Pumpkin Whoopie Pies Three Ways
I find myself, with alarming regularity, peering through dusty blinds and old windows, cracks in old fences and gaps between gates, under doors and around imposing structures. I ignore no trespassing signs, do not enter warnings and rules that keep little sights hidden away. I indulge every little curious inquiry that pops into my head and almost always say yes to an adventuer. One day my dad and I discovered we shared this desire to explore, this craving to see the unseen and know the once unknown. This is that story.
As far back as I can remember there was an abandoned house on my street. 14907 Cedar Point Drive sat untouched by time, ignored by the suburbanites tending to their yards and homes. Almost daily, us kids dared each other to see how close we could get to the house. At five we baredly made it up the driveway. At seven we reached the the path to the front door. By the time I was nine we were peering through the front windows and when I turned ten we were sneaking in the backyard.
“Stay away from that house,” parents and neighbors would warn us, never heeding our inquiries and curiosity.
Then one day, as all the neighbors gathered in the cul de sac for a Halloween barbecue, something changed. Instead of ignoring our incessant, childly questions on this night, dads and moms looked at each with apprehension. Faces grew long as they contemplated how to approach the issue. I could hear fear in mothers’ voices as they debated openly what they should tell us.
“Sit down,” my father demanded of all the kids as he began to tell the story of the family that disappeared, the Junes’. On that chilly Halloween night I learned it wasn’t just an individual but a large family that once lived there, a father, mother, four kids – one my age – and a grandmother. The father, one of the nicest neighbors that existed, my father claimed, ran a bakery and always smelled of bread. The eldest daughter was preparing to attend Rice and the boy my age was almost as curious as I was, my dad added as he ruffled my hair. The story went on and in true fashion, my father shared only the nicest of the details about this now long-gone family.
“These were good people…” My father took a breath and paused, seemingly collecting his words. “But late one night, not unlike tonight, about five years ago I was woken to pounding at the door. Nilsen, the father, was at the door. He was panicking about something; I could barely understand a word he said. I remember him beginning to cry as he explained that he had to leave and that tomorrow he and his family would no longer be living on Cedar Point. I honestly thought it was some sort of joke – he always played jokes on neighbors. But then he handed me a slip of paper and walked off. And I never saw my friend again.”
I can still remember my father’s words and the eery answer I had been looking for all this time. The little girl who lived across the street finally burst out with the question we all wanted to know. “What was on the piece of paper, Mr. van K?”
“An address. He told me I would be able to find him there but I wrote a few times and never heard back. ” Parents gossiped and kids began to create horror stories about what caused this family to leave.
The next day, after breakfast, my dad pulled me away from my mother and brother. He didn’t say much as we made the short walk down the street. We began walking to the abandoned house where we snuck into the backyard through the loose gate. There we both stood staring at the back door for a few minutes, contemplating our next move. My father looked at me, “Its time we find out what really happened to the Junes’.”
My dad threw his body, shoulder first, into the door. A loud thud rang through the yard. We both looked around, unsure if we’d get caught. Then again and again, until finally the deadbolted door flew open. Staring back at us was a house no one had stepped foot in for five years. We were staring at a home just as it was the night that large family left it forever.
As we moved farther into the house things began to look less like the Junes’ might have left them. Drawers were emptied and strewn about the house, furniture cushions and pillows upended, bookshelfs knocked over and then I saw it. A gun just lying on the floor in the kitchen. Merely eleven years old, I barely grasped what had happened here but I knew something wasn’t right.
“Stay right here, Russell.” I never got to look at the rest of the house. My father checked each room quickly before joining me in the living room again. And just like that, moments after my father and I broke into an abandoned home, we were leaving, more questions ringing through our head than before.
To this day I nor my father have any idea what exactly happened to the Junes but I will never forget the time I discovered my father and I shared the same insatiable curiosity.
Happy almost Halloween!
Whoopie Pies: Whoopie pies are very esay to make, so it’s no wonder I decided to make the process a bit more difficult by making three different fillings (including the labor-intensive italian meringue). You of course can pick just one of the fillings or a combination of a couple. If you’ve got the energy and time though I definitely suggest trying all three. Each of the three fillings are quite different and transform one pumpkin whoopie pie recipe into three distinct, delicious recipes!
Pumpkin Puree: This recipe calls for spiced pumpkin puree. I suggest homemade as you get more control in flavor and quality. Here is a post all about making pumpkin puree at home.
- 10 ounces flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp.
- 6 ounces spiced pumpkin puree (recipe)
- 8 ounces sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups Maple Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups Italian Meringue (recipe below)
- 2 cups Whipped Pecan Butter (recipe below)
- 1 cup maple nut granola
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Set aside
- In another bowl mix the butter, pumpkin puree and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
- Add the dry mixture to the puree mixture and mix until a batter forms.
- Spoon the batter onto a lined baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between each ball of dough.
- With greased or slightly damp fingers, press each dough ball down just slightly.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 11 to 14 minutes until just barely golden brown and slightly springy to the couch.
- Allow the whoopie pies to cool completely before handling.
- In the meantime prepare the fillings you plan on using.
- Assemble the whoopie pies using the filling of your choice or a variety of fillings. Below are instructions
- Place a dollop of buttercream on an inverted cookie bottom. Press another cookie on top until the frosting just begins to pop out the side. Roll the assembled whoopie pie carefully in the cranberries.
- Place a dollop of whipped pecan spread on to an inverted cookie bottom. Press another cookie on top until the frosting just begins to pop out on the side. Roll the assembled whoopie pie carefully in the granola.
- Pipe the italian meringue on to an inverted cookie. Press another cookie on top, taking care not to squish the meringue too much. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the edge of the meringue.
Of the three fillings, this buttercream is the easiest. It is also delicious and pairs wonderfully with the tart bite of a dried cranberry.
- 4 ounces butter
- 8 ounces powdered sugar
- 2 ounces maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix until light creamy.
While Italian meringue is the most difficult of the meringues to execute, it is the only meringue that doesn’t require additional cooking and thus is perfect for this application. Italian meringue will also have a long shelf life when refrigerated so making a larger batch at once for multiple applications is always an option.
- 8 ounces sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup egg whites
- Place the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Bring the sugar to 240°F.
- While the sugar is heating, begin whipping the egg whites until the are fluffy and have expanded 2 to 3 times in volume.
- Once the sugar is at 240°F and the egg whites are foamy, immediately begin slowly adding the hot sugar into the egg whites while whipping at medium-high speed. Be sure to add the sugar very in a needle thin stream in between the whisk attachment and the side of the mixer bowl.
- Once the sugar is added, whip the mixture at high speed until it is completely cooled and the egg whites form stiff peaks, about 1o to 20 minutes.
As italian meringue doesn’t require additional cooking, I chose to use it in the whipped pecan butter spread. It is also handy as there will be extra meringue when making the above recipe. Adding the meringue to the pecan butter will shorten it’s shelf life though.
- 6 ounces pecan butter (recipe)
- 4 ounces italian meringue (recipe above)
- Place the pecan butter and italian meringue in a bowl. Fold the ingredients together carefully until blended and smooth.