Brown Butter Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Frosting

Fall is finally here!  After a weird week of 90 degree September weather earlier this month, temperatures have finally dropped to more fall-like temperatures and the leaves look like they are just about to start turning colors.  And with the temperature change comes a whole new season of produce: apples, squashes, and of course pumpkin!  In celebration of my favorite time of year, I decided to make a pumpkin dessert. 

In browsing online for recipes, the first that caught my eye was brown butter pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel frosting.  However, given that I make a lot of cupcakes, I decided to switch things up a little and make a similar flavored whoopie pie.  I had made these pumpkin whoopie pies with maple cream cheese frosting in the past, but decided to substiture salted caramel frosting for the maple cream cheese frosting.  In addition, after the success of my brown butter nutella cookies last post, I substitured 1 cup of brown butter for the canola oil in the original recipe which I felt really made a difference. 

I will admit that these did not quite go as smoothly as I had planned.  Note to self: Do not attempt to take pictures while making caramel (regardless of how badly you want photos for your blog).  The caramel requires a lot of attention and may develop a slightly burnt flavor, as mine did, if you attempt this.  I was a little worried that I had ruined it but luckily the extra sugar added in making the frosting mellows out the burnt flavor.  I then almost ruined the whoopie pies again when I realized last second that I had bought canned pumpkin pie mix (with sugar and spices already mixed in) instead of regular canned pumpkin.  Luckily a speedy trip to my local Whole Foods to buy overly priced organic pumpkin puree (is it me of do they always seem to run out of the regular product but never the more expensive organic version?) remedied this.  Despite the near failure and the extra trip to Whole Foods, the end result was delicious!

Brown Butter Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Frosting

For the Pumpkin Cookies (adapated from Brown Eyed Baker):

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup brown butter (see Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for instructions to make brown butter)
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Salted Caramel Frosting (from two peas & their pod):

Salted Caramel Sauce:
2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup salted caramel sauce
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the brown butter together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure that the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make the salted caramel frosting. First, make the salted caramel sauce. Make sure you have all of the ingredients ready. Once you start the caramel sauce you have to pay close attention so you don’t burn it. To begin, heat the sugar over medium high-heat in the bottom of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan. When the sugar starts to melt, start whisking the sugar. The sugar will clump up, but keep whisking. It will continue to melt. When the sugar is melted, stop whisking. You can swirl the pan to move the sugar around.

Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color. Make sure you watch the pan very closely. This is where it is easy to burn the caramel. You want the caramel to reach 350 degrees F. If you are new to making caramel, I suggest using a thermometer.

 As soon as the sugar reaches the dark amber color, carefully add the butter. Whisk until butter is melted.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth. Whisk in the fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes.  Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Pour the caramel into a large mason jar and cool to room temperature.  Note: makes about 2 cups of caramel so you;ll have leftovers!

 To make the frosting: beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar and salt, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and then add the salted caramel sauce. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.

Once pumpkin cookies are cooled, turn half of the cookies upside down. Pipe or spoon the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I came across this recipe a few months ago and kept it in the back of my mind for a “rainy day” (or unusually hot September night as it turns out). After a rough start to the week, I figured my surgery team could use a mid-week pick-me-up in the form of sugar and these cookies immediately came to mind. As perviously confessed, I love all things nutella (see Chocolate Cake with Nutella Chocolate Ganache with Nutella Buttercream)): Nutella crepes, Nutella ice cream, Nutella cupcakes, Nutella by the spoonful… Needless to say, I was pretty eager to try out this cookie recipe.

While these cookies take a little more work than your average cookie, the payoff is worth every minute (even when you have to sacrifice sleep for those minutes!). The extra step of browning the butter creates a nutty, carmelized cookie that is then brought to a whole other level with the nutella filling. The cookie is finally finished with a touch of sea salt for the perfect salty/sweet combination. Luckily, my hospital colleagues helped me eat these or else I may have finished the whole batch myself!

Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe originally from Ambitious Kitchen, adapted instructions from Annie’s Eats)

Chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella), about ½ cup
1 cup (16 tbsp.) unsalted butter
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. coarse sea salt, plus more sprinkling
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. greek yogurt or sour cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Place chocolate hazelnut spread in a plastic bag toward one corner of the bag. Twist so that it does not squeeze out of the top. Snip one corner off the end of the bag. Pipe small dollops of the spread onto the wax paper, about 1-1½ teaspoons each. You will need about 2 dozen. Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and let sit until firm, about 2 hours.

Place the butter in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter completely. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the butter foams, bubbles slightly, and begins to brown. Continue whisking until the butter is evenly browned, being careful not to burn. Remove from the heat, immediately pour into a bowl (to prevent burning) and let cool.


Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugars and the brown butter. Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Blend in the egg and egg yolk, scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and greek yogurt. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips. Chill the dough, overnight (or at least 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Use a medium dough scoop (about 2 tablespoons) to scoop a portion of cookie dough. Flatten the dough in the palm of your hand. Place a dollop of the frozen Nutella in the middle and roll the edges of the cookie dough over the top to completely seal it in the center.

Place the shaped cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 2-3 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are just golden brown at the edges, 10-12 minutes. When the cookies are finished baking, sprinkle lightly with additional sea salt. Let sit a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough as needed. Be sure to replace the remaining Nutella dollops in the freezer while waiting for cookies to bake. It softens fairly quickly otherwise.

Shana Tova: Honey Ice Cream

Shana Tova!  This past Wednesday evening marked the beginning of Rosh Hashana- the Jewish New Year.  This day is also known as the “Day of Judgement” when 3 books of account are opened: One for the righteous who are immediately inscribed into the book of life, one for the wicked who are cast out of the book of life forever, and one for the indeterminate who are given 10 days to reflect and repent until final judgment on Yom Kippur.  Despite the serious undertones of the holiday, I fondly remember Rosh Hashana as a joyous holiday full of celebration, shofar (a musical instrument made of out of a horn) blowing, brisket, and of course apples and honey.  It is Ashkenazi custom to eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashana to welcome in the sweet new year.

Despite my crazy vampire schedule at the hospital (I am once again working the night shift), I was determined to make Rosh Hashana dinner for my friends.  It was a big undertaking: brisket (for 10 people), roasted potatoes, 2 challahs (one regular braided challah and one round challah with apples and honey in the tradition of Rosh Hashana), an apple tart and chocolate peanut butter brownies.  I was debating buying plain, vanilla ice cream to go with the apple tart since I was already pushed for time, but last minute I had a brilliant idea and a burst of energy! The result?  Honey ice cream!  Although ice cream sounds difficult to make, I think I’ve proved that it really only takes a few ingredients and a little time and then the ice cream machine does the rest of the work.  Once the idea of honey ice cream was in my head, I couldn’t ignore it.   I decided to take the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream base and substitute honey for the sugar.  I wasn’t sure how this would affect the texture but decided it was worth a shot…and it was!  It was deliciously smooth and creamy and paired perfectly with the apple tart for a sweet start to the new year.

Honey Ice Cream (adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 vanilla bean
3 oz of cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup + 2 Tbs  honey, plus extra for drizzling in between layers of ice cream

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, and honey in a 4-quart saucepan.  Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the mixture and then add the bean.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and remove vanilla bean (carefully).

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of honey drizzle (as much or as little as you want); do not mix. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Oatmeal Rocky Road Cookies

The other week I was invited to a friend’s dinner party. I hate to show up empty handed and as you can imagine, I often like to contribute a homemade dessert.  Unfortunately, I did not have the time to bake an elaborate cake or tart and needed to come up with a quick dessert with ingredients I had on hand.  I immediately thought of cookies: the dough takes about 10-15 minutes to make and baking time per batch is only 10 minutes (which is idle time, aka time to do hair and makeup!).  While nothing is wrong with plain, old chocolate chip cookies, I wanted to make something more exciting. Luckily I had leftover marshmallows (from the Momofuku Cornflake, Chocolate Chip, Marshmallow cookies), chocolate chips, pecans and oats and hence oatmeal rock road cookies were born! (Fun fact:  Apparently Rocky Road ice cream got its name after the Wall Street crash of 1929 by William Dreyer and Joseph Edy  “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.”).

This recipe is a blend of Joanne Chang’s Oatmeal Raisin cookies (disclaimer: I hate raisins in all baked goods except her carrot cake) and the Momofuku Milk Bar cornflake, chocolate chips and marshmallow cookies.  The result is a soft, gooey cookie with hints of caramel (from the marshmallow as it bakes).  The chococolate chips and toasted pecans add a great flavor and texture contrast.

Of note, the dough can be made several days ahead of time for an even speedier dessert (or two months if you freeze it).  When I do this, I like to scoop the dough into 1 Tbs portions before refrigerating as opposed to just refrigerating the dough as is.  It makes it a lot easier to bake when the time comes (refrigerated dough can be tough to portion out!).

Oatmeal Rocky Road Cookies

(adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook)

1 cup (sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (200 g) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup (245 g) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cup (175 g) old –fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
1 1/4 cup marshmallows
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, making sure there are no lumps of baking soda. Stir in the oats.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly combined. On low speed, or by hand, gradually add the flour and oat mixture to the creamed butter, mixing until completely incorporated.  Add the marshmallows, chocolate chips and pecans and mix until just incorporated.

At this point you can portion the dough out into 1 Tbs balls and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  If time does not permit, this refrigeration step can be skipped (but does make for a better cookie).

Place the dough balls on the parchment lined baking sheet, an inch apart. Bake for about 10 min or until just starting to become golden brown.  DO NOT overbake!  Remove from oven and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Store in an airtight container for up to three days. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months.