Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: "Whoopie Pies"

Your Chocolate Priestess does book reviews for several places one of which is the Vine Program.  Back just as the seasons were turning to summer, I received whoopie pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell to review.   I make a point of not baking or using the oven much once the daily average is above 80 and it was above 90 far more often than normal this past summer.  So I only recently tried out the three recipes I always make sure to attempt before doing any review.

The first thing to note is that I made these recipes with nothing more than what the book suggested -- ingredients, bowls, a mixer with a paddle attachment.  My pies as you'll see were lopsided, not perfectly round, and varied widely in size.  I kept thinking, "I wonder how bakeries and companies make these things look so good?  They must use a mold."  Then I discovered one such mold or baking pan for whoopie pies.  While my pies may not be so beautiful, they are honestly homemade and we loved them in spite of their "flaws".

I made three types of whoopies and three types of fillings for a double of the normal number of recipes I try from a book.  The book itself is designed fairly well though it could lay a bit flatter.  It had a cushy cover over it and the photographs are great though there is not one for every recipe.  The 120 page book has basically three sections.  The first section is an introduction to what whoopie pies are and speculation on their creation.  The second section has 21 recipes for the pies, the cookie parts of the treat, including a cake sized version.  These range from the traditional chocolate to vegan variations and savory tastes.  The third section has 28 filling recipes and a glaze including vegan, traditional and savory variations as well.  Several of the recipes also includes hints and suggestions for changing the recipe slightly which I did in one case.

The first whoopie pie I made was a traditional chocolate (page 43) with a crunchy peanut butter filling (page 87).  The chocolate whoopie was made with just store brand cocoa.  The crunchy was the slight variation for the peanut butter filling since I had a jar of it and I had been looking for ways to use it.  I also cut down on the salt as suggested too since I didn't want the salt to overwhelm other flavors and this peanut butter had it's own salt.  In this photo you can see that these whoopies were a bit flat but I noted this was turn for various flavors of whoopies and frankly it made them easier to eat compared to later ones I tried.  These received rave reviews from everyone who tried them and they disappeared fast.

The second combination I tried was a vanilla whoopie (page 46) with a chocolate ganache filling (page 82).  For this I used Guittard's 65% Cacoa Machu Picchu-Peru chocolate.  This is the third of the four baking chocolates they so generously sent me to review for you all.  I will post one big review going back over all these baking chocolates soon after I finish using them.  These were as easy to make as the first recipe, even more so because the ganache was super simple to make and tasted divine.  In something where the major ingredient is chocolate, the type you use is very important.  I gave a dozen of these to our neighbors who recently spotted that one of our tree limbs fell on the power lines and was on fire -- they save our lawn and perhaps our house with their quick action though they lost power for hours afterward.

Finally my family wanted a break from chocolate -- I know, they are insane sometimes -- so I made a gingerbread whoopie (page 53) with the classical marshmallow filling (page 76). These were my least favorite.  They puffed up a lot so I started pushing them down before placing them in the oven. The gingerbread taste was subtle and I have to confess that now knowing what exactly is in the classic marshmallow recipes made me a bit uncomfortable eating it.  Talk about walking heart attack.

That leads to the only general and serious compliant about the book. The cookie recipes do not match the filling recipes in terms of the amount you make. I didn't skimp on putting filling in the cookies and yet I always had left over filling.  So much so with the classic marshmallow that I made a small cake from a Jiffy chocolate chip muffin box and it still didn't use all the fluff!  By the way, the Jiffy mixes are great for simple, fast cornbread but I wasn't impressed in terms of this mix at all. As you can see very flat for a cake and even though it was supposed to be for muffins, I've done this sort of change before and gotten much fluffier cakes from muffins mixes and pouches.

If this sounds like a good book for you or for someone you know who is willing to experiment with the traditional whoopie pie in some incredible ways, you must check out Billingsley and Treadwell's  whoopie pies for yourself.  If you all ready have this book and have tried it, please let me know if you concur with my review.


Confectionary Designs said...

A whoopie pie pan? That looks really cool - could save a lot of headaches. Thanks for sharing.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thanks for reading and posting, Confectionary Designs. Have you made whoopie pies in your business?

SashaInTheKitchen said...

I love this book too - I have made a bunch of recipes from it on my blog. Its great

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, ShahainTheKitchen. Did you have the same problem I did with the amount of filling the recipes made versus the amount of cookies?

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