Makin’ Whoopie

On occasion, and contrary to what I said the other day about moderation, I like to use a stupendous amount of butter. Yeah, that’s right. Stupendous.

Like 4 sticks in 1 recipe. Sure, that’s breakfast for Paula Deen, but over here those four sticks usually last a month or more.

It’s all a ploy to make new friends – that’s all. You won’t catch me making these sorta treats just for the two of us (okay, maybe, but not on the regular), but by golly I’ll fatten up new-found friends any day of the week. They rarely complain. And! I still get to eat some too, so I’m happy (but not “fat and happy” as the saying goes).

And so, these sorta treats come along to days at the bay when we’re shucking oysters and drinking Vino Verde, or Moscofilero, or Blue Moons with orange juice drizzled in (yeah, it sounded strange to me too – but it’s tasty).

They go nicely with other things too – like milk, or water, or coffee, or just plain ol’ saliva! And when I eat them, I get a slight twinge of nostalgia; I think of those oatmeal cream pies (with carrots!) from gramma’s house – soft, oaty, creamy, and yeah – buttery, for sure.

And like I said before – these carrot cake whoopie pies are good for making new friends too. I even traded one in for a barbeque sauce-laden rib that Chris was swooning over. Spreading the love is what these things are all about – yourself, friends, or strangers – pick one, or pick ’em all.

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
adapted from Tasting Table, who adapted from Claire Twestern of Talula’s Garden; makes 18-24

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes active time, plus 6 hours inactive time dedicated to letting the dough chill

printable version

ingredients
Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c light brown sugar
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ t vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t freshly grated nutmeg
½ T crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 c old-fashioned oats
1½ c of peeled and grated carrots (from about 2 to 3 medium carrots)
1 c raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained

Cream Cheese Icing
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1¼ c powdered sugar
2 T honey
12 oz cream cheese, softened

instructions
Make the cookies: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until lightened, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the eggs one at a time, beating the yolk of the first egg until it’s incorporated before adding the second egg. Stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet, then gently stir in the oats, carrots and raisins. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and set. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for a couple of minutes, then carefully move cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Make the icing: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in the honey and cream cheese until incorporated. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag (or fashion one out of a plastic bag and cut a hole in the corner) and pipe the frosting onto half of the cookies; place the other cookies on top to create sandwiches.

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Cake Boss

As many of you regular readers will attest, I like to think of myself as living a double life: genetic counselor by day, unpaid chef by night. This is no accident, folks. You see, my job is exactly what it sounds like – it’s my job; I work, I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but at the end of the day, I go home.

People who talk about their jobs all the time really annoy me, quite frankly. Fortunately, most of the people in my life, Hubs included, are on my side. Most of them.

But today, I’ll talk about work just a tad more, but only because for once there is a direct correlation between work and well, food. Appropriate here, yes?

You see, I have this boss. I like her – a lot. She’s a big-time breast oncologist who throws out the f-bomb more times in a day than I do in a week. There is something to be said for that, at least in my book. And all in all, having her as my boss makes coming to work, and leaving work at work, easy.

I should also add that, while I was baking my ass off (or back on, rather) in culinary school, she was kind enough to take many a leftover croissant or eclair off my hands. That said, I always knew she was a fan of baking. But unfortunately for her, her husband isn’t, and by choice (by choice, people!) he opts for a sugar-free diet. This posed a small issue when trying to find a sugar-free cake baker for his recent birthday, and I was almost, almost, suckered into making one, despite my inexperience with any sort of sugar-lacking baked good.

Instead, I was challenged to a battle – as if I ever enter food competitions that involve a little friendly voting. I think she thought I’d let her win, since you know, she does my evaluations and all. And I think I thought my baking confidence would carry over into Splendaland.

As it turns out, sugar-free baking isn’t all that hard, or all that different, but it does require a little bit of thought, and a little bit of trust in your ability – I thought a little bit, but once the baking was underway, my trust in myself dissipated with a quickness. And while I thought this was supposed to be a cake-only battle, boss lady brought a banana cream pie to the table, a pie that would have certainly gotten my vote, had I had one.

But fortunately for me, I wasn’t voting, because that one vote would have tipped the scale just enough for a tie. Once all the votes were cast, my dessert took the cake, so to speak, but only by a morsel. Boss lady may not have won this time, but I have a feeling there’s a rematch in the near future, and next time I bet she’ll even make her own pie crust ;).

Double Layer Carrot Cake (sugar-free)
Adapted from Splenda.com; serves as few or as many as you like

i’m certainly no sugar-free cook, but if you’re into this sorta thing, this is a great launchpad. this cake doesn’t taste sugar-free (unless, of course, a decadently sugar-laden carrot cake is alongside) and it’s dense, but still moist. Serve at room temperature or warmed.

printable version

ingredients
Cake
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 T baking soda
1 t salt
4 t ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c canola oil
2/3 c 2% milk
2 T pineapple juice
2 t vanilla extract
2 c SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
3 c shredded carrots (about 6 small)
1 c raisins
1/2 c chopped pecans
2 T flaked coconut

Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
½ c butter, softened
1 c SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
2 t vanilla extract
1 T pineapple juice

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat 2 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, stirring until blended. Set aside.

Combine eggs, canola oil, milk, pineapple juice, vanilla, and SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until blended. Fold in carrots, raisins, pecans and coconut. Spoon mixture into prepared pan (the mixture will appear much drier than most cakes, and you may have to ‘smooth’ the batter to cover the bottom of the pan since it isn’t very runny).

Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add SPLENDA®Granulated Sweetener, beating until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and pineapple juice, beating until blended.

If cake layers are rounded at the top, use a serrated knife to trim off some of the top. Frost the top of the bottom layer, then add the top layer and frost the remainder of the cake.

Batter Up

It’s National Pancake Week, boys and girls! I truly, honestly had no freakin’ clue until around 12 PM on Thursday. Otherwise, I might have held off on the Vietnamese sandwich shop talk until later and instead provided some pancakes for you to mull over early in the week.

Do you just love love love pancakes? Growing up, we didn’t eat waffles or french toast; at least not that much and not enough where I can remember it. I do remember pancakes though – they were griddled on the weekends if my pops wasn’t making those bacon, egg, and cheese samiches that we all loved so dearly. Straight from the box of Bisquick they were, but they were all I knew and quite frankly, all I cared to know.

Aside from Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup, which was the only syrup I would eat as a child. To this day, I like it better than maple syrup on my flapjacks (although I don’t eat it now, because now I know maple syrup is “better”). In fact, I hated eating breakfast at other kids’ houses; they always had Log Cabin or Mrs Butterworths, or even worse, some generic brand that tasted like sugar water. In those instances, I’d eat my ‘cakes plain, no lie. There was no Aunt Jemima substitute when it came to the syrup and as I mentioned, there still isn’t if you can get past the ‘high fructose corn syrup’ taboo.

So, friends, it’s a good day to be reading my ramblings. I have two tried and true pancake recipes for ya and until today I wasn’t sure when I’d be posting them :). I whipped up one of these batches for company a few weeks ago (s’mores weekend) and they were demolished in moments, sorta like the way my cat scarfs down a nibble of bacon. I’d consider that batch as one of my very favorite pancake recipes of all time – and really, who wouldn’t adore a flapjack that tastes like a slice of carrot cake? Exactly.

The other is from pancake fanatic, Joy the Baker, who must have at least 15 different pancake recipes on her blog. I made these for my lover boy on Valentines day morning, as I just happened to have some lovely Michigan blueberries in the freezer and a couple of Meyer lemons in the fridge. These, I think, might be his favorite pancakes, as he didn’t leave a crumb behind.

So, here you are. If I were you, I’d be making some weekend breafast plans right. this. minute.

Carrot Cake Pancakes
Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2010; serves 6

printable version

ingredients
5.6  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/4  c  chopped walnuts, toasted
2  t  baking powder
1  t  ground cinnamon
1/4  t  salt
1/8  t  freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of ground ginger
1/4  c  brown sugar
3/4  c  low-fat buttermilk
1  T  canola oil
1 1/2  t  vanilla extract
2  large eggs, lightly beaten
2  c  finely grated carrot (about 1 pound)
Cooking spray
butter, for topping
maple syrup, for serving

instructions
Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 c brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in 2 c carrot.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or pancake griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon 4 (1/4 cup) batter mounds onto pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned. Repeat procedure twice with remaining batter.

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Blueberry Meyer Lemon Pancakes
Adapted from Joy the Baker; serves 3 (12 small pancakes)

printable version

ingredients
1 egg
1 c flour
1 T sugar
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1 c thawed and rinsed frozen blueberries (or fresh, if in season)
cooking spray
butter, for topping
maple syrup, for serving

instructions
In a small bowl rub the lemon zest into the granulated sugar until pale yellow and fragrant.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and butter.  Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir until just combined. Batter will be clumpy and not smooth, which is perfect.  Fold in the berries with a few strokes until barely combined.

Heat a griddle pan or large skillet over medium-hi heat.  Add a smidgen of butter or cooking spray and let melt.  Add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter to the pan.  Heat until bubbles form and start to pop.  Carefully flip over and cook through.   Place cooked pancakes on an oven proof plate and let rest in a 200 degree F oven while you fry the rest of the pancakes.

Top pancakes with maple syrup (or Aunt Jemimas!) or as Joy suggests, mascarpone sweetened with a dash of powdered sugar and the juice of one Meyer lemon.

 

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Want some more pancakes to choose from? Here’s a few from around the blogosphere:

Chai-Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes from Joy the Baker (I will totally hit these up one day)

Whole Grain Pancakes w/ Blueberry Maple Syrup from 101 Cookbooks

Gluten-Free Pancakes from Gluten-Free Girl & the Chef

Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen

Uncle Austin’s Mexican Pancakes with Coconut from Homesick Texan

Strawberry Cardamom Blender Pancakes from Adventures in Shaw