Michele Marchetti: 'Filling' State College in on Whoopie Pies
My fondness for fresh fruit and vegetables — combined with my inability to turn down sugar — has led to some odd food pairings. A few days ago I ate veggie stew with green lentils and farm-share carrots, followed by a chocolate covered caramel apple. Yesterday I ate a kale salad with fresh turnips.
For dessert? Whoopie pie.
I purchased the whoopie pie — six of them, in fact — after a recent trip to the State College Downtown Farmer’s Market. (Throughout the winter, the market is held 11:30 to 5 on Fridays in the State College The State College Borough Municipal Building.)
Considering our climate, the indoor market is a bit sparse this time of year. What’s in season? Root veggies and whoopie pies.
If you’re new to central Pennsylvania or its farmer’s markets, whoopie pies — or “gobs” as some in the state prefer to call them — may be uncharted food territory. A popular Amish treat, the whoopie pie is fluffy, sweet filling nestled between two round pieces of cake. It’s a superior, circular version of the Hostess Suzy Q.
The whoopie pie is about the size of a doughnut, and calls for just a few ingredients. The ones I purchased at the indoor farmer’s market are made with sugar, vegetable oil, flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs.
People around here swoon over whoopie pies. Clare Traynor of Sweet Indulgence Desserts helped make a whoopie pie “wedding cake” this summer with the same buttercream she uses in her signature cakes. She’s adding them to the rotation of goodies she plans to sell at Webster’s when it reopens.
The whoopie pie will not factor into your nutrition plan, nor will it earn points with your dentist (I felt particularly guilty writing this column as my son was getting his teeth cleaned), but it will bring joy, particularly during the cold, joyless days of February.
While hard to digest in the summer, those extra calories provide a cozy blanket come winter. Plus, the stickiness factor makes it better suited for this time of year. The whoopie pie is messy finger food; add summer sweat, and the aftermath can be downright ugly.
You can’t go wrong with the classic chocolate whoopie pie. But if you’re into sampling — and who isn’t when cake is involved — the options are seemingly endless.
At a book club last year, my friend made wonderful butternut squash whoopie pies. (They’re healthy! we rejoiced. They’re made with vegetables!)
An employee of Little Ridge Bakery, who I chatted with at the indoor market, said her sister has created 13 different varieties, including banana, blueberry and zucchini. She bakes about 500 whoopie pies a week. Some are sent to the State College market; the rest sell out at a stand down the road from their farm.
At the indoor market, I purchased five varieties: classic chocolate, peanut butter, oatmeal, mint and pumpkin. Then, of course, I ranked them.
Oatmeal, which was essentially two oatmeal cookies flanking the usual filling, came in first. The cookie’s crispiness offered a delightful counterbalance to the rest of the pie. Classic chocolate came in a close second, followed by pumpkin, peanut butter and mint.
I’ve only licked the surface. The annual Whoopie Pie Festival, slated for Sept. 15 in Lancaster County, features more than 100 different Whoopie Pie flavors.
And just last night my friend sent me a recipe for a “killer” pumpkin whoopie pie with salted caramel filling.
I don’t even need to make that one to know it’s my new favorite.