Little Debbie®. How I loved her growing up. Her, and her Swiss Cake Rolls, and her Nutty Bars, and her Star Crunches, and her Zebra Cakes, where you could peel off the outside layer of frosting as one treat, and then eat the middle cake + frosting mixture like a second dessert. But Oatmeal Crème Pies: these remind me most of my childhood, of being over at my friend Krista’s house, eating illicit snacks (my parents kept very little processed food around) and playing capture the flag long into the night. So, you can probably guess what this week’s face-off is…
Challenge: Oatmeal Creme Pie
One Oatmeal Crème Pie contains (get ready): Corn syrup, enriched bleached flour, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil with TBHQ to preserve flavor, sugar, whole grain oats, water, dextrose, molasses, raisins, leavening (baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate), whey, salt, emulsifiers (soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60, propylene glycol monostearate, sodium stearoyl lactylate), corn starch, eggs, palm and palm kernel oil, soybean oil, egg whites, cocoa, high fructose corn syrup, dried apples (sulfite treated to preserve color) rice flour, nonfat dry milk, modified corn starch, carrageenan, colors (caramel color, titanium dioxide, red 40, beta carotene, annatto extract, tumeric, yellow 5 and blue 1), sorbic acid (to retain freshness), spices, natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, malic acid, pectin and sodium citrate.
The Oatmeal Whoopie Pies I made contain two parts. I made the cookie from a recipe found over on Allrecipes, and the Cream Filling from a Cuisine at Home recipe.
2 cups brown sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. boiling water
1 tsp. baking soda
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 stick unsalted butter
8 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (soybean and cottonseed oils)
1 cup marshmallow crème (corn syrup, sugar, water, egg whites, artificial flavor, xanthan gum, salt, lactic acid)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
To make the cookies, you follow your general cookie-making procedure: Over here, cream together your butter, sugar, egg. Over there, mix your salt, cinnamon, baking powder, hot water, baking soda and flour. Add oats. Combine. Then mix your oat-y stuff with your egg-y stuff. Mix. Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 min. Cool on a rack.
Next, filling! You need a hand mixer or stand mixer for this. Cream things together in this order: Butter and shortening, then vanilla and marshmallow crème, last the powdered sugar. Pipe, smear or smush onto the bottom of one cookie. Top with another cookie. Voila! Preserve by storing in Tupperware on the counter for an afternoon, or in the fridge for longer.
Time and Cost Comparison:
The Store pies came 12 to a box, and cost $1.59 – about $0.13/pie. It took me a good 5 minutes to find the Little Debbie section, because they weren’t with all the other cookies, but that may be different in your store.
Homemade produced 20 pies, with some leftover filling and one extra cookie. I used $5.49 worth of supplies, for a total cost of $0.27/pie. They took me 20 minutes to mix, 12 minutes to bake, 30 minutes to cool and make filling for, and another 15 minutes to fill, sandwich and pack. That’s a total time of 1 hour, 15 minutes (some of which I was able to use multitasking).
The Store pie contains 170 calories, 7 grams fat, 170 mg sodium, 26 grams carbs and 1 gram protein.
The Homemade pie contains 251 calories, 12 grams fat, 159 mg sodium, 41 grams carbs and 3 grams protein.
Okay, it would take forever to list all the major ingredient differences, so I’ll go the other way: The store and homemade versions both contain enriched flour, soybean and cottonseed oil, whole grain oats, water, dextrose (powdered sugar), leavening, salt, eggs and natural flavors (vanilla). That’s it. Everything else is unique to one or the other pie.
The homemade pies taste like they’re made using *actual* oatmeal cookies. They’re soft and moist inside, a little crunch outside, and you can see actual pieces of oatmeal. They don’t have the fall-apart-ness of Little Debbie, but the two-person taste test was definitive: Homemade cookies taste leaps-and-bounds better. However, when it came to the crème filling, there was no discernible taste difference.
Homemade PITA factor:
Gonna have to go with a 5.5 here, because it’s a multi-step process, and it makes a mess. Also, marshmallow crème is sticky, which makes it kind of difficult to work with, and if you accidentally get some on your spoon handle and don’t realize it for a few minutes, heaven help you. However, if you’re like me and use this as an excuse to get your very first pastry bag, then the PITA factor drops down to a 3.5, because pastry bags are *really* fun to play with.
DIY or Buy?
DIY. Screw the cost difference and the PITA factor on this one. (Ingredients and nutritional comparison is a wash. Neither is good for you: Store Bought has better numbers but more chemicals, the homemade has worse numbers but ingredients you can identify.) Devote an afternoon, get some friends to help and enjoy the warm, oatmeal-cookie awesomeness of a homemade Oatmeal Whoopie Pie. It’s really worth it.