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.

Rollin’ Out

I decided I wanted to talk about food for a minute, since – you know – this is a food blog and all. I’ll get to Chapter 6 in a few, and I LOVE keeping people in suspense.

But I keep seeing this huge bag of carrots in my fridge every time I open it, and as a result I can’t stop thinking about this ravioli.

I bought the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid, aka best wedding present ever, quite a few months ago. I used it once, and the pasta got all stuck in the roller section, an floury-eggy mess crusting up all over the place. After trying my damndest to clean it, I finally realized that the particular roller I had was a dud, and so I sent that sucker back and days later, a shiny new attachment showed up at my doorstep.

That one sat in the closet for a few months.

But sometime before Christmas, I kept looking at all the carrots in my fridge (I always seem to have a bag-full, thanks be to the CSA shares that are thankfully almost finished!) and I couldn’t stop thinking about a ravioli recipe I’d clipped. I’d bought the semolina flour weeks ago in anticipation of making pasta again and finally, I decided I could wait no more. Plus, I had some ricotta cheese on the verge of ruin, so the ingredients were there waiting for me.

It’s actually a fun little process, this making ravioli thing. But then again, I get all sorts of excited about making things from scratch, so this is no surprise, right? I can’t put my finger on it, but a certain feeling of pride sweeps up inside you when you can start with a few eggs, some flour, and a little salt, and end up with thin, beautiful strands of dough. And when the dough gets cut into the cutest little circles and loaded with a filling that’s probably good enough to eat by the spoonful, it’s definitely enough to make you sit back and grin about it.

Roasted Carrot & Ricotta Ravioli
Adapted from Food & Wine, October 2010; makes 40

time commitment: 1 – 1.5 hours

printable version

ingredients
filling
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (3/4 pound)
1 T olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 t unsalted butter
1 T minced shallot
1 T half and half
5 ounces ricotta cheese (~1/2 c)
6 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg yolk

ravioli
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon semolina flour, plus more for dusting
3 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

sauce to serve with (tomato, melted butter/cheese, etc)

special equipment: pasta machine, either hand-cranked or a KitchenAid attachment; 2 1/2″ cookie cutter

instructions
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prepare the dough. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the salt, nutmeg and the 1 tablespoon of semolina. Add the eggs and pulse until incorporated. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a semolina-dusted work surface and knead just until a smooth dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, roast the filling: In a baking dish, toss the carrots with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. Let cool slightly.

In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the carrots, shallot and cream and puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a bowl. Stir in the ricotta, Parmigiano and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg yolk.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Work with 1 piece at a time: Flatten the dough into a 5-by-4-inch oval, about 1/2 inch thick. Dust lightly with semolina. Roll the dough through a pasta machine at the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds (like a letter), then run it through the machine at the same setting, folded edge first. Repeat the folding and rolling once more. Roll the dough through at successively narrower settings, two times per setting, until it is thin enough for you to see the outline of your hand through it. Lay the dough out on a work surface lightly dusted with semolina.

Brush any semolina off the dough. On half of the dough, spoon 10 1-teaspoon mounds of filling in two rows of 5, spacing apart by about 2 inches. Cover with the other half of the dough and press down gently to get rid of any air. Using a 2 1/2″ cookie cutter, cut out 10 ravioli. Using the tines of a fork, seal all the way around each circle, and place ravioli on a large rimmed baking sheet lightly dusted with semolina. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough and filling.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook half of the ravioli over high heat until al dente, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to a platter. Repeat with the remaining ravioli and serve. (Ravioli, uncooked, can be frozen at least a month in advance. Freeze them individually on a baking sheet, then toss them into a bag together until needed.)

Serve with warmed tomato sauce, or some melted butter & cheese. Or with the sauce of your liking :).