Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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Why have I never made whoopie pies before? They are like cakes, but portable. What? You think I just described cupcakes? Here’s the thing that’s always bugged me: there is no elegant or polite way to eat a cupcake. It just doesn’t seem right to use a fork on them (and what if you don’t have a plate and silverware available, huh?), and when you stick your face in a giant cupcake, you just don’t look good. And mini cupcakes? Too small. Way too small. I like my portable treats more than one bite.

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Here’s why I probably never made whoopie pies. The name. Whoopie pies? Seriously? Where did that even come from? Pies aren’t cakes, after all. It just doesn’t make sense. Also, a few months ago, Bon Appetit had a face-off between whoopie pies and macarons. Macarons won. This must have stuck in my mind for some reason, giving me an unfortunate whoopie-pie-prejudice.

Well, I hereby rescind my snobbishness towards whoopie pies. Who cares what they are called. These things are insane. Not to mention MUCH easier to make, and arguably more rewarding (more than one bite, anyone) than a macaron.

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Here are a few things you will need to make red velvet whoopie pies. The awesome Baked Explorations cookbook, Adele loudly blasting in your kitchen, and a latte from Alterra. You will not need a furry baking assistant who likes flour a bit too much.

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Red velvet. Oh, red velvet. I learned that red velvet is a Southern thing that requires cocoa powder, red food coloring, and shortening. If it doesn’t have those three things, it is not red velvet. Prepare to get red food coloring all over your hands and to be shocked by how saturated the color of the dough is. Don’t worry, it’s not as frightening once baked.

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Plop the batter on your tray and get them into the oven. Check out those pictures! Doesn’t it seem like they magically rise up all perfect, piled on top of each other and filled with frosting? I’d like to tell you that’s what happens. But that would be lying. It is not that easy.

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Side note: You will have a few special ones. I am not sure why this happens, but it works out to your favor, because then you can eat them along the way.

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I almost stopped there ’cause the things were so good on their own. But persevere. Cream cheese frosting is calling. Don’t worry, the recipe makes more than enough frosting to have a few spoonfuls before you make the whoopie pies themseles.

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And there you have it. Whoopie pies. A Saturday afternoon adventure in your kitchen.

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They only keep three days in the fridge. But somehow I don’t think that will be an issue, even if you’re the only one eating them (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Continue reading

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Homemade Poptarts

Here’s an epic one. POPTARTS.

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All caps are definitely necessary. I am indeed internet-shouting about POPTARTS. POPTARTS!

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If I’m being honest, I actually like the artificial, goodness-only-knows-what’s-in-them poptarts you buy at the grocery store. But these guys are a whole different breed. They probably shouldn’t even be called poptarts. More like handheld pies. Or little pockets of heaven. Either way.

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First you make a pie dough–super simple, very easy, as long as you keep the butter cold. (By the way, might I suggest splurging on butter for this one? Go for the fancy European kind, like Kerrygold. It is such a joy to bake with. OK, unintentional advertising done.)

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Then you fill the pie dough with whatever you want. Like raspberry preserves, mixed with a bit of flour to thicken things up. Or cinnamon sugar, which turns gooey and delicious when baked. Or if you’re Norwegian like me, you make a little Scandinavian spice mix just for kicks and put it in a couple. You could even put nutella inside if you’re feeling really adventurous.

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Then you bake them. Let them cool (good luck not eating one hot out of the oven and burning yourself). The non-fruit-filled ones need a little something on top, so make yourself some killer browned butter glaze, which happens to be my favorite thing to put on cupcakes, cookies, on a spoon… and decorate!

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Seriously, the recipe below might be long, but it is actually super easy. And the payoff is great. (You just may want to double the batch though: a dozen is not enough.) Continue reading

Chai Tea Sandwich Cookies

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Okay. Full disclosure time. These cookies are not my best work. Somehow they were still pretty popular at the office. But I’m a perfectionist…

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It was really the buttercream that did it in. The original recipe’s buttercream did not come together, it was not white and fluffy and pretty, and it made me really sad, because nothing sounds more delicious than cardamom buttercream, right? I’m not sure what I did wrong, but that’s okay: I have included my mother’s buttercream recipe instead on this post, adjusted with a hint of cardamom. I know that it is delicious and I wish I had been smart enough to make that icing in the first place!

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Also, watch out: these cookies are really, really sweet. (I think I may have been a bit overzealous with my fancy cinnamon.) I think they still need some tweaking. I haven’t decided if I’ll make them again, but if you do, share your changes!

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Lemon-Scented Sugar Cookies

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A super-cool friend of mine is starting a pop-up community gathering space this summer! She had a Polka Party fundraiser (yes, it was as awesome as it sounds) and so I volunteered to bake something for her to serve at the event.

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I needed something quick and easy, perfect for baking after a full Saturday morning at work.

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This recipe from Cook’s Illustrated is one of my absolute favorites. It is so fast and simple and yields a beautiful cookie, soft and chewy. (See above: Cook’s Illustrated never lies. Further proof: coconut cake.)

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I added two twists: one was lemon zest, fluffed into the granulated sugar to infuse the flavor throughout the whole dough.

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The other was gold sanding sugar.

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What? The cookies needed to be dressed up with a bit of glitz–they were going to a party, after all.

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Continue reading

Lemon Curd

Summer is coming! Here is some lemon curd!

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But first, let’s be real. It sounds gross. Curd? Like curds and whey? What is curds and whey, anyway? When I was a kid I always assumed that was the most disgusting combination of foods ever. Like oats and grass–something that goats eat. On a farm. Where there are tuffets (whatever those are).

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Well, turns out the concept of curd is indeed kind of gross. It basically means letting some sort of dairy product curdle. Yuck indeed.

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And yet, lemon curd. Oh, lemon curd. You are delicious. In the recipe I used, a reviewer called the stuff “sunshine on a spoon.”

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This is very true. Eat it plain on a spoon on a grey Wisconsin day and you will feel instantly better about the weather.

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Slather it on pound cake (preferably one that didn’t fall). Dab it onto a croissant or scone and have some French-pressed coffee. Put it on berries. Bake a tart or something. Look at all the projects I’ve given you. You’ll be busy for weeks.

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So let’s review. Curd sounds gross, but lemon curd is delicious, so don’t overthink it. Just make it. Continue reading