It is that time of year again, friends. Yes, the super bowl is upon us. I am not a huge sports person, as is evidenced by the fact that the last time I watched a football game I asked Jeremy what inning it was. However, I do enjoy watching sports games with people who are reallllly into it. I think the excitement becomes released into the air and I breathe it in or something, because all of a sudden I’m ooohing for one team and awwwwwing for another and getting really angry at referees. (I’m looking at you, Jerome Boger.)
So, this Sunday I’m looking forward to going over to my friend Leigh’s apartment and watching the game with a bunch of other people who actually understand what is happening. And because San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world (if you’ve never been please, please go there. The food, the scenery, the seafood….it’s all amazing), I am going to be rooting for the 49ers. Of course I wanted to make something that would match the team colors to contribute to the festivities, so this morning I used some McCormick red food coloring and made Better Homes & Gardens red velvet whoopie pies, and then filled them with a rich golden salted caramel center. The combination of the two was the most decadent thing I’ve made in quite some time, probably since that chocolate chess pie. The red velvet had a nice fluffy texture that the creaminess of the caramel really complemented it in a strangely fantastic way. I’ve never had red velvet and salted caramel before, but it is a strikingly delicious pairing that I will definitely repeat again, perhaps in cake-form…
Anyway, while I am day dreaming about other possible red velvet and salted caramel combinations, I hope you all have a lovely weekend and enjoy your Sunday plans, super bowl-related or not.
First, make the caramel. In a small thick-bottomed saucepan mix together the water and the granulated sugar until well blended. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat and continue boiling until the mixture turns a light caramel color, only stirring once every four minutes. This took me about eight minutes, but the speed will depend upon the heat of your stovetop. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the heavy cream, butter, and brown sugar until incorporated. Be careful as the mixture will spit and hiss a bit. If the sugar begins to clump up when you’re stirring do not fret, just stir as best as you can for about 30 seconds and then put the pot back on the heat and bring it back to a boil again over medium-low heat. Once it is boiling again stir until the sugar chunk dissolves and the mixture is smooth. Once it smoothes out, stir it every two minutes and allow the mixture to simmer for 10-12 minutes or until it has thickened. Remove from the stovetop and stir in the salt. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator to continue cooling. Once cooled, you want the caramel to be thick enough where it can be used as a filling without oozing everywhere, but still soft enough to mold with your hands into a soft ball. If yours is still liquidy after a stint in the refrigerator, bring it to a simmer and cook again for a few minutes until it thickens a bit, then cool it down again.
While the caramel is cooling, you can start making the red velvet whoopie pies. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended. Set aside. Beat the butter in a stand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds, then add the brown sugar and beat for 1 minute more or until creamed together.
Add the egg and the vanilla extract and continue mixing until they’re fully combined. Now alternate between adding a bit of the flour mixture and a bit of the buttermilk until they have been completely incorporated. Turn the speed to a low setting and add the food coloring (be careful, you don’t want it splashing about everywhere) and continue mixing until the batter is a nice consistent red hue.
Use a tablespoon to scoop a bit of the batter and place it on the parchment paper in rows with about 2 inches between each whoopie pie (they will expand a bit). Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the tops of the whoopie pies are set. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pan to cool for 5 minutes before removing the whoopie pies and allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack.
When the whoopie pies are completely cooled, take a teaspoon to a tablespoon (depending on the width of your whoopie pies) of the salted caramel and roll it into a ball in your hand, then press it between your palms to flatten it. Place the little caramel disc on an upside down whoopie pie and then place a right-side up whoopie pie on top to make a little sandwich. Repeat until you use up all the whoopie pies or all of the caramel. The assembled whoopie pies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.