Can you say “yum?”
In all seriousness, these are yum.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning. The very beginning.
A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of going on a trip to London and France (Paris and Arles in the south). And let me tell you…all those things you’ve heard about French pastries being the best things in the world…those aren’t lies. Those of you who have gone to France, am I right? *Insert everyone nodding their heads yes!*
Breakfast every morning was divine (I even became a local at this one cafe!)…freshly baked bread and a croissant, with the choice of spreading on jellies and/or butter. There is literally no way to describe how good this was. And if you thought butter was good in America, you’d be wildly impressed with French butter – it’s that much better!
Besides indulging in breakfast (and lunch, and dinner), I also made many stops to little patisseries. Of course, I had to go to Ladurée, famous in particular for their macarons. Being the dessert-lover I am, I not only indulged in many macarons, but also a heavenly pastry with rose water and raspberries. Yep, be jealous. This was a food lover’s dream!
And on a complete side note, some of you may be wondering how much weight I gained after all of this eating. Well, prepare to get even more jealous: the answer? None. Yep, I gained no weight. I think it had to do with how walkable a city Paris is…I mean, you just want to walk everywhere.
But back to the main story: So, I guess you could say I became officially in love with macarons during this trip. But really…how could you not? Macarons are adorable and tasty, and I was in Paris – the place where undoubtedly you’ll get the world’s best macarons.
Ever since returning from that trip, I wanted to make my own macarons. But then I heard all those horror stories about them, which I’m sure you’ve heard:
“Macarons are impossible!”
“Macarons are so finicky!”
“Macarons never turn out!”
“Don’t try making macarons – you’ll never get them right!”
Naturally, I was scared away from the task, although the curiosity and obsession with macarons never left me.
And then, over a year later, one fateful day (dramatic!), there I was: watching Anne Thornton’s Dessert First on the Food Network. And what was she making?! Macarons!
I thought to myself, “If a TV show geared at the home baker is encouraging you to make macarons, you make macarons!” Right? Right!
That very next day I got the few ingredients I was missing that I needed to make them. And then, I made them.
And guess what?! They turned out perfectly!
They were not impossible.
They were not finicky.
They did turn out.
And, boy, did they turn out well!
I don’t know if it was a good recipe, luck, or what it was, but they turned out. And I loved them.
Moral of the story? Don’t let myths keep you from trying something you really want to make.
Or, maybe you just need to find a really good recipe.
Or, maybe you just need pure luck.
But try these for me.
You won’t regret it.
(I should note that the recipe does not make a ton….but that’s fine, as long as that’s what you expect.)
Salted Caramel Banana Macarons
adapted from Anne Thornton’s Dessert First
1 ¼ cup almond meal
1 ¾ cup powdered sugar
3 large older egg whites* (i.e. not freshly bought – preferably older than 4 days)
3 tablespoons meringue powder
fleur de sel, enough to sprinkle
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 teaspoons heavy cream
¾ teaspoons fleur de sel
1 ripe (not overripe) banana
*Preparation: Separate the egg whites when the eggs are cold – just out of the refrigerator. However, before moving on, allow to come to room temperature.
Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper
Sift together the almond meal and powdered sugar. Set aside.
Using a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Begin sprinkling in the meringue powder as you beat. Increase the speed to medium speed and beat until soft peaks form. From here, keep beating cautiously until you have firm glossy peaks – do not beat until you have stiff peaks (i.e. meringue should not stand up straight when a whisk is lifted from the mixture).
Gently fold in about 1/3 of the almond meal mixture. Once combined, add the remaining almond meal mixture in 2 more batches. Being gentle is key. Incorporate the ingredients fully, but do not over-fold.
Put a pastry bag with about a ½ inch tip (or plastic bag with a tip cut off) in a glass or cup. Fold the top of the bag over the lip of the glass/cup. Fill the pastry bag with the mixture.
Pipe 1-inch circular mounds of batter onto the prepared pans. If the mounds do not smooth out on their own, using a wet fingertip, tap the mounds gently to create a smooth top. Another option would be to tap the pan on the counter…but I’d recommend the finger-tip option. Let the cookies sit for about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle each cookie with fleur de sel. Allow the cookies to rest 30-60 minutes more, depending on the humidity.
Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, 1 sheet at a time. They should not be browned, but they shouldn’t look too underdone either. Let the cookies cool.
Make the filling:
In a saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Let the sugar melt and turn into a caramel – but do not stir the mixture, and do not rush this process. Carefully, as steam will be released, add the butter and heavy cream. Stir until incorporated, and then add the fleur de sel. Let cool.
In a small bowl, mash the ripe banana with a fork (don’t worry about the texture seeming strange…it’ll work in the end!). Add the cooled caramel to the mashed banana.
Spread the filling on the flat side of a cookie. Make a sandwich by sandwiching the flat side of another cookie against the filling. Continue this process for the rest of the sandwiches.
Place in the refrigerator and allow to mature for at least 24 hours…but honestly, you’ll want one before, and I found that there wasn’t a huge difference in taste between the more freshly finished and 24-hour matured versions. So, go ahead. Enjoy them now! (And think of Paris….*sigh*).