Over the next year, I will be baking my way through the Whoopie Pies cookbook by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell. Just like Julia and Julia. Sort of. Except without the weird glazed duck recipes. And just whoopie pies. In every possible flavor combination. I have assembled a fab team of taste testers and they will provide reviews of the recipes. For more on Whoopie Pie Wednesday, click here.
It is the middle of June and I am already completely over summer. Over the past few days, the air here has been so thick with humidity that it is suffocating. Gross. I have entered my summer hibernation period where I am only outside when I absolutely have to be. Farewell, long walks on the Capital Crescent Trail, I shall see you again when the humidity goes away.
In the midst of the summer yuckiness, I seek salvation in desserts. I mean, it only makes sense, right?!?!? And one of my most favorite summer treats? A Root Beer Float (from A&W, in particular). The way the root beer makes the ice cream crunchy on the edges; the simple flavor combo of root beer and vanilla; the refreshing sweet chill. It is a sensory delight.
But does it transfer to Whoopie Pies? Obviously the "cold" part doesn't but how does that flavor combination stack up when stacked up in cookie and creme form?
I put it to the test in this week's Whoopie Pie Wednesday (WPW): A vanilla creme (the 'float') and root beer creme sandwich between two vanilla cookies.
The vanilla cookie batter
The cookies before baking
And after baking
The creme fillings this week were marshmallow fluff based, a change from my usual buttercream making. I made two separate batches: one vanilla and one root beer flavored:
The root beer creme recipe called for 4 tablespoons of root beer or 2 teaspoons of root beer extract. Root beer extract is so expensive and one of those ingredients that you use once and never again; I very much try to avoid buying such ingredients. So I picked up a can of root beer from the store. After I added the 4 tablespoons, there was zero root beer flavor to the creme. So added more and more of it. (And for your future reference, root beer plus a marshmallow based icing creates a reaction similar to that of those baking soda-vinegar volcanoes we all made in elementary school.) Even after adding almost a whole can, I would call the root beer flavor subtle at best. I think this creme recipe should probably be revisited by the authors to reassess if real root beer is a good flavor option or if they should just limit the flavor option to the extract.
This root beer creme issue posed a baking ethical dilemma for me. I never ever serve anything that I do not think meets my taste test standards. For every five items that I have baked successfully, there is one that had a one-way ticket to the trash can. And this creme did not meet my standards. It was not that it tasted horrible; it just did not taste as advertised. But part of this baking through an entire cookbook process is going to include some bumps in the road and I do not want to gloss over them. But if by chance someone comes across these posts in a Google search and learns that the actual root beer route is not the way to go, then I guess my intended public service goal has been achieved.
A dollop of vanilla creme and a dollop of root beer creme!
Root Beer Float Whoopie Pies!
A new packaging feature is this little sticker on the front of the bag with my blog email address.
I thought it was an efficient way to include the necessary info for WPW participants and allow me to use up some leftover stickers from my 2008 Christmas cards. I believe the packaging is going to evolve over time and it will be a fun little graphic design/marketing experiment for me.
And now a word from the official taste testers:
Note: I knew handing these out that the root beer flavor was not strong at all but did not (for the most part) let my testers know this. I am really trying to not bias the results. :)
Root beer float!!! Well, I like them. How will it translate into a baked good? Oozing, frothy cream with a hint of root beer, really would prefer a more pronounced root beer flavor. Delicious,crumbly outside swallowed up by my keyboard. Gotta pay attention so I can review this treat 'cause "poof," it's gone.
Rebecca Note: The word keyboard in this review made me think of a completely off-the-topic thought but does anyone else's office go completely crazy-go-nuts when a new can of keyboard cleaner compressed air arrives? It is like one person uses and everyone else hears the telltale sound (well, it is pretty loud) of compressed air and suddenly EVERYONE absolutely NEEDS to clean their keyboards as soon as possible.
First thought - umm...YUM!!! Ok, so I'll start from the top. First, I LOVE the new sticker. I prefer it over the cute card that was handed out last time because I could go back to my cubicle and not have to rely on someone else to give me your email address (granted, I've now saved it in my address book so this wouldn't be a problem again). However, it's nice to have it on the bag just in case. Second, root beer floats are one of my favorite ice cream treats, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw that it was in the form a of a whoopie pie this time. Just enough "icing" or cream this time. I'll admit I was expecting an overwhelming taste of root beer, but I was pleasantly surprised by just the hint in the cream! And, as for my comment last week about the dryness of the cakes, I think this time they were either less dry, or because I liked the pie better in general I didn't notice any dryness. Either way, I was VERY fond of this whoopie pie! THANKS!
Rebecca's Note: As a very loyal buttercream fan, I have to admit that I like this marshmallow creme a lot. It had such a nice sweetness to it that was not sugar coma inducing like grocery store cake frostings can be.
Overall, I would say this whoopie pie was pretty darn good. The filling was creamy whipped yumminess and really put the float in the whoopie. There was only a tiny hint of root beer flavoring that I probably would not have even noticed had I not been looking for it. I will rate the cake as average, I think the filling is what really made this whoopie.
Rebecca's Note: I honestly think if I had not included flavor on the package, no one would have known that it contained Root Beer.
Ron Mexico (I switched around this alias last week and wrote Mexico Ron...my apologies, "Ron"!!!)
The root beer float makes for a pretty solid whoopie pie. I'm not sure how much it tastes like a root beer float, but whatever the resulting taste, it is quite good. As somewhat of a whoopie pie purist I would have to give the edge to last week's pie, though. That's not to take away from this whoopie pie... the original is just such a dominant pastry. I am looking forward to seeing what other spins you will put on this classic dessert.
Rebecca's Note: I am bouncing-in-my-chair excited about the flavor "spin" on the next Whoopie Pie!
This week's root beer float whoopie pie was SOOOOO GOOD! When you first came over to hand me my whoopie pie sample, I warned you that root beer was not my soft drink of choice (and I'm sure you know this because everyone in the office is painfully aware of my addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper....good idea for another whoopie pie?). You did warn me that the root beer flavor would be quite mild. It was extremely mild...but for me...that was great! Although I must admit I think I still would have loved it had the flavor been stronger.
I think the vanilla flavor of the cake part of the pie and the whipped icing in the center this week really complemented each other. I know some people found last week's pie a bit dry and I think I agree. This week the cake of the pie had a similar dry texture, but it felt more "right." (Not sure how else to describe it). All in all, I am a big fan of both the taste and texture of this week's pie. However I think it would have been nice to have a bit more icing in the middle since it was so light.
Score: Root Beer Float: 9.5
Rebecca's Note: Funny story about Laura's Diet Dr. Pepper addiction. I like to call it the Great Office Diet Dr. Pepper Explosion of 2010. Laura and I used to share cube wall (she actually inherited my old cubicle when I moved to my new office). One morning I was sitting at my desk and heard an explosion akin to the baking soda-vinegar volcanoes made in elementary school. Two seconds later, I saw Laura sprinting down the hallway by my desk with a can of soda spraying everywhere. One minute later, Laura walked past my cube, her clothes soaked with the remnants of one exploded can of Diet Dr. Pepper. Supportive coworker that I am, I busted out laughing through the whole thing. The best part was that all day long, people followed the little trail of spilled soda down the carpeted hallway to see where it would lead.
I really wanted to love this one. And I like it a lot. But I didn't think it tasted much like a root beer float. Still very good though :-). Very light and summery feel to it.
Rebecca's Note: Summery was what I was going for! SUCCESS! I was also going for root beer though too. FAIL!
Let me preface this with the fact that I like vanilla flavored cake much more than chocolate... The whoopie pie this week was YUMMY!
Rebecca's Note: Totally agree that the vanilla cake is better than the chocolate.
And this week, we welcome three new reviewers to WPW: "Robin Hood," Joe, and Katie!!!
Wow, it is hard to be critical of such goodness. So, I am just going with what I wrote while tasting. I thought they were light and fluffy; the root beer could almost be confused with ginger. Definitely tasting some ginger or maybe it is just the lightness of the root beer. The cookie part has a nice texture, they were not dry, could be a little bit more moist but good. The filling was just enough to get a little oozing out on the edges after the first bite. There seems to be two cream fillings pressed together, the darker of the two filling has more of the root beer flavor.
Rebecca's Note: Hmm, is there ginger in Root Beer? Fact: I do not like the taste of ginger. The only exception would be gingerbread cookies.
The 'bun' portion of this delectable little dessert burger (which apparently is just called a cookie) was fantastic. They had some chew to them without being dry at all, and they also weren't anywhere near super gooey, Oreo cakester territory. The cream was light and smooth. I could have eaten a dozen of these things. I do have a question though: weren't these supposed to taste like a root beer float? I was wary when I first got my sample bag and read the description because I've never been a root beer fan. But I couldn't taste any root beer at all. Oh well, I'm not going to complain too much about that. On a scale of 1 to 5 whoopies (for whoopie pies, of course), I would give these a solid 4 whoopies.
Rebecca's Note: What is everyone's opinions on Oreo Cakesters? I tried them once when I found a random package of them in my parent's car and I was not impressed. But that package was Mini Oreo Cakesters so maybe the ratio of cookie to creme was off.
So I have to admit that I was skeptical to try the Root Beer Float WP because I don't like root beer, but I went into it with an open mind and I was pleasantly surprised because it didn't taste like root beer at all. For me this is not a bad thing, but for someone who loves root beer and was expecting a WP that would remind them of their favorite summer treat, these WP's would be disappointing. I thought the cream was the perfect texture and it was light and sweet which I love. The cookies were soft and moist which is how a cookie should be (if you ask me anyways). Together they made a sweet (but not overly so) treat perfect for anyone who loves whipped cream and cookies.
Rebecca's Note: I was a big fan of the vanilla cookie. The recipe for it oddly enough included white vinegar which I found odd but I am guessing it couple with baking soda has a rising effect (and brings to mind the third reference to elementary school baking soda/vinegar volcanoes in this week's WPW).
Until the next Whoopie Pie Wednesday….