Friday, September 30, 2011

Busy Cooking: Apple Whoopie Pies with Vanilla Bean Filling

OH.MY.GOD!  These are soooo good!  Last weekend, we went apple picking for the first time in five years.  Most of our kids had never been before.  The place we went to was a TOTAL ripoff (the money we saved from not picking in five years was just spent on this one trip).  Don't ever go to an orchard that makes each person buy a bag, even the little little kids.  Needless to say, we had fun, got six bags of apples, McIntosh or not, they're still delicious.

On the drive up to the orchard, I was ripping pages out of the Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking magazine.  This recipe jumped out at me and I couldn't wait to get home to make it.  I wanted to make it that night, but we got home too late.  Combining lots of cinnamon, homemade applesauce, and vanilla bean filling, these are quite possibly the best whoopie pies I have ever made/eaten!

As I was sampling the first one, I was thinking how a cinnamon icing would be delicious inside too, I pulled down a jar of cinnamon red hots and stuck one inside.  MAGICAL!  My assistant helped me pop one red hot in the center of each pie.  (Note:  you do not need to completely fill the pies with icing, I just pipe around the edges- when you bite, it squeezes in and fills the rest.)
Oven: 350

Whoopie Pies:
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups Homemade Applesauce (or jarred)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 3/4 cup flour
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt

Vanilla Bean Icing:
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3-5 TBSP whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Homemade Applesauce:
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
5 large or 10 small apples
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

If you are going to make the homemade applesauce, which I HIGHLY recommend (it's sooo good), do this part first.  Core and peel the apples (you can leave the peel on, it will soften and make your sauce a pinkish color).  Put the cider, sugar, cinnamon, and apples into a dutch oven over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and let simmer 45-60 minutes or until apples are soft (mine were done in 25 minutes).  Put apples and 1-2 ladles of the juice into a blender or food processor and puree.  You can add more juice if it's not the consistency you want.

For the whoopie pies:
1) Preheat the oven, then line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  I would recommend the parchment paper if you have it, the whoopie pies are sticky because of the applesauce, so it makes it very easy to get out of the pan.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside

3) Put brown sugar and butter into bowl of mixer and beat on medium high until fluffy and light tan.  Scrape down sides.

4) Add in eggs and vanilla, beat until combined.  Scrape down sides.

5) Add in heavy cream and applesauce, beat until combined.  Scrape down sides.

6) Slowly add in the dry ingredients, scrape down sides, give one final quick mix.

7) Using a cookie scoop or spoon, drop batter onto prepared cookie sheets.  I used a small cookie scoop and only filled it half way, the small whoopie pies I made were about 2 inches wide, they were quicker to cook than the larger ones.  Space them about 2-3 inches apart to account for spreading while baking.

8) Bake until they are a dark golden brown color.  The recommended time in the recipe called for 10-12 minutes, mine were pale colored and raw in the centers.  I ended up cooking for 20-22 minutes, you just kind of have to watch that first batch and adjust for the way your oven cooks.  When you see the dark golden color in my pictures you'll know they're done.

9) Let cool completely on a cooling rack.

10) While they are cooling, mix up the icing.  Put butter in bowl of mixer, beat to soften, then add the confectioner's sugar 1 cup at a time.   Take the vanilla bean, cut it lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the bowl.  Add in the vanilla, and then the milk until your desired consistency.  Make sure to add the milk slowly, because even 1 TBSP too many can result in runny icing.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl periodically too, butter can often cake to the bottom of the bowl.

11) Choose your favorite pastry tip, put it in a decorating bag or ziploc, put in a cup for stability, and fill with the icing.  Swirl the icing around the outside edges of the pies, then add a top. You can also just put a scoop of icing in the center of a whoopie pie and press the top on to spread it out.

Add a red hot if you have them and want to add some zing!
12) Eat them and try to contain yourself, I seriously ate 6 yesterday!

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