Sunday, December 4, 2016

Leftover Pumpkin Has Met Its Match

"...hello, it's me. I was wondering after all these weeks if anyone still reads these?" Sing that in the tune of Adele's "Hello," and you've got one catchy ear worm about how long it has been since last I blogged. We've been a little busy. You know, moving across the country and unpacking and eating all the Thanksgiving and what not. But we're finally settled in, and after over four months without it, yours truly finally got reacquainted with her stand mixer. I will never take that particular piece of kitchen equipment (see also, a cheese grater) for granted again. Florida's been nice. If you're into 80 degree weather while putting up your Christmas lights, this is the perfect place for you! I, on the other hand, happen to love being so cold my nose might fall off, so I've been a bit of a Scrooge (if he also suffered from humidity-related hair issues, even better comparison). Large dandelion-esque locks aside, being able to breathe in moist air and walk down to the beach every morning with my dogs has been a bit of a dream. The dogs love the water, so much so that Hank tries to out drink himself every time we go for a walk, truly making him a salty dog. We've been reunited with friends, furniture, and my closest Target is only ten minutes away. I really, really miss the mountains though. And Florida sunsets could learn a thing or two from Texas and New Mexico. Don't get me wrong, trees are nice and all, what with the life-giving oxygen they provide me, but damned if they don't ever get in the way of that feeling of vast expanse as the sun sets and the stars take over the sky. I sometimes somberly hum "Deep in the Heart of Texas" to get me by. At least I have my mixer back to bake away the homesickness and whip up some pumpkin whoopie pies. Bury me with a tombstone that reads, "You can't be sad when you're eating dessert." You also really can't be sad when you're eating a whoopie pie because the name alone is absolutely ridiculous.
At least they also taste absolutely delicious.
Buy a lot of pumpkin puree for Thanksgiving and forget to make the pumpkin pies? Living your best basic white girl life and keep a stock of pumpkin puree handy? Relocated to a region where "fall weather" hasn't even occurred yet and it's almost Christmas but you're soooo not feeling it? Going against all of humankind this time of year and watching what you eat? You need these pumpkin whoopie pies with pumpkin cream cheese filling because they taste of pumpkiny goodness without killing the calorie count. I found and heavily adapted a few recipes in order to cut down the average 600 calories per whoopie pie (that's a damn double cheeseburger and some, y'all). My whoopie pies clock in at only 315. That's almost half the norm. And in a world where said double cheeseburgers do exist, slicing dessert calories is a hard truth and a must. I knew bikini season would start early here in Florida, but I did not realize it would be starting so early because it never actually ends. So badly I want to wear winter boots and sweaters, and I have thus far refused to wear shorts outside of dog walks, so swimsuits are not happening until the next calendar year.
Where's the butter?
So remember those other 285 calories (or something close. I teach English for a reason) I saved? That's because I passed on oil on the pies and harshly cut down on butter in the icing recipe. It was hard, downright sad, and resulted in lots of praying and finger crossing that my pies would still bake up enough and taste delicious. Either the praying or finger crossing worked (depending on who you do or do not pray to) because hot damn these babies are tasty! So, to make this recipe that yields 10-12 pies, gather up:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour, packed (I used All-Purpose. You could try wheat to cut down more calories.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 1 TBS pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce (regular would also work)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg at room temp (I realize there's two in the photo, but seriously, just use one. I was having a blonde moment.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
Preheat the oven to 350 and line a few cookie trays with Parchment paper. I gave a light mist of Pam to these. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together and set aside. In your staaannnd mixxxerrrrrr (sung like the Goldfinger theme song) that you're not nearly as excited about using as I was, mix the brown sugar and applesauce until combined. Dump in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and blend well. Take half the dry mix, add it in to the wet mix, and blend well. Dump the rest of the dry mix in and blend well but don't over mix.
Yes, I finally graduated to granite counters. My life is complete.
Take a cookie scoop and mist with cooking spray. Plop each ball of scooped dough on your Parchment paper; try to get these an inch or two apart since they expand while baking. Once you've finished scooping, come back in and try to smooth out any misshaped blobs with your fingers. We're looking for uniform roundness. I also tapped my sheets on the counter a few times to even things out.
Left: tapped. Right: untapped and kinda wonky. Makes a difference.
Pop into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. They should be springy, the tops might crack a little, and a toothpick should come out clean. Thirteen minutes seemed to, ironically, be the lucky number for me when it came to timing. Now, let these cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet. If you want to get fancy, dust the tops with powdered sugar at this point. Then remove to a cooling rack.
I got fancy, mostly so I could take more photos of my granite counters.
These don't take long to cool, maybe a half hour or so. You can speed things up and put them in the fridge. I was trying to do a science experiment where I made cream cheese icing without any butter and failed horribly. So in that amount of time, these cooled off and were ready for filling. On the plus side, I now have a lot of pumpkin cream cheese in a jelly consistency for bagels! Happy accidents. Also during this time, ensure you match up your whoopie pie...shells? so they each have a mate of equal sizing and shape.
Hello butter my old friend.

If anyone can tell me how to make a low calorie icing that still holds shape, tell me and become my new savior. I wanted to knock off even more calories, but butter said otherwise. To make the pumpkin cream cheese filling, you'll need:
  • 3 TBS butter at room temp
  • 3 ounces reduced fat cream cheese at room temp
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
You shouldn't need to use milk or anything to get the piping consistency right, but if you find you've put in way too much sugar, add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin. All I had to do was cream the butter and cream cheese together for 2-3 minutes until fluffy, then dump in the pumpkin and 3 cups of powdered sugar. This was stiff enough on all its own. 

It felt so nice to hold a piping bag again. Baker withdrawals are real.
You could use a plastic bag with the tip snipped off to fill, but I loaded up a piping bag with a 1A round tip. This is a nice, large tip, so it was easy to pipe a circle around the edge of the pie and then fill in the middle.
Start by working your way around the edge. Leave a little space between the edge and the frosting...the frosting will get smooshed down and out when you place the top on.
If you want a lot of frosting in the middle, pipe a mound after you've outlined a circular border and use the tip to blend things in. I made a circular motion with the tip placed in the frosting in order to smooth things out and ensure the circle around the edge didn't have a seam where I started/stopped frosting.
Technically winter isn't until December 21, so eat all the pumpkin you can stand.
Place the top on the frosting mound, and gently press together; you're set! Repeat for all your pies. Marvel at the wonder that is home baking. I really missed it. Minus throwing a pecan pie with a premade crust together for Thanksgiving, it has been since HALLOWEEN that I did any baking. Criminal! I missed the entire month of November! I mean, we did end up eating that cake for what felt like a month, but in the meantime it's been a lot of Skinny Cow and Nutella (separately. Although...). When I asked my husband what to bake this week, he was the one who offered up the idea of something pumpkin flavored. It's like he knew how badly I needed to do fall baking since I missed the season entirely. Thank God for understanding spouses, and thank God for grocery stores selling pumpkin puree year round. Biting into one of these makes me forget that it was 80 when I walked the dogs earlier. It takes me to a place where leaves are falling, hoodies are worn, and heaters are permanently switched over for the year. I'm still running my A/C, so you can see why this brief respite a la pumpkin whoopie pie is needed. I promise I'll actually give December a fair shake after this week and come up with some Christmas desserts. But unlike the rest of you heathens that started celebrating Christmas the day after Halloween, I am still giving Thanksgiving its time in the spotlight. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
You can't sing Christmas carols when you've got a mouth full of pumpkin whoopie pie.

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