Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gingerbread gets lucky...!

Gingerbread whoopie pies with white chocolate chai tea buttercream filling.

I lived in Virginia Beach for about five years while powering through grad school and I have to say some of my favorite memories are connected with U.S. Thanksgiving. It is a phenomenon. It is probably the most popular holiday of the year, ousting Christmas for top spot. It is an event...THE event of the year and it is not to be missed or approached halfheartedly.

Handy life lessons I've parked in my memory based on observations at friends' tables over those years:
  1. Preparing for Thanksgiving begins at least three weeks in advance with cardio workouts, recipe testing and making room in the fridge for a giant turkey
  2. Tablescaping is on par with college football when it comes to priority and devotion
  3. Wear loose, patterned clothing so other guests will not detect your expanding stomach or hidden elastic waistband
  4.  BEST TIP: post feasting gas releasing ritual...on knees and elbows, head down, butt in the air is by far the best way to let the wind out to make room for dessert...but probably best done far away from the dessert table.
  5. Eat in the afternoon, nap hard in the evening because Black Friday really begins at midnight.
It seems the matriarch of the house hosting Thanksgiving likes to have absolute control over the meal, but if you are a guest it's always polite to ask if you can bring anything. Not everyone is like this, but based on my observations so much effort went into the meal itself that the dessert options were often store bought or the old standbys: pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie...very yummy, indeed, but maybe it's time to spice up the dessert table with a little whoopie!

If you're celebrating Thanksgiving this week and are expected to bring a dessert (clear it with the hostess first) I implore you to bring these:  gingerbread whoopie pies with white chocolate chai tea buttercream filling.

I found the gingerbread whoopie pie recipe at Pink Parsley. Hands down the best recipe I've tried. They come out smooth on top, which seems to be the real trick to successful whoopie pies. She uses a lemon filling, which is delightful with gingerbread, but I like the spice of chai tea complementing the spice of gingerbread and the sweetness of white chocolate holding everything together.

Here's what you need:
Gingerbread Whoopie Pies
adapted from Pink Parsley, who adapted it from King Arthur Flour

  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole fat yogurt (I use Stoneyfield organic whole fat plain yogurt)
White Chocolate Chai Tea Buttercream
adapted from Anna Olson

  • 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 20 ounces good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 1/3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chai tea concentrate (you can use store bought, or if you'd like to make your own you can find a recipe here. If you use this one, you will not need to add vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg, beating until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

With the mixer on low speed, mix in half the dry ingredients.  Add the molasses, then the remaining dry ingredients.  Finally, add the whole fat yogurt, mixing until just incorporated.

Use a medium cookie scoop or a pastry bag fitted with a round tip to form the whoopie pie shapes on the prepared baking sheet.  Space the whoopie pies a few inches apart, and bake 9-12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through, until the whoopie pies are cooked through and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger.
Even though they look rough as they're going in to the oven, they still came out smooth on top.
Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough.

While the whoopie pies are baking, make the filling, OR the icing can be made ahead and chilled for up to a week, or wrapped and frozen up to a month (thaw refrigerated). Once thawed, beat to make fluffy, then use.

In a stand-up mixer or in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat butter until fluffy. Beat in cooled melted chocolate on medium speed. Reduce speed and beat in icing sugar, vanilla and chai tea concentrate (icing will be a little soft). Chill for about an hour to set before using.

Arrange the whoopie pies so that each bottom has a matching top (as close in size and shape as you can). Fill a piping bag or ziploc with the filling and put a dollop in the middle of the whoopie pie. Place the top on and press gently until the filling meets the edge of the whoopie pie.

Refrigerate until filling is firm and they will be ready for transport. Keep refrigerated until an hour or two before serving. You want the  the filling to reach room temperature before consuming.

An alternative to gingerbread whoopie pies is pumpkin. Just as festive, of course, but maybe find out if there will be a lot of pumpkin desserts before you commit to adding yet another pumpkin to the table. Here are two recipes that are quite lovely and would go spectacularly with the white chocolate chai tea buttercream: Browneyedbaker.com and Mowielicious.com 

My eldest tackling a pumpkin whoopie pie with white chocolate chai tea buttercream filling.
For those of you ramping up for the event of the year, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. May you enjoy the people you're with, get a parking space on Black Friday and kick off the Christmas season with a belly full of gingerbread whoopie pies!

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