My family wasn't one for junk food. Sugary cereals were outlawed, "pop" (MIDWEST!) was reserved for Saturday "Star Trek and Pizza" nights and never with caffeine, and my brother and I were charged with the chore of making a salad to accompany every dinner. But occasionally my dad would buy us Little Debbie treats to put in our lunch boxes.
Nutty Bars, Zebra Cakes, Star Crunch, and the Oatmeal Cream (or as they spell it "Creme") Pie. Less flashy than its other relations, the oatmeal cream pie was somehow more nostalgic, even then. Perhaps because it seemed like something you could actually make at home, pulled from a classic simple red, white, and blue box, without the galaxy background or wacky fonts.
Indeed, Oatmeal Creme Pies were the first recipe the Little Debbie company launched in 1960. The concept was new-- a "family pack" of treats, individually wrapped so they could be stuffed in pockets or thrown in lunch bags. The entire carton sold for 49 cents. This was novel, but the pie itself was familiar. Little Debbie didn't of course invent the oatmeal cream pie (though you might be able to credit them with the Star Crunch). It was already a common recipe, with Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish roots-- essentially a whoopie pie with oatmeal cakes (see here).
I set out to make these for the nostalgia, as well as just a general desire to make something a little different for this space-- a pie, but not. I used pastry chef Stella Parks' recipe, which she claimed to be creepily accurate to the Little Debbie version. She was right--shockingly similar (though better). Hers calls for marshmallow cream, which is probably most accurate to Little Debbie; though on their website it's listed as simply "creme filling" it does contain egg whites. Not being much of a mallow fan, I opted for a simple buttercream, adapted here from Sally's Baking Addiction.
I considered buying a box of Little Debbie's, just for comparison, but after tasting, I'm less inclined. My nostalgia pang was satiated, and replaced by a hunger for the homemade when all I want's just one more oatmeal pie.
Oatmeal Cream PiesCookies from Stella Parks of BraveTart, buttercream from Sally's Baking Addiction
Makes about 2 dozen
For oatmeal cookies:
8 oz. all-purpose flour
4 oz. rolled oats
1/2 oz. cocoa powder
2 oz. dried apple rings
3 oz. unsalted butter
2 1/4 oz. safflower oil
7 oz. sugar
1 1/2 oz. molasses
3 oz. corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. mace
1 large egg
1 oz. whole milk
6 oz. unsalted butter
12 oz. confectioner's sugar
3 Tblsp. heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
For oatmeal cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, oats, cocoa, and apple rings. Process for 2 minutes until incorporated and no oat or apple pieces remain. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter with oil, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices until well incorporated, approximately 2 minutes. Add egg and beat one minute more.
4. Reducing speed to low, add all of the dry ingredients, then drizzle in the milk. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix 30 seconds more until combined.
5. Scoop dough onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet using a small (2 tsp.) cookie scoop. Level off each scoop with the side of the bowl so that the cookie size remains relatively consistent. Leave 1-2 inches between dough scoops, as the cookies will spread considerably in the oven.
6. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cookies are puffed, set around the edges, but still quite soft. They will crisp once cooled, so make sure they are not overdone, particularly if you want to simulate a Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie! Let cool completely while you prepare the buttercream.
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes. Pour in heavy cream and vanilla extract, and beat on high 3-4 minutes until fluffy. Add pinch of salt to taste, and mix to incorporate, about 1-2 minutes more.
2. To assemble the cookies, use the 2 tsp. cookie scoop to scoop buttercream onto the bottom of an oatmeal cookie. Sandwich with another cookie and press to disperse the buttercream. Cookies are best eaten within 2 days (if they last that long).
I made these for a little Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. pop-up at the Daniel Bachman show at Red Onion Records two Sundays past. They were a top seller, perfect for nibbling while enjoying some driving fingerstyle guitar. Thanks to Josh and Alissa for hosting me (and keeping me plied with tea!), and to Daniel for playing and for being an ever-positive presence.
Related recipe: "Indiana" Amish Oatmeal Pie