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Recipe: Pumpkin Caramel Whoopie Pies
Whoopie Pies take on a Halloween theme with a pumpkin filling.
The San Francisco Chronicle
A whoopie pie is like an inside-out cupcake — cake on the outside and frosting in the middle. It looks like a sandwich cookie, but has a cake consistency. It's the best of both worlds.
It's also easier to eat than a cupcake, because the frosting is tucked neatly between the cake layers.
The quintessential whoopie pie is chocolate cake with a white frosting often made of Marshmallow Fluff or vegetable shortening. Purists scoff at other flavors, but this is a dessert that lends itself to numerous variations.
Pumpkin is especially good because pumpkin purée guarantees the cookies will be soft — crucial to whoopie texture. Plus it's a seasonal flavor that makes the pies perfect for Halloween parties or post trick-or-treat get-togethers, for adult tastes as well as kids'.
Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Maine all lay claim to being the birthplace of the whoopie pie. We can leave them to argue over who gets credit; all we care is how delicious they are.
Whoopie pies are easy to make at home. Sugar pumpkin purée is delicious when you go to the trouble to make it, but canned pumpkin is easy and more consistent. And, frankly, who has the time, or wants to dedicate the time, to roasting pumpkin at home? I'd rather spend that time at the gym working off the whoopie pie I'll devour later in the day.
There are various brands of organic canned pumpkin on the market, but good old Libby's works fine, too. Don't buy the canned pumpkin with added spices. It's much better to have control over the amount of cinnamon and ginger you want.
After you pull the cakes from the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet. Many recipes say to remove cookies from the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack, but pastry chefs in restaurants and bakeries don't do that. We don't have the space, so we cool them on speed racks that are built to hold full-size baking sheets.
At home I put the baking sheet on something like a cool stove top so air circulation gets around it. Or I use large, thick bamboo trivets.
Once the pies are assembled, refrigerate them in an airtight container. They'll stay fresh a couple of days.
Emily Luchetti is the executive pastry chef at Waterbar and Farallon, the author of several baking books, and the winner of the Best Pastry Chef award from the James Beard Foundation.
Pumpkin Caramel Whoopie Pies
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup cold caramel sauce, homemade or store bought
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
Large pinch kosher salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons finely diced candied (crystallized) ginger
1/4 cup cocoa nibs, optional (see Note)
1. For the filling: Mix all the filling ingredients together until incorporated. The filling can be made ahead, covered and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before assembling.
2. For the cakes: Move racks to the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
3. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil and pumpkin purée.
5. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until blended.
6. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1 tablespoon mounds of batter a couple inches apart on the baking sheets. You can fit 15 on an 11- by 16-inch rimmed baking sheet.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes until firm to the touch, rotating and switching the pans about halfway through if necessary.
8. Cool to room temperature before assembling.
9. To assemble: Spoon a slightly heaping tablespoon of the filling on the underside (flat side) of half the cookies. Place a second cookie on top to complete the whoopie pie.
10. Combine the ginger and the nibs, if using, on a small plate. Press some onto the sides of the whoopie pies to cover the filling. Refrigerate — tightly sealed — until ready to serve.
Note: Cocoa nibs are available in the baking or chocolate aisle of some supermarkets. If you can't find them, omit them.
Per pie: 335 calories, 4 g protein, 45 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat (6 g saturated), 53 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.