Written by Courteney
The Challenge: To modify a whoopie pie recipe so as not to use granulated OR icing sugar.
The Backstory: One of my friends/co-workers is, unfortunately, allergic to both fruit sugars (fructose) and ‘normal’ sugar (i.e. granulated sugar). I know. A little bit tragic – I don’t know how she survives. However, she’s always interested in what baking adventures Becky and I have/are embarking on, and was one of the first readers of our blog. So I decided that a fun challenge would be to try to modify a whoopie pie recipe so that she, too, could enjoy the experience that is the Whoopie Pie.
My friend is a huge fan of peanut butter, so I decided to make classic chocolate whoopies with salty peanut butter icing, from the book Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley & Amy Treadwell. I’ve posted my modified recipe after the break, for those of you who are interested.
Since my friend is allergic to sucrose, she suggested I substitute dextrose, which is another type of sugar with slightly different chemical structure, which she usually uses in her baking instead of granulated sugar. It’s found in the bulk food section of some grocery stores (i.e. Save-on Foods) and is of a slightly different texture than granulated sugar. It’s definitely not granular, but more powdery, like icing sugar.
Since dextrose is not very sweet, my friend suggested using rice syrup as a sweetener, which she can eat and has a consistency a little like honey.
If a recipe calls for, say, 1 cup of sugar, she usually substitutes 1/2 cup of rice syrup, and 1/2 cup of dextrose – this provides the bulk that granulated sugar gives to a recipe, as well as a little sweetness, although it’s nowhere near the sweetness of regular sugar. This conversion was my starting point.
I accidentally over-thawed my butter (I forgot to take it out of the freezer earlier, so to ‘soften’ it to ‘room temperature’, I stuck it in the microwave. It promptly melted), which probably contributed to the liquid-y-ness that I found (I’ll discuss this more later). But here’s a picture that gives a better idea of what rice syrup is like – it’s the beige-coloured viscous liquid just above/on the white dextrose.
I found that when I did a strict substitution of 1/2 cup of rice syrup and dextrose, each, for 1 cup of brown sugar, the outcome was very liquid. On the right, you’ll see my cookie sheet pre-baking, and below, post-baking:
As you can see, there was some serious spreading occurring. I quickly went back and added another 1/4 cup of dextrose and about 1/3+1/4 cup (=7/12 cup?) of flour to soak up the excess liquid. My second attempt looked something like this, which I judged to be more whoopie pie-like:
The icing was very simple and delicious – I really liked that the salt brought out the peanut butter flavour and gave it a different, sharper taste. For the icing, I instead of 3/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar, I used 1/4 cup of rice syrup (for sweetness) and about 3/4 cup of dextrose. It ended up being a teeny bit dry and difficult to pipe (I burst a hole in my makeshift icing bag trying to ice these!) so maybe next time I’ll decrease the amount of dextrose I added. YUM!
Classic Chocolate Whoopie (Makes about 36 two-inch cakes) – adapted from here (or the earlier link I posted to the book)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/2 cup rice syrup
3/4 cup dextrose
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup milk
First, I mixed the flour,cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, I beat together the butter, shortening, rice syrup, and brown sugar on low speed until it was just combined, before increasing the speed and beating until the mixture was fluffy and smooth. I then added the egg and vanilla and beat.
To this batter, I added about half of the flour mixture from the first step and half the milk (I just poured until it looked about right) and beat it on low until it was just incorporated. I then added the remaining flour mixture and 3/4 cup of milk and beat until completely combined.
Using a cookie scoop, I dropped about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the baking sheet for each whoopie pie, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. After baking for about 12 minutes (the recipe calls for 10 minutes, but my oven tends to bake on the slow side) or until the pies spring back when pressed gently, I removed them from the oven and let the cakes cool completely before icing (you can leave them on the sheet for about 5 minutes at room temperature to let them finish cooking, then transfer to a cooling rack). I then scooped the icing into a plastic bag, twirled the opening, and cut a small hole a corner to allow me to ice half of the whoopies on the base/flat side, and fit the top whoopie to create a sandwich (=whoopie pies!) – hint: cut your hole small to begin with; you can always cut it bigger if needed (or if the icing is too stiff/dry that you squeeze additional holes in your bag trying to squeeze the icing out!).
Salty Peanut Butter Icing
3/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup rice syrup
3/4 cup dextrose
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat together the peanut butter and butter on low speed until smooth and creamy. Add the rice syrup and dextrose and the salt and beat on low to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the filling is light and fluffy.