pies without a pan, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl.
- Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated and you’ve got a thick, smooth, silky batter.
- Using a small cookie scoop with a capacity of 2 teaspoons or a teaspoon measure (in which case you’ll want to scoop out rounded spoonfuls), fill each of the whoopie molds with batter -- don’t bother smoothing it because it will spread under heat—or place dollops of batter on the baking sheet, making sure to leave about 2 inches of space between the mounds of batter. You’ll have to work in batches, so cover the leftover batter and set aside.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cakes puff and spring back when poked lightly; a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Transfer the whoopie pie pan to a rack and wait for 5 to 10 minutes, then gently lift the cakes out of the molds. Or, if you baked the cakes on parchment, slide the paper off the baking sheet onto a rack and let the cakes cool to room temperature before gingerly lifting them off the paper.
- Continue to bake whoopie pies -- always making sure the pan or baking sheet is cool -- until you’ve used all the batter. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature before filling them.
- To make the filling: Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat all the ingredients together on medium-high speed until soft, fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- To fill the whoopie pies: Using a piping bag with a plain or star tip or a spoon, put about 1 tablespoon filling on the flat side of half the cakes. Top with the other halves, flat side down, twisting the tops gently just to make certain that the pieces are “glued” together.
- To glaze the whoopie pies: This is an optional step, but it makes the pies look like a true French pastry. Put the chopped chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and heat it for about 90 seconds at 50% power. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds, then gently stir the mixture, starting at the center of the bowl and working your way out in ever-widening concentric circles, until you have a smooth, glossy ganache.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. One by one, dip the tops of the whoopie pies into the ganache, twirling each pie slightly as you lift it out of the chocolate, so that the excess drips back into the bowl, and place glazed side up on the baking sheet. When all your pies are dipped, refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or just long enough to set the glaze.
- Serving: Since I’ve never seen a soul, young or old, drink a glass of milk in France, it’s unlikely les français would enjoy les whoopies with milk. A shame, since the dark devil’s food cake is so good with milk. I leave it to you, milk or not, and if not, I’d suggest a shot of espresso.
- Storing: Best the day they’re made, the whoopee pies -- without the filling and glaze -- can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost in the wrapper.
- Pour yourself a glass of Uproot and Enjoy!