Vanilla Bean Whoopie Pies

IMG_4653 (575x309)If at first you don’t succeed—bake, bake again.  Such was the case with these vanilla whoopie pies.  My first batch could have been used as paper weights (whoops), but the second time was whoopie pie nirvana—whoopie!

Whenever I make a recipe for the first time, I always set my timer for a few minutes under the recommended minimum baking time.  In the case of these whoopie pies, since it called for baking 8 to 10 minutes, I departed from my procedure and decided to check them at 8 minutes.  At that minimum baking time, they were quite overdone.  :-(  And, let me assure you, my oven is in calibration—on top of that, I still use an oven thermometer.  I had made just half a batch, so all the whoopie pies were baked at the same time.  Even the ganache filling couldn’t save them.

After doublechecking the original cookbook, Whoopie Pies, I looked at the blog posting I had seen for the whoopie pies.  Both stated that the baking time was 8 to 10 minutes.  When I reviewed the blog post, I noticed that Tracey talked more about the Nutella frosting she made than the vanilla cookies themselves.  She also said that while the cookies were good they “definitely served as a vehicle for the Nutella frosting more than anything else.”  Reading between the lines, I’d say those cookies probably turned out dry as well.

Being stubborn, of course I had to make them again.  I decided to go with both a reduced temperature (from 375 to 350o F) and a shorter baking time.  Baking at 350o F and cutting the baking time down to 6 minutes (25% less than the minimum specified) made a world of difference.  Instead of a hard, dry and somewhat cardboard-like cookie, I had a soft, moist and tender cookie.  Paired up with a decadent chocolate ganache, this turned out to be one mighty scrumptious whoopie pie.

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One year ago:  Apple Cinnamon Buttermilk Cake

Two years ago:  Pumpkin Bread

Vanilla Bean Whoopie Pies

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Ingredients for the Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tbl. vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tbl. milk
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for Chocolate Ganache Filling

  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Directions for Cookies

Preheat oven to 350o F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs and buttermilk and beat until combined (your batter may look curdled but it will come together when you add the flour).

Combine the milk, baking soda, and vinegar in a small measuring cup.  With the mixer on low add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk mixture and then the rest of the flour mixture.  Beat just until everything is combined.  Add the seeds from the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract) and beat for another minute, until everything is completely combined.

Using a small cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between cookies.  Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 6 to 7 minutes, or until they are set and just beginning to brown.  Mine were done in exactly 6 minutes.  Watch carefully—they can overbake in 30 seconds!

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for no more than 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Remember—the cookies will continue to bake on a hot cookie sheet.

Prepare the filling with the recipe below.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with the chocolate ganache filling.  Once the cookies are cool, pair them by size.  Pipe some of the ganache on the flat side of one cookie in each pair.  Sandwich the whoopie pies together, pressing to nudge the filling to the edges.  Or be lazy as I was and just spread some frosting with a small offset spatula.  It may not look as pretty but will taste just as good.

Directions for Chocolate Ganache Filling

Put the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes until the chocolate is melted.  Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth.  Allow the mixture to rest at room temperature until firm enough to pipe or spread, about 2 hours.  You may also refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes until it is firm enough to spread, stirring every 10 minutes.

Fran’s Notes

  • Yield will depend on the size of your cookie sandwiches – I ended up with 21 sandwiches.  My cookies were about 3 inches in diameter.
  • I used a vanilla bean for my first batch of whoopie pies and vanilla extract for the second.  As pretty as the vanilla bean specks are, I don’t think it is worth the effort or expense and recommend just using vanilla extract.

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Source:   From Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell with a jog from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

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