Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I love these cookies. They are a little unique and always a favorite around the holidays. I was inspired by a recipe I clipped out of the Washington Post many years ago. After many changes and tweaks, I think it's just about perfect. These sandwich cookies are best eaten the same day, but if you're not going to eat them, refrigerate them as the center can get kind of goopy if left out for too long.

Makes about 36 sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C. packed brown sugar
  • 1 C. canned pumpkin
  • ½ C. milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
For the filling:
  • 8 oz. whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ C. powdered sugar

To make the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. 

In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes or until creamy. Add the pumpkin, milk, egg, and vanilla, and mix on low speed until all ingredients are combined.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. The dough will be sticky.

Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets in evenly sized rounds, spaced about 1 inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time, for about 10 minutes, until set.

Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Repeat to use all the dough, making about 72 cookies.

For the filling: 

Beat the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla for about 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. 

Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar until the mixture is creamy. 

To assemble the whoopie pies, spread the bottom of one cookie with some of the filling, then top with another cookie to make a sandwich.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cranberry-Orange-Almond Pie

We've had a little wintry weather here recently, and I was itching to do some baking. I'll be starting on my Christmas cookies at the end of the week, so I wanted to make something different.

I had extra pie crust dough in the freezer left from Thanksgiving, as well as some leftover whole fresh cranberries, so I came up with this pie. I like the combination of orange and almonds, but you could probably substitute another nut here if you wish.


For the crust - pate brisee - makes enough dough for 2 crusts:

  • 2.5 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • up to 1/2 C. very cold water
In a stand mixer or food processor (or by hand), mix the flour, salt, and butter, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add the cold water until the dough comes together in a ball. The dough should not be sticky.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and pat into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. 

Remove one disk of dough and roll into a circle large enough to fit your pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate, trimming the edges if necessary. Put the pie plate into the refrigerator for at least an hour to re-chill the dough.

For the filling:
  • 2 C. fresh whole cranberries
  • 1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 C. sliced almonds
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 eggs, beaten

In a large bowl, combine the cranberries and melted butter and stir to coat evenly. Add the sugars, the corn starch, and the almonds and stir until combined. Add the orange zest and beaten eggs and stir to combine.

Pour the filling into your chilled pie crust and bake at 350 for an hour, until browned and mostly set in the middle.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.