Mint Basil Whoopie Pies

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Is it OK to post my baking flops on this blog? It is, right? Keeps things real… shows you my experiments… As long as I’m clear I don’t really recommend baking these quite yet (unless you want to play with the recipe–then by all means, go at it and share your results!).

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I mean… These whoopie pies. The idea was there. It’s worth fiddling around with again sometime. And the end result is still completely edible. They just aren’t quite where I wanted them to be, in the end. I wanted them minty and bright and a little herb-y. And they aren’t like that. They’re just very, very sweet. With a kind of eyebrow-raising earthiness in the background.

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Part of the problem might have been that I didn’t really have a lot of mint in my building’s herb garden. I stripped those poor mint plants free of their most of their leaves, feeling a little guilty, but there still wasn’t enough. And I just couldn’t bring myself to use peppermint extract. (Nor could I bring my lazy self to go buy some mint at the store on a Saturday morning.)

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So the flavor wasn’t nearly as minty as I’d wanted–even though I under-did it on the basil, the basil overpowered the mint and left it just very herb-y and earthy. Not necessarily a bad thing (see: Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies), but without something tart or strong to counteract the basil, it’s not as exciting a flavor.

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The next flop is that these guys didn’t poof up! I detailed some ideas for fixing this in the notes of the recipe below, but they were not nearly as cakey and moist and wonderful as the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies I based my experimental recipe on.

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The taste of the cookies isn’t bad, per se–very sweet and laden with brown sugar. But they just don’t live up to the mint basil whoopie pies in my imagination.

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It also probably didn’t help that I made a super-sweet American buttercream (haphazardly colored bright green, because at this point, why not) to go along with it. Maybe if it was a lemon buttercream or a more tart cream cheese frosting, they would’ve been better together.

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Still. They aren’t atrocious. In fact, they’re not even that bad at all. But just wait until I get them past the point of confusingly sweet and earthy, and into superstar fresh mint wow!, and then, then they’ll be worth baking.

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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