The inner tube water polo effect

When we were in university, R. played on the Comm '01 intramural inner tube water polo team. The games were always scheduled at odd times—often late at night—when the prospect of slipping into swimming trunks and splashing around in cold water seemed unappealing (at best) or downright inane (at worst). More often than not, he would drag himself to the pool and return several hours later glad that he had gone. Sometimes it's just getting there that's the hard part.

In this house, we call that the inner tube water polo effect.

I have a similar relationship with paddling. I love paddling and look forward to practice until it's actually time to go, at which point I can't think of anything I want to do less. Tuesday evenings in the dark aren't too bad; it's the Sunday mornings that kill me.

This past Sunday was no exception. I wasn't sold on the idea when I woke at 3am to the persistent trill of a dying cell phone and the thump of raindrops on the skylight, even less so when the cat launched a game of tag on the bed a few hours later. When the alarm finally went off, I'd already been awake for an hour silently negotiating the rain down to a drizzle.

When the weather obliged, I had no choice but to roll out of bed, swaddle myself in neoprene and luon, and head down to street level. Just when I thought A. was going to leave me stranded on the corner, she pulled up in front of the building, seat warmers blazing.

So we made it. And it was good. And I was glad I went.

What does all of this have to do with whoopie pies? Absolutely nothing, except that overcoming the inner tube water polo effect meant I had a good excuse for downing one of these when I got home.

Whoopie Pies

1 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

Marshmallow Cream:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate slowly in a double boiler. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until it is no longer warm to the touch, but is still fluid.

In the meantime, combine the brown sugar, egg, oil and butter in a bowl. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. Lower the speed and beat in the melted chocolate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions. Scrape down the side of the bowl, as needed, and beat just until incorporated.

Use half of the batter to form 6 round mounds on the first baking sheet (about 2 tablespoons of dough per cake). Bake for 6 minutes, rotate the pan, and then bake for another 2-4 minutes until the cakes spring back when pressed lightly on top.

In the meantime, get the next pan of cakes ready to go. As soon as the first batch is finished, pop the second pan in the oven.

Let the cakes cool on the their pan for 5-10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cakes in an airtight container until ready to fill.

Before you begin preparing the marshmallow cream, get out a heatproof glass container and put it beside the stove.

Next, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture bubbles. Remove from heat temporarily.

In a medium bowl, use a handheld mixer to beat the egg white until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high until stiff peaks form.

Back to the stovetop. Increase the heat under the sugar syrup and boil until a thermometer registers 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass container you have ready and waiting.

Beat the syrup into the meringue in a steady stream without letting the syrup fall on the beaters. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Lower the speed slightly and continue beating until the outside of the bowl no longer feels hot (about 3 minutes). Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of butter and beat until smooth. Refrigerate the meringue mixture for 8-10 minutes or until it registers about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the meantime, beat the remaining 1/2 cup of butter and icing sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until soft and creamy. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes until the mixture is very light and almost white in colour. Lower the speed to medium, add the meringue and beat until the buttercream is smooth and light in texture (about 10 seconds).

To construct the whoopie pies, mound about 3 tablespoons of marshmallow cream into the centre of a cake. Set a second cake on top and press down lightly until the cream reaches the edges.

Store in an airtight container and serve at room temperature.

Yields 6 whoopie pies.

(I know, all that work for 6 measly whoopie pies. They're massive though.)

Source: Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pies in Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum, p. 375.

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