Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Valentine's Day is no better time for making whoopie ... pies

February 07. 2017 7:12PM

I visited a huge retail store last week — one of those sprawling superstores that are so big, it can be exhausting to walk from one end to the other, especially at the end of a long day.

What struck me the most was the truckload of Valentine’s Day confections and tchotchkes filling the front of the store — a mind-boggling assortment of packaged chocolates, huge stuffed animals and faux roses.

I wondered how much of that stuff will actually sell. My plans for Valentine’s Day treats for my friends and family include a batch of their absolute favorite, to-die-for New England confections — whoopie pies.

There is something about the marshmallow-creme filling that makes whoopie pies irresistible. Plus they’re portable (especially if you make them bite-sized), so they’re easy to pack in a snack bag or bring for a little pick me up during the workday. 

Tuck them as a surprise in a lunchbox with a little notecard and it’s a perfect way to let someone know you’re thinking of them.

If chocolate isn’t the right choice for your valentine, try a batch of maple vanilla whoopie pies. You can use the same marshmallow creme filling that you would use in the classic version; maple and marshmallow are delicious together.

And if your sweet tooth isn’t all that sweet, a simple, thoughtful way to prepare a treat for your valentine is to use some of the beautiful strawberries that arrive in the grocery stores this time of year. If your valentine is health conscious, a quick dip in sour cream and a little sprinkle of brown sugar make fresh, juicy strawberries a bit more decadent. A plate of these in the morning with a hot cup of tea or coffee will let your valentine know he or she is special. (Or make them for yourself — you deserve something special, too!) 

I think a little more time in the kitchen making something homemade is a meaningful way to show someone you care, so if you find yourself overwhelmed with choices at a big retail store, head for the kitchen and spend your time relaxing and baking.

Your valentine will be grateful.

Classic whoopie pies, with chocolate cakes and marshmallow-creme filling. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the filling:

1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened

1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

2 cups marshmallow creme (such as Fluff)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Add the butter, sugar, marshmallow creme and vanilla to a large mixing bowl and beat on high speed with a mixer until well combined and fluffy, about three minutes. 

For the cakes:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 1/3 cups flour

1 cup milk

Add the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla to a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth, about three minutes.

Add the egg and cocoa and beat for one to two additional minutes. 

Add part of the flour and part of the milk to the batter and continue to beat, then add remaining flour and milk and beat again until the batter is smooth. 

Spray a whoopie pie baking pan with non stick cooking spray and fill with the batter. (You can also bake the whoopie pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet by dropping the dough onto the sheet using a generous tablespoon. Leave at least two inches between each because they will spread).

Set the whoopie pies in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes, until they are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

Prepare the filling and spread onto a whoopie pie, then top with a second pie.

Maple-vanilla whoopie pies are a lighter take on the classic. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Vanilla Maple Whoopie Pies

1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 batch of filling (recipe above)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. 

In a second bowl, add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine. 

Add this mixture to the sugar and butter mixture, then add the maple syrup and cream and beat well to combine until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop the batter onto the baking sheet by the generous tablespoonful, then bake in an oven heated to 350 degrees. 

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the whoopie pies are firm. 

Allow to cool, then spread frosting on one whoopie pie and top with a second to form a sandwich. Repeat until all pies are filled.

Simple and fresh, strawberries dipped in sour cream and sprinkled with brown sugar are a less-sweet treat for your sweetie. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Strawberries with Sour Cream

1 lb fresh strawberries, rinsed and patted dry

8 oz container of sour cream

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Hold a strawberry by the leafy hull, then dip in the sour cream to coat. Set on a platter and repeat with the remaining strawberries. Sprinkle the strawberries with the brown sugar, then serve.


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