Hello, Autumn!

Farewell, summer: today is the Autumnal Equinox!

Summer may be the season all kids (and teachers) love, but as an adult I personally love Fall. Hell, even as a kid I loved fall!

Autumn is when the leaves change to shades of pure warmth.

Summer may be s’mores season, but Autumn is Mallomars season!

Some of my favorite holidays are in the Fall season: Rosh Hashannah/Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and [topping the list…] Halloween!

Every Sunday (and sometimes Monday) in the Autumn season involves me yelling at the TV, with the assumption that my beloved Giants can hear my cheers.

Autumnal fashions of fingerless gloves, skinny jeans, and Toms Botas.

The best day of Autumn is November 1st, of course *ahem*mybirthday*ahem*

Fall treats truly are the best: pumpkin spice lattes, candy corn, caramel apples… oh my!

Or, if you’re up for the true Autumn experience, picking your own pumpkins and apples from your local farm!

Speaking of which, I came upon some local apples that are about the size of a softball. I had just one left earlier this week and decided to use it to make something for my coworkers.

I bake something to bring to work about once a month, at most. I used to do this more often, but I definitely spoiled them to the point that they’d get upset if I didn’t bring something in every Monday morning! I’ve got to pace myself…!

So, what to do with a huge apple? I like the nontraditional. I like blowing people’s minds (especially with food). I like trying new things… obviously… so I decided to bake something I’d never attempted before: whoopie pies.

I’d never heard of whoopie pies until I moved to Boston for college. Apparently New England claims they created whoopie pies first (though Pennsylvanians disagree), so many families, supermarkets, and bakeries have their own secret recipes for this awesome treat. The first one I had was traditional: marshmallow cream in between two chocolate cakes, made by my college friend’s older brother. Ahhhhmazing!

But, how do I go about making these with a humongous apple? When in doubt, ask Google. Using the cookies from this recipe and a modified version of the cream from this recipe, my problem was solved!

Apple Cinnamon Whoopie Pies

Apple-Cinnamon Whoopie Pies
Yields about 13 sandwich cookies + some leftover icing.

For the cookies:

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup grated apple, peeled first (one huge apple was enough!)

For the filling:

  • 3/4 block of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, cream the softened butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla and egg. When combined, add all remaining ingredients except the apple. Once dough is thoroughly mixed, reduce speed, add the mixing attachment, and add apple. Cover dough and refrigerate for about 45-60 minutes. (I refrigerated mine for about 50 minutes.)

During your wait, make the frosting. In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, combine cream cheese, coconut oil, and vanilla. When completely smooth, begin adding powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments. Add nutmeg and cinnamon, whisking until combined. Refrigerate until use.

When your dough is done in the fridge, preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Drop balls of dough onto your lined cookie sheet using a heaping teaspoon or a cookie scoop. Flatten each ball slightly using the back of a spoon, trying to keep each round about the same size.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine were done at 12 minutes exactly) or until golden around the edges. Keep cookies on the cookie sheet for at least 2 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Once completely cooled (I recommend letting them cool in your refrigerator), put a heaping tablespoon of filling in between two sort-of-equally-sized cookies.

Needless to say, these disappeared in record time when I brought them to the office. Nobody knew what a whoopie pie was, so I had to actually draw an illustration explaining what each component was! Regardless, they were enjoyed by all and definitely a great way to welcome Autumn into our lives.

Yeah, I’m the best coworker ever. 🙂

What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW)

I follow a lot of awesome food blogs, health/wellness blogs, and other web sites and enjoy when they do “What I Ate Wednesday” posts. So, here’s my first!

On Wednesday 9/14/11 I enjoyed…

Fall officially begins when Pumpkin Spice Lattes return!
Starbucks soy pumpkin spice latte + “Two Moms in the Raw” blueberry granola bar (not pictured because I forgot!).

Soba noodles are amazing!
Lunch was cold soba noodles that I cooked last night and let marinate in the fridge all night and all morning in tamari soy sauce, minced garlic, and sesame oil. I topped it with some fresh basil.

Almond love!
Raw almonds for my afternoon snack, alongside a cup of coffee (not pictured because, again, I forgot!).

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Creamy polenta with fresh basil (served with sautéed garlic spinach, not shown).

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From-scratch vegan hot chocolate… check out this recipe I randomly thought of (because we are out of both dairy milk and non-dairy milk… whoops)!

Vegan Hot Chocolate
Serves two.

  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup raw or turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (Ghirardelli semisweet bars are vegan)

Combine water, coconut milk, and vanilla in a small saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low and add chocolate, whisking until completely melted.

Pour in two mugs of your choosing, but beware: this stuff is molten hot and we needed to let ours cool for about 8 minutes before it was drinkable!

The good, the bad and the tasty.

It’s our intern’s 20th birthday, so I took the liberty of being a good role model (a whopping 5 years older than her, but whatever) and giving her a nice gift – food!

Cupcakes, to be specific.

I asked her what her favorite baked good is and she gave me a wordy response that included “chocolate cake or cupcakes” and “strawberries” somewhere in it. Well, following the crazy cupcake trend that’s been spreading throughout the world, I made a nice batch of chocolate-strawberry cupcakes for her.

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I used this recipe for the chocolate cupcakes but substituted mayonnaise in place of the sour cream. (You’ve got to work with what you’ve got! You can also use yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo.)

For the buttercream frosting, I basically followed my go-to recipe. I used to be awful at making buttercream frosting, but I soon learned some tricks:

  1. Don’t be scared of butter! I used to try to use margerine, but it never held and would melt like crazy. No matter how much powdered sugar I’d add, it would never get stiff. Use butter. (I will post, in due time, a recipe for vegan “butter”cream frosting.)
  2. You don’t need to be exact. I used to measure every half or quarter cup of powdered sugar… every single 1/8 teaspoon of extract. No need! Temperature, age of the butter, how long the sugar has been sitting in your pantry, etc. all affects how things will turn out, so scrutinizing your measurements with something as simple as frosting is a waste of time. Just taste and test as you go, that’s it.
  3. Get a good mixer. Before I had my Kitchenaid mixer, I had a standing mixer I got for free from my boyfriend’s mom, who got it for cheap at a garage sale. It did its job for a while, but it took forever for frosting (or anything, for that matter!) to come together. Since I was very very young, I dreamed of owning a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and finally I was able to get one after winning a gift card to Amazon.com. I love it, and it makes mixing, beating, whipping, etc. infinitely easier!

Now, onto the recipe.

Stupidly Simple Buttercream
Makes enough to frost & fill 12 cupcakes… at least!

  • 1 stick of butter @ room temperature
  • roughly 1/3 of a 5lb bag of powdered sugar
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
  • a drizzle of whipping cream

In a standing mixer (or using a hand-held mixer… or using a whisk, if you’re super-strong) beat the butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Keeping the mixer on medium-high, add the powdered sugar in small batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Continue adding until the frosting is stiff but spreadable.

Add the whipping cream while the mixer is still running. Add powdered sugar if you notice the frosting is too wet and/or won’t hold its shape. Frost cooled cake or cupcakes. Lick the beater until clean, too.

Tip: To get your butter at room temperature in a pinch, put the stick in the microwave for 10-12 seconds.

I made my batch into strawberry buttercream by adding a few heaping spoonfuls of strawberry jam (100% fruit, no added sugar or other garbage). You can use any jam, obviously, to make custom fruity frostings.

You can make chocolate buttercream by adding about 1/4 cup of cocoa powder before you add the cream.

Replace the vanilla extract with any extract you’d like to make it unique. Peppermint, butter, almond, orange… get creative!

I decided to add a little finesse to my cupcakes by not only filling each cupcake with a little of the buttercream, but I also dunked the tops of each in chocolate ganache before piping the frosting on top.

Booya.

Definitely not health food… and you can bet that after licking the cake batter bowl clean and licking my Kitchenaid mixer’s whisk attachment free of frosting that I went for a 40-minute run up and down stadium stairs! All the pain was worth seeing my coworkers – especially the birthday girl! – enjoy the treats.