Lavender & Crystalized Ginger Whoopie Pies

This month’s not official #Baketogether is Whoopie Pies. The grand nieces were visiting so I enlisted their “help”. I didn’t have any buttermilk in the house and I needed to steep the lavender flowers in hot milk to extract their flavor. From what I’ve read heating buttermilk isn’t a good idea. So, I used regular milk and buttermilk powder. The lavender flavor is mild in this version, so feel free to up the quantity of flowers for a more intense flavor. The ginger was also a bit subdued, so I might try adding some ginger powder to the filling if I made these again.

Lavender & Cyrstlaized Ginger Whoopie Pies
       Makes 14 filled whoopie pies

For the whoopies

2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder (optional)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lavender flowers, or more to your taste
purple food coloring (optional)

For the filling

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
4 oz butter at room temperature
3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup crystalized/candied ginger cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder (optional)

Make the whoopies
1. heat the milk and lavender flowers together just until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the flowers
2. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line three cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners.
3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk powder and salt in a medium bowl until well blended and no lumps remain. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended between additions. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Add food coloring. Do a better job than I did. I ended up with a purplish gray. Stop to scrape down the bowl and the beater as needed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the milk and mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.
4. Using a small mini scoop, shape the dough into balls and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until a pick inserted in the center of one whoopie comes out clean, 9 to 11 minutes. Move the sheet to a cooling rack, let the whoopies sit for 10 minutes, and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling
Beat the cream cheese and butter together. Add powdered sugar and ginger powder. Add enough so that you have a fairly stiff filling. Fold in the ginger.

Fill the whoopies by spreading a generous amount of filling on one half and topping with another half.

Cavatelli with Duck Ragu

For Xmas Howard got me an item from my much neglected wishlist, a cavatelli maker. It’s made by CucinaProCucinaPro and works like a charm once you get the dough the right consistency, which is stiff, but not dry. I’ve made three batches of 100% semolina cavatelli since Christmas. They have a nice firm “bite” as they say. The cavatelli maker came with a sheet of recipes, all of which use all purpose(AP) flour. For this recipe I decided to try one of them. They turned out lighter, and really lovely with the Duck Ragu.

The ragu is adapted from Mario Batali. I only employ a couple of small changes, but both are meant to increase the umami flavor. I add in some dried, reconstituted porcini mushrooms and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Mushrooms and anchovies both add to umami and depth of flavor. I also cook this sauce a bit longer than Mario, melding the flavors more.

AP Flour Cavatelli (serves 4)
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Knead everything together until you get a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes or more.

Roll the dough out to about 3/8 inch in thickness. Cut into 1/2 – 3/4 inch strips. Feed through your Cavatelli Maker. Or do a Google search on how to hand roll them. Put them on a well floured sheet pan to dry out a little before using.

Duck Ragu (serves 4)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large or 4 small skinned duck legs
salt & pepper
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly slice
4 fresh sage leaves
2 cups red wine
2 cups duck (or chicken) stock
one 6 oz can of tomato paste
Worcestershire Sauce

Heat one cup of the stock to at least very hot and add the dried mushrooms. Soak for 10 minutes or so. Remove the mushrooms and chop. Let soaking liquid settle.

Salt and pepper the duck. Heat the oil in a dutch oven until hot and brown the duck legs on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, carrot, garlic, celery and sage to the pot. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add chopped mushrooms, wine, stock, tomato paste and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, avoiding the last bit of mushroom liquid that is most likely sandy. Add a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce.
Add the duck back in and simmer for an hour.

Remove the duck to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add back into the sauce. Simmer for another hour or longer, adding more stock if it gets too dry. You want the sauce to end up thick. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust. I added a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce at this point to add a little tang.

Cook the cavatelli in abundant salted water until they float for a minute or two. Taste along the way to your preferred doneness. Drain and add them to the sauce, letting them soak up the sauce for a minute or two. Serve, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.