Sunday, March 27, 2011

Exercising some Self-Control...

So, it's Lent. I was raised Catholic but am not particularly religious these days; however I usually give up something for Lent using it as a good opportunity to test my willpower. It's also convenient as I tend to have a trip of some sort planned in April so I like to give up some sort of food in an attempt to get myself ready for bathing suit weather.

In past years I've given up all sorts of things from ice cream to eating out, fried foods and beer. This year I decided to give up baked treats so all pastries, cookies, cakes and sweet breads are off-limits. I couldn't quite fathom giving up baked goods altogether so this was my compromise (though I may try next year...). Anyway, it hasn't been too bad so far but there have definitely been more than a few temptations especially at work (there was a bake sale on Friday! Torture). Since this also means I am not baking much these days, I thought I would share a recipe I've been meaning to post from a few weeks back.

I'd been wanting to try making whoopie pies for awhile now. I admit, I wasn't really on the whole whoopie pie bandwagon for a long time but then I tried this amazing pumpkin whoopie pie with cream cheese filling and it completely changed my mind! I decided to try these out for an Oscar party I went to (I had to bring a Toy Story 3 themed I
went with "Jessie's Yeehaw! pies". Get it??).

Since one of my friends happens to have a severe milk allergy I decided to make these dairy-free. I was a little nervous about it as I have never cooked with lactose-free milk and anyone who's close to me know that I am a hard core butter advocate and NEVER use margarine. But to my surprise they turned out delicious and you couldn't even tell they were dairy free! I used a marshmallow frosting which was really tasty and made the pies much lighter than they appeared. So try them out and enjoy (since I can't!)

Whoopie Pies

adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup margarine or butter (I used Earth Balance margarine)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. Mix together vinegar and soy milk in a cup and leave to the side for a few minutes. You can also use buttermilk, or regular milk and vinegar. Stir in the vanilla.

2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until everything is combined and the cocoa is well distributed.

3. Cream the margarine and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. The recipe says to use an electric mixer but I used my immersion blender for a couple of minutes and then a wooden spoon. Add the egg, beating until combined well.

4. Stir in the flour mixture and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until smooth.

5. Spoon 1/8-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. (Note: I never ever actually use measuring cups with batter, but since I needed these to actually be similar sizes I used a dry measure and scraped out in mounds using a teaspoon). Bake in upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching the sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 10 to 12 minutes. I actually only had one baking sheet available at time so I baked these in three batches on the middle rack and they were done in 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Once cool, match up the cakes in twos of similar sizes and fill with marshmallow topping. I think I used about a heaping tablespoon per cake but you can obviously use more or less. The recipe I used for filling made a bit more than I needed but not a ridiculous amount. Let the cakes sit for awhile before storing or packing away so the filling kind of sets (I did not do this and I made a bit of a mess in the tupperware containers!)

Marshmallow Topping

1 1/2 cups sugar (I was running out of sugar so ended up using a combination of white, brown and icing sugar. It didn't seem to affect the final product)
1 tbsp white corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place sugar, corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. Beat with a handheld electric mixer (I used my immersion blender with the whisk attachment) for 1 minute.

2. Place the pan or bowl over the boiling water, making sure that the boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form (I think mine took closer to 10 minutes).

3. Fold in vanilla. Let cool to room temperature before filling cakes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Make your own Tater Tots!

When I see Tater tots, the first thing that comes to mind is Gilmore Girls. Lorelei and Rory would have these ridiculous junk food gorge sessions which would always feature Tater Tots and Pop Tarts. Watching these episodes would always give me a craving for super processed frozen food and junk but always with the knowledge in the back of my mind that I would probably take two bites and then realize how bad the stuff tastes. Regardless, ever since I saw this Tater Tot recipe from Pennies on a Platter (via the Kitchn) I've been wanting to try them. And then I had some leftover potato from some potato skins I made for the Oscar party I went to on lst weekend so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try them out!

Now, I saw that the original poster tried a few variations using bread crumbs and corn flake crumbs before finding success with crushed potato chips. BUT I still wanted to try my own topping experiment so I made two different kinds. I made half following the original recipe which is very straightforward so I am not going to re-post the recipe. Also since I was using already mashed potatoes I just kind of eyeballed the measurements to the amount of potatoes I had (guessing it was about half the recipe). The other half I coated with a mixture of the remaining potato chips, panko crumbs, corn flake crumbs and freshly grated parmesan. They did look fancier and quite pretty, but in the end I do have the say the pure potato-coating definitely had more of that potato flavour which made it truly a tater tot. The "fancy" tots were nice and crunchy, but ended up tasting a bit stale (which is, incidentally, exactly what the original poster claimed).

So I can confirm for a fact that the recipe over at Pennies is pretty damn good and probably doesn't need any adjustments. I might try using a baked chip in the future (I used Original Lays) but other than that I see no reason to mess with a good thing. Next up...homemade Pop tarts?