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No Twinkies? No problem

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Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:33 am, Sat Nov 24, 2012.

Hostess Brands, Inc. is no more. The Southern District of New York's U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the company's emergency interim motion to sell off its assets. Last year, Hostess had sales of more than $2.5 billion, led by its iconic Twinkies, Ho Hos and my personal favorite, Sno Balls.

Some blame the striking Teamsters and bakers unions who wouldn't budge from its $10-an-hour wage plus benefits. Others point the finger at overpaid management. The CEO, Brian Driscoll, earned $1.5 million annually. Wherever the fault may rest, sales and product recognition weren't at fault.

Wall Street analysts predict that the Hostess product line will be absorbed, and that Ding Dongs and Zingers will be back on supermarket shelves soon.

If you feel that you can't survive a single day without a Twinkie, I recommend that you acquaint yourself with the whoopie pie, sometimes referred to as a "gob" — something you can bake from scratch in a snap.

A whoopie pie isn't a pie at all, but rather two huge, hamburger-size, soft cake-like cookies filled with a fluffy marshmallow cream. Most recipes don't call for frosting, but all my whoopie pies come with a thick layer of chocolate ganache. Chocolate pies are the most popular flavor, but pumpkin, maple and all-white whoopies have their fans.

Because their origin is in the East Coast, Lodians may never have heard of whoopie pies. The Amish in Lancaster County, Pa. claim to have originated the treat. As the story goes, the Amish made these special desserts from leftover batter. When their children unexpectedly found them in their lunch bags, they shouted, "Whoopie!"

Today, travelers through central Pennsylvania can still find roadside stands that offer whoopie pies. Every year in September, the county hosts the national Whoopie Pie Festival.

But Maine also boasts that the whoopie pie got its start in the Bay State. Labadie's Bakery in Lewiston first started selling whoopie pies in 1925.

Today, Labadie's is still cranking out whoopie pies. You can order them online in 5-inch, 12-inch and 16-inch sizes.

The other, better whoopie pie option is to turn on your oven. You can bake a world-class whoopie pie in about 45 minutes; hands-on time is 15 minutes to mix ingredients, 15 minutes or less to bake, plus 5 minutes to prepare the filling and another 5 minutes to frost.

Here is the recipe I used for my blue ribbon-winning California State Fair Whoopie Pie entry:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly grease baking sheets. In a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup shortening, 1 cup light brown sugar and 1 egg.

2. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup cocoa, 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon each baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using a small measuring cup, stir 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into 1 cup of milk.

3. Alternate adding the milk and the dry ingredients into the shortening mixture, then drop the batter in 1/4-cup dollops onto the baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each pie. Bake about 15 minutes but check at 12 minutes.

4. Cool completely, then add filling: 2 cups marshmallow fluff, 1 cup shortening, 1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, which you have blended well.

Although the traditional whoopie pie doesn't have frosting, I recommend it. Believe me, no one will complain.

Joe Guzzardi is a multiple-time San Joaquin County and California State Fair blue ribbon award-winning baker. For more whoopie pie recipe suggestions, contact Joe directly at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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