As it starts to get cold here in St Louis, I can’t help but think about my past winter travels to the motherland of cheese, wine, baguettes and, of course, macarons. One of my favorite memories of snowy Paris is standing by a street stall, warming my chilled fingers on a soft yet crispy banana-Nutella crepe. Not surprisingly, I soon found myself reaching for a small bag of freeze-dried bananas I’d purchased from a fancy out-of-state grocery store.
I’ve been thinking about making banana-flavored macarons for a while now, but my efforts have always been confounded. Part of what makes bananas so alluring is their moisture content, which gives them a soft, chewy texture. However, for macarons to rise properly and develop their unique consistency, moisture levels have to be maintained with precision. The solution was to find a way to put powdered bananas into the shells, and that’s where the freeze-dried fruit comes in; the bananas ground down nicely, yielding one tiny bowl of powder. (Of course, shortly thereafter, I found freeze-dried banana powder online.)
I’d used all of the banana powder on my first try, so baking the shells was a bit nerve-racking. However, when the open oven filled my kitchen with the heavy aroma of banana bread, I knew it had worked. The shells balanced that moisture tightrope perfectly; they had just the right amount of chewy give without being chalky or brittle.
I could think of no better filling for these than Nutella. In the process, however, I accidentally smeared some on top of one, making it rather un-photogenic. So naturally, I ate it.
The first bite is chewy with a slight crunch but then gives way to the warm sensation of Nutella melting on the tongue – followed by the harmonious combination of bananas, almonds and chocolate. By the time my boyfriend and I had sampled a few more, I had hardly enough to photograph. But, not to worry: I’ll be making these again real soon.
Adapted from here
Makes about 15-20 cookies
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Yellow gel food coloring
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup powdered almonds
20 g. freeze-dried banana powder (You can grind freeze-dried bananas, or buy the powder online.)
• Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about ½-inch) ready.
• Using a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape.
• While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.
• Add in the food coloring, beginning with ¼ teaspoon and stir to combine. Add more, drop by drop and stirring after each addition, until mixture turns pale yellow in color.
• Beat until the eggs are so stiff you can hold the bowl above your head and it doesn’t budge.
• Using a blender or food processor, grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and banana powder until there are no remaining lumps.
• Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. As soon as the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag. (Standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you don’t have assistance.)
• Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets into 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon of batter each), evenly spaced 1 inch apart.
• Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the countertop to flatten the macarons. Let them sit for 20 minutes, or until the tops are dried. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 280 degrees.
• Bake for 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time. (To prevent humidity, prop the oven door slightly open with a wooden spoon so air can escape.)
• Let cool completely and then remove from baking sheet.
• Fill with Nutella and try to resist eating them until they’re set.
Note: Macarons will last 2 to 3 days in the fridge, up to a month if frozen.