A date, a date, I had a date with Dan Lepard. Well to be strictly fair, Dan Lepard had a date with the Eden Project. Not wanting to miss this opportunity to get my recent purchase of Dan’s new baking book signed by the man himself, I booked a day off work. Dan was to be a guest at the Eden Project’s Harvest Food Festival where he was to open their new bakery and give a demo.
The book in question is the much heralded Short & Sweet: the best of home baking. I was rather on tenterhooks as to whether the book would arrive before the big day; it was due to be published on Super Thursday and I needed it for the following Monday 3rd October. But arrive it did and not only in time to get it signed, but also time to have a go at baking something from it. What a delight to read, so many inspiring recipes and lots of really good tips and techniques: it’s a proper cook’s book. There were so many intriguing ideas to explore, I wanted to get stuck in straight away. But, when I saw the entry for Chocolate Whoopie Pies, I knew my moment of destiny had arrived. I’d been feeling I ought to have a go at them ever since they came onto the scene a couple of years ago, but for some reason I hadn’t yet got around to making any, so I …….
- Melted 75g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat with 75g dark chocolate (81%) and left to cool slightly.
- Using a hand held whisk, beat 1 duck egg with 175g dark brown sugar until thick, pale and doubled in volume.
- Beat in the butter mixture together with 50ml milk and 75g creme fraiche. Original recipe stated 25ml milk and 125g sour cream, but my creme fraiche is home made and very thick.
- On re-reading the recipe I realised I should have added a tsp of vanilla extract at this point – oops!
- Sifted in 250g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 25g cocoa and 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Stirred until just combined, then spooned walnut sized blobs onto a large lined (with my silicone mat) baking tray, spacing them well apart.
- Flattened them down a little with wet fingers (Dan’s tip).
- Baked at 180C for 13 mins.
- Removed (successfully – think I’ve got the hang of this silicone mat business now) onto a wire rack to cool.
- Repeated the process – making 40 half pies in total.
- Melted 100g marshmallows in a pan over a gentle heat with 25 ml milk.
- Removed from heat and whisked until smooth. Left to cool slightly (but not so long that it would set).
- Creamed 125g unsalted butter until fluffy then beat in the marshmallows.
- Sifted 100g icing sugar with 25g cocoa powder and added about 2 tbsp water until I had a spreadable consistency (Dan’s recipe used twice the amount of icing sugar and cocoa, but I thought this would be enough).
- Sandwiched the half pies together with the marshmallow butter to make 20 pies and spread some chocolate icing on top – luckily, I had just the right amount.
Never having had a whoopie pie before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Mine may or may not, therefore, be typical, but they certainly ended up looking absolutely nothing like the ones in the book. I didn’t use a piping bag for a start. My attempts may look rather rough and ready, but I thought they still looked appealing in a home spun sort of way. They were deeply chocolatey and the lack of vanilla didn’t really impact on their tastiness and they weren’t too sweet either. The marshmallow cream was delicious but it had a rather gloopy consistency until it set properly. It did make a good contrast to the rich chocolate pies and the chocolate icing gave an additional chocolate hit, as well as adding a note of sweetness to proceedings. These were indeed a cross between a biscuit and a cake, crisp on the outside and cakey soft on the inside. CT thought these were drier than a cupcake but moister than a biscuit. He got all nostaligic when it came to the icing, which reminded him of the bought cupcakes he had as a kid. Amazingly these lasted a full week and got better as they aged. They also got a big thumbs up from both my mother and a friend, so although these were rather a faff to make, they were worth the effort and made for a fun bake.
As for my date, he stood me up! My carefully wrapped whoopie pie withstood the journey and arrived at Eden in one piece in full anticipation of being tried by the great man himself. Events took another turn, however; Dan’s plane was cancelled and he was unable to get to Cornwall. The pie had to make do with being eaten by CT and myself.
Can you wait to get your hands on a copy of this book? All I can say is be patient. Watch this space and in the next couple of days or so all will be revealed.