Salted Caramel Banana Macarons

Salted.

Caramel.

Banana.

Macarons.

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!*

(photo taken by me)

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!

Yep, that's the rose water and raspberry dessert. (photo taken by me)

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*).

Woah. Time Flies.

My goodness how time has flown by without a post! But don’t you worry…I have been baking, and I have been taking pictures, so I do have quite a bit to share with you! In the meantime, here’s a little sneak peek to…shall we say…get your mouth-watering?! Get ready, ’cause your mouth is going to water (well, I am perhaps a bit biased, having tasted all of these creations and all!).

YES! I made macarons (first time!)!

 

German Chocolate Cake...need I say more?!

 

Now force that jaw up and keep the mouth-watering to a minimum until I can get back here with the recipes and more details!

Bumbleberry Fool Parfaits

Understandably, you’re probably quite confused by the name of this treat? Yes, it’s called a Bumbleberry Fool Parfait. Any guesses as to what it is? Honestly, I would love to hear (and I promise I won’t make fun of you!). Want a hint? Here ya go:

Mmmm…looks good, huh?! Well, a Bumbleberry Fool is just a fancy way to say what this is….essentially, it’s a berry infused whipped cream, mixed fresh berries, and berry puree layered as a parfait (“fool,” I’m told, is an English term in this context). And guess what that means? For those who are Jewish, this is Passover friendly! And for those of you who aren’t Jewish, this is an equally spring season worthy dessert to make!

Not too sweet, this was a great dessert on its own. After a seder though, the berry infused whipped cream itself was a lovely accompaniment to a slice of flourless chocolate cake….really, this was quite a nice pairing (if you want, try this flourless chocolate cake from this recipe!). Another serving idea would be to top off the parfaits with some shaved chocolate. Yum!

And wanna know the other great feature of this dessert? It’s super simple. But don’t let that deceive you….it’s also pretty darn impressive looking too. Yay…a win-win situation!

Bumbleberry Fool Parfaits

from Anne Thornton’s TV show Dessert First

2 cups mixed berries, plus more for serving

¾ cups sugar (you may add more or less, depending on how sweet you want it; with this amount, it’s not too, too sweet at all)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

3 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender, blending until smooth. Run through a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl to get rid of the seeds. You’ll probably need a spoon to help push the thick mixture through (not the seeds though!). Set aside about ½ cup of the puree in a small bowl.

Whip the cream and vanilla together in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Then, gently fold the berry puree into the whipped cream (not the reserved ½ cup though!). Fill a pastry bag – or, as I did – a large plastic bag with an approximately 1 ¼ in hole cut on an angle with the whipped cream. To easily do this, put the bag in a large pitcher/bowl, folding the tops of the bag over the edge. Then, you have both hands free to use a large spatula to fill the bag!

Squeeze a layer of whipped cream out of the pastry bag and into each parfait glass. Top with assorted fresh fruit, and spoon on some of the reserved berry puree. Squeeze another layer of whipped cream on, then put the fresh fruit, and finish with a spoonful of reserved berry puree (you may choose to do more layers if you wish). Enjoy!

Note: While originally this recipe, when doubled what it is now, claimed to serve six, I found that this more than served three! You should safely get at least four healthy (I mean in size, not nutritional value!) servings out of the recipe as is.

Dreamy Cookie Dough Cream Pie

Yes, you read correctly. Cookie Dough Cream Pie! What…you don’t believe such goodness exists? I’ll prove it:

Hmmm…let me back up a bit. I should probably show you the pie before I cut into it.

 

Tell me that doesn’t look good already! Now, for some more pictures of the sliced pie.

Want me to break down all of these luscious layers for you? Observe:

From the bottom up:

  • chocolate cookie crust
  • real cookie dough (eggless, to be safe!)
  • cream filling
  • homemade whipped cream
  • homemade mini cookies to garnish

If you don’t want to take a bite of this by now, I don’t know what to tell you. I mean, how can this not look divine?! And let me tell you something: it is divine! Heavenly! Dreamy! Luscious! Perfect! Cookie dough bliss!

So it goes without saying that I encourage you to make this. It’s goooooood.

Dreamy Cookie Dough Cream Pie

from Love & Olive Oil

For pie crust:
7 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (not the wafer cookies with the frosting)
6 tablespoons butter, melted

For cookie dough:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/8 cup granulated sugar
3/8 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons whole milk

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For cream filling:
3/4 cups light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For whipped cream topping:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahreneheit. In a food processor, make the cookies into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and combine (still in the food processor). Firmly press the mixture into a 9″ pie pan (cover the sides and bottom of pan). Bake for 8 minutes and remove from heat. Set aside and allow to cool completely. Don’t turn the oven off.

For the cookie dough: beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Mix in chocolate chips (try not to overmix, but make sure everything is efficiently combined). Using some of the dough, make 8-10 small, 1/2″ in diameter, balls (make however many cookies as you want servings of pie). Place on a non-stick baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. These will be used to top the pie. Reserve remaining dough.

In a large saucepan, mix sugar, flour and salt. Stir in 1 cup of the milk, mixing until smooth, and then bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining cup of milk. Add a teeny-tiny amount of this mixture to the mixture you heated previously. Mix to combine. Again, add a teeny-tiny amount of the egg mixture to the thickened mixture. Mix to combine. Repeat this a few more times, and then add the remaining egg mixture, mixing well to combine. The purpose of doing all of this is to make sure the cold egg mixture doesn’t “cook” upon touching the hot, thickened mixture. Be patient with this!

Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil again, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer until mixture is the consistency of thick pudding (if it doesn’t seem to be reaching this consistency, but you’ve had it on the heat for awhile, you may still remove it from the heat…it should firm up more in the fridge later). Remove from the heat and quickly stir in butter and vanilla. Set aside.

While filling is cooling, break off pieces of cookie dough and press them into the cooled pie crust. You want an even layer of dough approximately 1/2″ thick (if you want the cookie dough to really be tasted in the finished pie, go for this full 1/2”, or maybe even thicker). You may have left over dough…eat it! It’s eggless, after all!

Pour in the cooled filling on top of the dough layer, leveling the top with a rubber spatula. Filling should come up about 1/2″ from the top of the crust. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Whip cream until it begins to form soft peaks. Add sugar and vanilla, and beat until cream holds stiff peaks. Gently spread over the cooled pie, smoothing top into a slight dome. Garnish with the mini cookies, made earlier, setting them evenly around the circumference. One cookie per piece of pie is a great way to go!

Enjoy this luscious treat!

 *Note: Although I was happy with the end result, when I make this again I might experiment with a couple of things: one) I might add more cookie dough (I indicated this in the recipe); two) I might try a vanilla wafer crust…just because I think it might be good. But really, following the recipe exactly as I have it now insures a luxurious treat you’ll love. So what are you waiting for? Go make it!

Fine print: I reposted this recipe and several of the corresponding pictures at my other blog, The Style Connoisseur.

Nutella Scones

I gave you a sneak peak of these babies the other day. Now have a longer look. You’ll want to.

 And guess what?! These are breakfast food! Yes, that’s right, you can eat them for breakfast without guilt! They really are not too sweet at all either…rather, they’re perfect. Yum. I’m craving them now.

Make these, please. You won’t regret it. And if you haven’t given in to me yet, please buy at least one of the Baked cookbooks!

Nutella Scones

from Baked: Explorations

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)

1 tablespoon baking powder (yes, one tablespoon!)

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg

 ½ cup heavy cream

¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup Nutella (divided in recipe)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until combined (you really want a large bowl because you’ll be adding the wet ingredients to it later).

Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Use your fingertips to work it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse. You want the butter to stay cold for the best possible texture of the scones once baked.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and cream together. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough just comes together. Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands. Please do not over-knead! Please!

Add the hazelnuts and knead gently to incorporate.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 6 by 12 inches (don’t worry about being precise). Spread ¼ cup of the Nutella on top in a crisscross pattern (try to cover most of the surface). Roll the dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long (the Nutella will be in the inside). Then, turn it on its end (so it’s standing tall), and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 ¾ inches high. Again, please don’t overwork the dough!

Cut the dough into 6 or more evenly sized wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake them for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Do not overbake!

Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heat the remaining ¼ cup Nutella in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds or so. *Drizzle the warm Nutella over the cooled scones in a zigzag pattern. Then, transfer the scones to the fridge for about 5 minutes to set. Serve immediately.

Scones are usually best on their first day, but these will taste good the next day as well. Just be sure to wrap them tightly and store them at room temperature if you intend to do so!

*You may use a fork to pierce the top of the scones a few times before drizzling. This is designed to let some of the Nutella to seep into the scone. I didn’t do this…it’s up to you whether you want to try this. I don’t know if it’ll work, and it will make the scones a tad less pretty, but the end results might be worth it?!

Sneak Peak: Nutella Scones

Wanna see something? Something delectably wonderful? Here ya go:

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s a nutella scone, complete with hazelnuts and actual nutella (nutella baked in, and drizzled on top). Best part about it is that it’s not too sweet at all, like you might think. Rather, it’s pretty much perfection.

Keep drooling….and stay tuned for the recipe and more details coming soon!

(Literally!) Melt-In-Your-Mouth Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

I’ve got another Baked recipe to share with you today! On a side note, before I get to today’s actual topic, I should mention among the other items I’ve made from the Baked cookbooks, I’ve made the Grasshopper Bars. Holy. Moly. Those things were divine. I brought them to a party, and they were quickly decided to be the favorite thing there. I was asked for the recipe countless times. Seriously…they were amazing. And as if I haven’t already pushed you enough to do so, I want need you to get these Baked cookbooks! Think of me not sharing the Grasshopper Bars recipe as an extra nudge to do so!🙂

But you came today for Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, didn’t you? If you look in either of the Baked cookbooks, you actually won’t find such a recipe. These are a slight adaptation of one of the recipes, created not because I had little faith in the original recipe, but rather due to the ingredients I had on hand. You see, these were originally supposed to be Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks (not semi-sweet…milk chocolate, the recipe description clearly states!) But who doesn’t love a good Peanut Butter Kiss Cookie?!

These were great. Like, really, really, really, really, really great. Melt in your mouth great. No, seriously, they literally melt in your mouth!

The description in the cookbook says that they’re “the type of cookie you will have to hide or lock down if you want [them] to remain in your cookie jar for more than a few hours” (Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, page 140). Sadly for your waistline, I’m here to report that this is only too true. These cookies will disappear faster than you can believe.

And now, I encourage you to make these delightful cookies. Then, I dare you to control yourself by not eating more than one at a time. Sorry, but you won’t be able to do that. They’re just that good!

(Literally!) Melt-In-Your-Mouth Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes (softened=out and cut up in cubes for about   

15 minutes)

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup creamy peanut butter

*chocolate kisses (one per cookie)

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each until incorporated. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, beating just until incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour and mix until just incorporated; you don’t want to overmix.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (in a pinch, you can refrigerate for less time, or freeze for some of the time…I did a bit of both so I could get the cookies in the oven and into my tummy faster!).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into equal balls. Place on prepared sheets, leaving at least 2 inches around each dough ball. Very gently press each cookie dough slightly, but do not press too hard, and do not press it flat! Sprinkle the tops lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies just begin to brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately place a chocolate kiss in the center of each cookie. Let cool on the pans for about 5 minutes or so, and then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely (well, you can eat them before that point if you wish!).

Enjoy!

*If you wish to make cookies as in the cookbook, instead of putting chocolate kisses on top, fold in 6 ounces good quality milk (not semi-sweet!) chocolate, coarsely chopped, into the cookie dough before you chill it.