Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Chocolate Smartie Cookies Volcano

Apart from strawberries the thing I really like most is chocolate. This means that any cake or biscuit that contains chocolate in either cocoa or sweetie form is going to be an instant winner with me so you can imagine how much I wanted to try these biscuits when I received my copy of 'A Passion for Baking' by Jo Wheatley and found them. I haven't made Smartie cookies in yonks and for some reason I never had the very simple idea of making the biscuit part chocolately too. Well, I can confirm it is a very good idea.

I made these last Saturday when there wasn't really a lot for me to do apart from to read. Normally this isn't a problem for me but I really wanted to be doing something a little more active and I certainly wasn't going into the garage to help with clearing up the mess caused by the flooding. (Yes, thank you Yorkshire Water for making sure the drains were unblocked and in good working order AFTER water had come up all over the garden and into the garage.) My Dad is great but with regards to his garage, I have refused to go in there for some months now seeing as I don't like climbing over things to get further than an inch through the door, nor coming out with my clothes cake in dust. When I discovered that we were nearly out of biscuits I decided that reaching up for the flour and sugar counted as being active so then the most difficult thing was to choose between these biscuits and the chocolate peanut butter cookies. 

These were fun to make but I didn't make them quite as big as the recipe stated. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have eaten biscuits as big as small dinner plates which these would have been if I had made the 10 stated in the recipe instead of the 39 I did (about 30g each in case you are curious) but I would have felt a little guilty at eating something that large as a treat/snack. Plus of course, there is always the thing in me that says I must fiddle about with a recipe. I don't think I have ever followed a recipe 100% to the letter. I don't know what it is about me but there you have it. It doesn't really matter in this case though as the biscuits turned out to be very popular. The only slight thing is that Mum said they had a strange smell but that may just have been her imagination. I did wonder if that was because of the amount of cocoa in them (or possibly just my cooking, either way they still tasted lovely and we have eaten many) because the whoopie pies I made last week contained a lot of cocoa and in my dearest father's words "Errr. Eugh! These smell disgusting. They smell like the carpet did last week." Considering the aforementioned flooding, that isn't a compliment. Love you too Dad.

Having said all that the best thing about these cookies was the bit in the method which says to take the baking trays out of the oven half way through cooking and give them a sharp tap on the side to flatten the balls of biscuit dough. Bash, bas BASH! went mine just for the stress release which was very fun. It was my own falt that I didn't get to watch them flatten too much because I had again meddled and flattened them slightly myself before putting them in the oven. 

I decided to use crushed Smarties mini eggs instead of normal Smarties, and put the whole lot in the mixture instead of using half to stud the tops because I still have a whole load of Easter chocolate leftover from when I went mad the week after the Easter weekend. I will not try to had the fact. Bargain chocolate is something I can resist even less than normal chocolate. I reckon I must have got about £60 woth for £15 so I don't think anyone can blame me for my rampage. Come to think of it, I'm sure I have some Milky Bar mini eggs left which I could use instead. I'd leave them whole this time though, or put them in brownies. That would work well with mini Lindt eggs too. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

There are some things that will be always be difficult to explain and I think whoopie pies might be one of them. You would think it would be easy to figure out their origins wouldn't you? I mean, to me it looks obvious that one day someone thought to hell with fairy cake cases and just blobbed piles of cake mix onto some baking trays (lined of course, let's not get carried away here) and then stuck them together in pairs with some buttercream once they were cooked. This is extremely hypocritical coming from me but sometimes the simplest explanation really is the most accurate. According to Baked and Delicious magazine there is a possibility that these little cakes were named for the 'whoopeeee!' noise American farmers made upon opening their lunch in the fields and discovering the treats that their wives had lovingly made for them. Really now, that is just silly.

I have been dying to try making whoopie pies for ages seeing as I didn't believe the first ones I made could possibly be right. To add to that I finally got hold of The Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days book which has some amazing recipes in. Someone on my course very kindly let me borrow the previous Hummingbird Bakery publication which I fell in love with so when I discovered this book and that it contained even more recipes, I was having it. Furthermore, after receiving my results this year I was determined to celebrate by treating myself to some baking goodies from Lakeland and a whoopie pie tin was one of them. I cannot recommend one of these tins enough - I gave it a little greasing and flouring and the cakes lifted off perfectly - even better than those I put on a lined baking sheet. That is the only downside of the tin - it only allows for 6 but the recipes in the book make 10. For anyone considering buying one, don't, get two but hurry because they are in the sale.

Not being sure how difficult these would be to make I chose the simplest variation but really these should be called Extremely Chocolatey Whoopie Pies because of the 80g of cocoa in the mixture. They are really easy to make though. Whisk the egg and sugar together until pale and thick (this is my favourite bit of making a roulade!), mix the yoghurt, milk and vanilla together in a jug then mix into the egg/sugar along with the melted butter. Finally, sift the dry ingredients together and (here is the most difficult bit) mix into the wet ingredients in two batches. Yes, I know I sound stupid saying that is difficult but if  your mixture starts crawling up the beaters of your electric whisk you will see what I mean. I can only assume it was because the mixture is much thicker than a normal cake mix so the blobs don't spread into one big cakey blob in the oven. I ended up finishing the mixing in with a spatula once I had scraped as much as I could off the electric whisk. I hope the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else, but just in case I thought you might like the warning. Needless to say I ignored the bit about putting the bowl in the fridge for the mixture to firm up. I don't want to be baking cake bricks thank you very much. 

The recipe says it makes 8 to 10 cakes/pies but as a rough guide and if you like to measure quantities out when making individual cakes like me, then each blob needs to be about 34g to make 10 cakes. This allows for some of the mixture being lost any equipment that it wants to remain stuck to. It also means you have some left over to lick from the spoon/bowl. Never a bad thing.

My cakes had 13 minutes in the oven but I think they could have done with a minute less to allow them to be a bit more moist. That may be the correct texture though, again being down to the amount of flour. I will find out when I make the next lot. 

The filling is amazing. It is a cross between normal buttercream and the marshmallow filling you get in these gorgeous things. Does anyone else see if they can get all the filling out without breaking the chocolate shell after the initial bite? No? My youngest brother once took the biscuit base off one, scooped out the filling then aligned the chocolate back onto the base. Pure skill I tell you. Anyway, this hybrid filling is from the addition of marshmallow fluff to normal buttercream. I've only seen an American brand of the stuff but you can get it from large supermarkets, or off Amazon. You will use more than you think though because it is very lightweight. If you do find it, buy a few. There are lots of things you could do with it, though I still haven't tried a fluffernutter sandwich. If you do use marshmallow fluff as a filling though I would suggest you don't skip the chilling bit if the recipe states to do so because marshmallow fluff on its own likes to escape. Mum made a cake for my middle nephew when he became lactose intolerant and used it for the filling. It seemed to work fine at first but when we came back to the cake a while later we found the top had slid off and the marshmallow fluff was in a puddle around the cake. With the whoopie pies though, it set with only minimal dripping, but I think that was more from me pressing the top half down too much. I only used half the quantity of filling the book said which is ample with enough left over to treat yourself but if you wanted the sugar rush, you could make the whole lot, use half for the cakes and eat the rest yourself. Forget the calories. In fact, if you dip fruit in it, it wouldn't count anyway. I haven't tried this version but normal buttercream goes fantastic with strawberries.

If Mum doesn't guilt trip me into making another Victoria sponge I might try another whoopie pie variation next - coffee and walnut or Nutella. Neither are in the book but then I do like to experiment. Hmmm...