Tag Archives: france

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*).

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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?!