Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gluten Free Whoopie Pies...Just in Time for Valentine's Day


I'm going to let all of you in on a little secret about me. I do this little food segment every month on our local morning news show where I cook up fabulous gluten free food and talk about how great of a cook I am. :) That's not really a secret, but what is a secret is how much time and mental energy I spend on what recipe I will cook on that particular day.In other words: I am a slave to my TV show. There are several criteria that a recipe must pass in order to appear on camera: 1. It must be able to be broken into two parts, so that I have one half to do in the first three minute segment and one half to do in the second three minute segment. 2. It must be simple enough that anyone can make it but complicated enough that the foodies watching won't turn off the TV. 3. It has to fit the season or holiday that is in that month (like no corn on the cob in December, or no Autumn stew in March). 4. It has to be tasty, so that when Ron and Debbie take a bite they don't vomit all over the beautiful granite countertops. (One time Debbie did eat a bite of one of my pies that I had made and frozen a few days earlier and it was ice cold. Luckily it was off camera, so no one saw the grimace.) 5. It has to have at least two steps of preparation that I can do for a 10 second "teaser" in between segments, to keep people from changing the channel on me. That is quite a list, isn't it? It's a lot of food thoughts in a month.


The other part of the secret is that sometimes I think up something I want to make because it will fill all the criteria above, but I have never made it before, so I must create a recipe somehow within a month's time so that I can get it to the station for their web page and all their promo graphics before one day before the segment airs. Whew. This month was one of those months. I really wanted to do whoopie pies because they are chocolate and Valentine's day is coming up, and I wanted to use my own flour blend, and I wanted them to be cute and fun but a little different. Here is a look behind the scenes of creating a gluten free dessert:

First of all, I researched whoopie pies on the internet and found out that they are a chocolate sponge cake with marshmallow filling. When I read the words sponge cake and tried to add gluten free in front of them, I knew that just wasn't possible in the mortal world of cooking without wheat. So I researched some basic cookie recipes and some whoopie pie recipes and discovered that they all have very similar ratios of the same ingredients, so I figured I couldn't mess up that bad if I conglomerated them and sort of mix-and-matched ingredients. The other thing I noticed is that the basic cookie recipe is a lot like Giada deLaurentis' Lemon Ricotta Cookie recipe, which I always make gluten free and get great comments on all the time. And I thought the ricotta cheese would really help this batter be lighter and fluffier, and I was right.

I also wanted to show people how to make their own flour blends, so I had to think about what grains I wanted to use. I knew I didn't want brown or white rice flour because of their mealy texture, and I really love millet because of it's mild flavor, but I ended up with amaranth, tapioca, and teff because they are all such small grains and can be milled very finely. That and Bob's Red Mill makes packages of all three, so it's easy for people who don't have one of these to find them at the health food store.
Then I got a muffin top pan because I thought it would be so great to have extra large whoopie pies and people could see a new kind of pan. I even cut out cute circles of parchment paper which I buttered on the top and bottom before I added the batter. Extra mile. When I scooped out the batter it ended up taking 1/4 cup of batter. 1/4 cup! Needless to say they were huge and tasted fine, but they had to bake for way too long and I don't have 30 minutes for a cookie to bake on the air between segments. And because they were so big they fell apart really easily and you needed a fork to eat them, which defeats the purpose of a cute and fun Valentine's day cookie. So I went the other route: tiny. I used my smallest scoop and the cookies actually turned out to be about average size. And this recipe makes a TON of tiny cookies.

Then came the final preparation: I dropped of a gift of cookies to three gluten free friends to get feedback on the final result. Flavor? Check. Texture? Check check. Deliciousness? Triple check. In fact, the funny thing was I got the exact same feedback from two people: they got sick after they ate three cookies because they are so rich and yummy. So the rule of two applies to these cookies. Eat two in one sitting and you won't get sick, any more than that and you're asking for a sugar coma. I know someone out there with a blog rulebook is tsking that this post is now officially way too long, and I agree. But now you know the life span of a gluten free TV recipe. Here it is, in all it's chocolate glory:

Gluten Free Whoopie Pies

3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup amaranth flour
1 cup teff flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick soft butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together cocoa powder, flours, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add ricotta and vanilla, beat well. Add in cocoa/flour mixture a little at a time, beat well, making sure mixture in the bottom of the mixing bowl is incorporated. Using a small scoop or melon baller, place 15-18 small scoops of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat. Bake at 375 for 13 minutes or until firm in the center. Cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to continue cooling. To make whoopie pies, flip half of the cookies over onto their tops and pipe a dollop of marshmallow filling onto the center. Top with another cookie right side up.


Marshmallow filling

1 stick of soft butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 jar (7.5 oz) of marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla

Beat the butter and confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until incorporated. Stop mixer and add marshmallow fluff. Add vanilla and mix well. Pipe onto cookies using a pastry bag with no tip. Can be refrigerated, let come to room temperature and stir well to reconstitute.

Happy eating!


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