Specialty bakeware fascinates me. Once upon a time, I thought specialty bakeware are the fancy cake pans in the likeness of cartoon characters or cute animals. A typical home cook would only use a pan once in a lifetime (because nobody wants to make Mickey Mouse cake two years in a row). Around my neck of the woods, I can stroll into a bulk food store and rent one for the weekend at a nominal fee. It’s the best of both worlds. I get to bake my Mickey Mouse cake without the hassle of finding a permanent home for the unwieldy cake pan that doesn’t fit anywhere in the cupboard.
I have issues with single purpose kitchen gadgets and some of the specialty bakeware I see these days are absurd. When I am feeling down, I like to wander the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond. This emporium of innovation never ceases to make me giggle. At one glance, I spotted such highly specific gems: cake pop maker, ice cream sandwich pan, whoopie pie pan, macaron baking set, éclair pan, half cupcake pan, and doughnut pan. Notice any pattern here? These are all things that can be shaped with a steady hand or detailed with a knife. Really manufacturers? I thought you have more faith in our skills. Obviously I was wrong and marketing research shows a different picture.
Despite all my eye rolling, I did buy something. I had one 6-cavities doughnut pan as a gift and wanted to add a second one to bake one dozen at the same time. You may think baked doughnut is simply muffin in a different guise. And you’re probably right. Most recipes in my research show a remarkable resemblance as is typical in quick bread recipes. But to me, doughnut with thick glossy glaze and sprinkles is so quintessentially North American. The visual quality trumps all. Just looking at them makes me smile. See for yourself.
Purists would of course wag their fingers in disapproval and tell me to break out the deep fryer. I did that before and totally agree with the transcendent experience of a freshly fried doughnut. But sometimes I’m just a girl who wants a ring (to deliver glaze and sprinkles). I feel totally justify in my doughnut pan purchase.
If only it is that simple. A key point of using doughnut pan is not to be greedy. When the recipe says fill the pan to three quarters full, do not be overzealous with the batter. I did not listen and all twelve of my Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts had to go under the knife for some nip and tuck. That irked the perfectionist in me so very much. Thankfully, real thick chocolate glaze and sprinkles hid all sins. They played a key role in redeeming my doughnut pan purchase.
I hesitated to make whoopie pies all these years for two reasons. First, most traditional recipes call for lard or shortening, neither of which appeal to me. More importantly, the perfectionist side of me cringes at the thought of lopsided mismatched biscuits. Regardless how careful the cakey batter is portioned and arranged, it has a mind of its own once it goes into the oven. Taste isn’t everything. I want a whole batch of perfectly round biscuits and it pains me to know that is not likely to happen. Calling it rustic cannot cut it.
To address my first gripe, Cook’s Country helpfully offers an all butter update to this New England classic. Butter in the cakey chocolate biscuit and butter in the marshmallow fluff filling. This recipe is spot on in terms of taste. But it is still left to chance exactly how pretty my whoopie pie would turn out. Remember the whoopie pie pan I mentioned earlier? The shallow indentation can potentially contain the batter while it bakes and yield perfectly round biscuits. I would be happy for about 30 minutes before feeling like a dweeb for buying a WHOOPIE PIE PAN. So I opted for good old fashioned portion scoop and parchment paper. Out of the entire batch of 14 biscuits, only 4 passed my strict quality assurance test. That made me sad.
I do love the contrast of black and white. The fluffy marshmallow filling compliments the deep cocoa biscuit so beautifully. My whoopie pies may not look as perfect as I would like but their taste justifies my refusal to purchase another kitchen gadget. My portioning scoop is about 1/4 cup size, still smaller than the recipe’s specified 1/3 cup portions. The finished whoopie pie still feels too big though, about 4 inches in diameter. I would probably use a 2-tablespoon scoop next time (if there is a next time) for more manageable size.
Bed Bath & Beyond, please stop inspiring me to bake more homemade junk food. My tasters’ waistline can only take so much. Oh wait, is that an ice cream sandwich pan I see?