Friday, April 6, 2007

Makin' Whoopee

Life in Central Pennsylvania has much to recommend it. For starters, there’s a picturesque quality to the region: On any given Sunday you’ll find the country roads brimming with horse-drawn buggies and the Amish folk that ride inside them. Hex signs wink at you from the sides of crumbling tobacco barns; the rolling fields are filled with rich dark earth and grazing livestock. This charming old town isn’t bad, either, with its row houses, small museums, and – soon – an academy of music designed by none other than fancy-pants architect Philip Johnson.

What else? Well, sometimes, instead of the pervasive aroma of manure, the outside air smells like chocolate – or Twizzlers – thanks to an abundance of candy manufacturers. And it’s always possible to feel connected: Your child’s pediatrician is likely to be your next-door neighbor and also the person in the pew behind you at church. The person perching on the next bicycle at spinning class is a favorite high school teacher; later you’ll see him down the aisle at the local theater company’s opening night performance. Six degreees of separation? More like two around here. Sometimes this all feels comfortable and cozy.

So what if Wikipedia deems Central Pennsylvania an “exclave” of Rednecks? Heck, we have a great Indian restaurant in town and a couple of Vietnamese places, too. Starbucks has recently decided we’re worthy of its presence and there are even a couple of CraigsLists for the region. Trader Joe’s, consider yourself invited.

Now you might be wondering, Dear Reader, where exactly this travelogue is going. Has the Queen been hired to promote the region to her legions of fans? Well, not exactly. (Although by now you must surely be planning a visit?) One thing I haven’t yet mentioned – and one of the best things about living here – is the proliferation of farmers’ markets. Local produce and farmstand-quality meats and dairy products abound; fresh baked goods are considered household staples. While the selection varies from cinnamon breads and rice krispee treats to local delicacies like snickerdoodles and shoofly pie, almost all of these bakery stands feature the epitome of Pennsylvania Dutch goodies … wait for it … the Whoopee Pie.


I’ll confess that I’ve never much liked Whoopee Pies, although based on the quantities – and varieties (chocolate, red velvet, pumpkin, peanut butter) – that sell around town, I must be in the minority. The version that appears below is not quite the standard, although personally I find it much more appealing. The “cookie” part is like a fudge brownie and the inside filling is nothing more than a partially-toasted marshmallow.

Now you don’t need to tell me that marshmallows aren’t exactly pure and natural, but in this concoction they seem sweetly innocent. They are, at any rate, less insidious than the shortening-based “crème” that is stuffed into the original. If you wanted to be really “gourmet” you could fill them with a spoonful of homemade whipped cream, but trust me, you’d be veering far, far away from the farmers’ market standard. Heck, your Whoopee Pie might even be designated “exotic,” something that’s not exactly a complimentary term hereabouts.


Whoopee Pie

Adapted from Food Network Kitchens

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
½ c butter
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
¼ c. cocoa powder
½ t. baking powder
¾ t. salt
18 large marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt chocolates and butter together together, either by microwaving (stir every 30 seconds until melted) or over very low heat in a saucepan. Stir until well combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir into chocolate and butter mixture and mix until smooth. In another bowl sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and slat together. Gradually whisk dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture, just until thoroughly moistened. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter onto cookie sheets, spacing approximately 1-inch apart. Try to get 36 cookies. Bake approximately 6 minutes, just until cookies spring back when lightly touched. Cool cookies slightly, before moving half of them to a rack. Flip the remaining cookies so that the flat sides face up. Place a marshmallow on top of these 18 cookies and return pan to the oven. Let them bake 3 more minutes, just until marshmallows begin to soften. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and top with the remaining cookies, pressing lightly to make sandwiches. Cool completely on wire racks.

P.S. Lucy the Royal Pooch is on the mend. Her surgery for a ruptured ACL was successful and she’s expected to return to her food-stealing ways very soon. Note to file: Stash the Whoopee Pies!



At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love to make whoopie pies and see the facial expressions of those who eat them. I remember when I first moved down south and no one I made them for ever heard of them. Instant hits! I can't eat chocolate, so this Christmas I made gingerbread whoopies...yum!

At 3:19 PM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

Chris, Gingerbread whoopee pie = great idea!

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed the amount of Flour to include???

At 12:45 PM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

anonymous, My apologies! That's 1 cup flour (and I've now corrected the recipe). Hope you enjoy.


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