Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Whoopie Pies: The Closest I've Come to Rick Moranis's Opus

Ever since I was a kid, I've had one goal in life: to have a genius scientist shrink me so I can feast on a giant cookie sandwich like in Honey I Shrunk the Kids (I will neither confirm nor deny that this is why I studied science).  Every Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie that I finished in just two bites always left me feeling empty and wanting more because I knew there were bigger and better cookie sandwiches to be had. I would gladly risk the dangers of bee travel, lawnmowers, scorpions (seriously, what was it doing in a California backyard?) and sprinkler flooding for just a few moments with that giant cookie.

And ruined our expectations of cookies!
Despite my genetically predisposed lack of height, the closest I have ever come to achieving my dream has been the whoopie pies from SusieCakes in Brentwood. They have these incredible cookies sandwiched around a ridiculous frosting that should also come with a side of insulin. Seriously, if you're in Southern California, go to SusieCakes right now (if it's nighttime then camp out; it's worth it).

My first attempt at a whoopie pie. It had the right jaw-detaching size but not the right texture.
Back in June, I made my first batch of whoopie pies, but I found the cookie part to be far too cakey (in fact I later used the "cookie" recipe for some pretty good chocolate cupcakes). The filling, however, was near perfect. A hint of almond extract really helped distinguish it from your typical cream cheese frosting. This weekend, I again set out to prove my baking prowess with the world's greatest dessert. I enlisted the guidance of my usual baking partner Jenny from 2,000 miles away, and she came through by providing me with one of the tastiest chocolate cookie recipes ever that combined with the already wonderful filling to give me one of my proudest baking moments.

Whoopie Pies
Cookies: Mrs. Fields Recipe.
Frosting Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 6 giant sandwiches
Time: 45 minutes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
The batter is practically frosting.
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
3 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

16 oz cream cheese, softened
And the filling is practically Heaven
3 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp almond extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 300. 
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix together well (whisking can help remove lumps).
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with a mixer until you get a grainy paste.
  4. Mix in the vanilla and one egg at a time until fully incorporated.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, but be careful not to overmix. 
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop ice cream scooper sized amounts on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 18-22 minutes. Be sure to rotate once halfway through (and switch racks if you're using multiple baking sheets).
  8. Let cool on wire racks. You can leave them on the baking sheets for a little longer if you want the bottoms to harden up some (which is probably a good idea).
  9. Time to make the filling. Note: this makes almost double the filling you need, so feel free to scale back some (or save some for other things like French toast or eating with a spoon and feeling shame). Cream the butter, salt, cream cheese and almond extract together in a mixer using the whisk attachment.
  10. Mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until smooth. Stop when it reaches the desired sweetness. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  11. Assemble the whoopie pies by scooping on liberal amounts of frosting between two cookies.
  12. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. This will let the cookies harden some, and the cream cheese frosting is much better cold. 
Yes, the cookies are comically large, but the flavor is nothing to laugh at.

Like I said, scoop on liberal amounts of filling.
Don't try to be a hero. It's best to share this rich dessert with multiple people.
At first, I was extremely concerned that I had overmixed the cookies (which Jenny clearly stated not to do, and I trust her on these things). The batter had the consistency of frosting, but was delicious causing me to carry on. The cookies spread out like crazy and seemed to take forever to cook (definitely at the high end of that baking time estimate), but they turned out to be the best chocolate cookies I had ever had. The insides seemed to be an awesome brownie/cookie hybrid (complete with those brownie like chunks you find in ice cream) that was the perfect fit for the whoopie pies, especially once they hardened slightly in the fridge. They were also just thick enough to make a magnificently balanced union of cookie and filling. Despite being completely stuffed from the rest of our day of cooking, we all somehow managed to fight through the pain and enjoy them.

I may not have reached my Honey I Shrunk the Kids goal, but for one glorious night at least, I didn't care.
One day, Mr. Moranis. One day...

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