March 2009

Cultural Desserts: Whoopie Pies

I, a lifelong denizen of the Pacific Coast, had never heard of Whoopie Pies until I read this article in the New York Times. For the uninitiated, Whoopie Pies are a homespun dessert staple in New England (particularly Maine) and in Pennsylvania Dutch country. As a thumbnail description, they are what Oreo Cakesters are attempting to replicate on a national scale. (But it goes without saying that the real Whoopie Pies are at least a thousand times more tasty.)

The classic Whoopie Pie is essentially some filling sandwiched between two large, cake-like cookies. It sounds not unlike a Moon Pie, but without the flavored coating. The traditional cookie is thick and dry and on the bland side, getting most of its flavor and texture from the sticky sweet filling. The filling can be made of either frosting or marshmallow fluff.

On the Beignet

A few years ago I spent a week in New Orleans and had my first beignets. Like po' boys, jambalaya, or chicory coffee, beignets are so closely tied to New Orleans that many of us can't think of New Orleans without craving beignets. The best-known place in New Orleans to enjoy beignets is perhaps the Café du Monde. Once a coffee stand at the French Market, Café du Monde is now the place to sip coffee and nibble on a beignet. The Café du Monde, and the French Market, are now over 200 years old, and so closely tied to beignets that I'm told you just tell them how many "orders" of beignets you want, and what sort of coffee. Beignets are the only food they serve, so no one will in any doubt about what you're ordering. You can however, have quite a wait (the tables are always crowded so expect to get an order to go) so you might want to order an extra order of beignets for yourself, or one to share. They're very light, and not filling.