As a devoted follower of Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, owners of the Baked bakeries and writers of the indispensable cookbook of the same name, I could not wait to get my hands on their newest project, Baked Explorations.
"A tribute to beloved American desserts," Baked Explorations is a lovely book full of classic treats such as Cornmeal Griddle Cakes and Mississippi Mud Pie, as well as "abandoned desserts" like Boston Cream Pie and Pecan Tassies.
In the few short weeks since I brought it home, I've made their Honey Corn Muffins, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, and Chocolate Whoopie Pies. All have proved delicious and easy to make with standard pantry staples. The only exception was the Whoopie Pies: I'd run out of canola oil and didn't want to make fresh coffee, so I used blood-orange olive oil and hot water as substitutions.
Chocolate-Blood-Orange-Olive-Oil Whoopie Pies (gently altered from the original)
Makes about 30 small pies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper
For the cookies:
• In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup Valrhona cocoa powder and 2 tsp. instant espresso. Add 1 cup hot water (original recipe calls for 1/2 cup hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water) and whisk to mix. Set aside to cool a little.
• In another bowl, whisk together 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder, and 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda. Set aside.
• To the cocoa/coffee mixture, whisk in 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar and 3/4 cup blood-orange olive oil (original recipe calls for canola oil). I get mine from Stonehouse. Mix well, then add in 1 large egg, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
• Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until incorporated.
• Using a small ice cream scoop or a teaspoon, drop mounds of dough, about 1 inch apart, on the parchment-covered baking sheets.
• Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes until they just begin to crack on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
• Let cool completely while making the filling
For the filling (I like less filling, so I cut, from the original recipe, the eggs from 5 to 3 and the sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 3/4 cup):
• Set out 2 sticks of refrigerator-cold unsalted butter, cut up into small chunks, to let warm a bit.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the whites of 3 eggs with 3/4 cup sugar. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water and gently whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch. Remove from the heat, attach to the mixer, and, with the whisk attachment, beat until the bowl is cool to the touch and you have a nice, billowy, white meringue.
• Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the butter, a few chunks at a time, until all is incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium-high and mix for five minutes. Don't worry if the buttercream starts to fall apart—it will come back together.
• Mix in 1 tsp. of vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp. salt until well incorporated
Using a small offset spatula, or the like, spread a dollop of the buttercream on one cookie, top with another. Repeat with remaining cookies.