Introduction: Flaming Banana Cookies
If a dessert doesn't make you a little weak in the knees, it's probably not worth having.
These intense little cookies are packed with browned butter, almond meal, banana, and dark maple flavor. I developed this recipe myself.
I intentionally made the cookies dense, tender, and potentially crumbly. They're sturdy enough to hold the caramel and not even think about getting soggy, but tender enough to practically melt in your mouth. You could lightly toast the almond meal if you want to deepen the nutty flavor of the browned butter. Yes, the flavors in these cookies are bold, but not overwhelmingly so. The lightly cooked banana and maple have a subtle fruity undertone that beautifully offsets the rich, buttery, toffee-like cookies.
The fire is for show, really; you can make these cookies without it... but fire is fun! Sometimes life calls for a really flamboyant dessert.
You will need:
1/2 C (1 stick) butter (I use salted)
1 C white sugar
1 C all purpose flour
1 egg yolk (you can use the whole egg if you want the cookie dough to hold together a little better; they'll be less crumbly and a little tougher - I preferred the meltier, crumblier texture)
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt (not kosher - it's too coarse and there isn't enough liquid in the cookies to dissolve the flakes to evenly distribute them)
1/2 C almond meal
1 T vanilla extract
1 T grade B maple syrup
1/4 C grade B maple syrup
2 T cream
1 T butter
1 pinch of salt
1 T corn syrup (not pictured)
1-2 ripe bananas
a couple spoonfuls of high proof vanilla extract, or you can use rum or everclear (I make vanilla extract with everclear)
Step 1: Brown the Butter
Browning the butter adds an important depth of flavor to these cookies. They're just not the same without it.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir often. The butter will foam up as it separates. Stir to check the bottom of the pan; the butter will brown even while the foam at the top looks white. Be careful not to over-brown, or you'll have to throw it away. Burned butter cookies probably aren't good.
Once the solids at the bottom of the pan have turned a lovely golden brown, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Mix the Dough
Add the sugar to the browned butter in the mixing bowl. Mix on high until thoroughly incorporated. Mix in the egg yolk, setting the egg white aside.
Add the flour along with the baking soda, salt, and almond meal. Mix well. The dough will be really crumbly. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and mix again. You should be able to squeeze a ball of dough with your hand, even though it's crumbly.
Add the egg white if you really don't want to work with dough that's so crumbly; just bear in mind what I said about the texture in the introduction.
Step 3: Shape and Bake
The gentle heat of your hands should help here. Using a spoon, a cookie scooper, or your hands, shape the dough into small mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Try to flatten them a little bit, but do it slowly. Working quickly with this dough will just make it crumble.
These cookies are rich. Remember to make them SMALL. Because they're not going to spread or expand during baking, you can squeeze all the cookies onto one pan.
Bake in an oven that's been preheated to 375 degrees F for about 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are just barely considering starting to turn golden brown.
Step 4: Prepare Caramel and Bananas
I realized after I started the caramel that it needed a tablespoon of corn syrup to ensure the maple sugar didn't crystallize.
On the other hand, the caramel probably didn't need the butter I added.
Add the maple syrup, corn syrup, cream, and optional butter to a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring often, until the bubbles are thick and slow, and the cooled caramel is a thick, soft sauce. This will be at roughly 230 degrees F. You can keep a cup of ice water or a plate on an ice pack nearby if you'd rather skip the candy thermometer. Drip hot caramel onto the cold plate or ice water to test the consistency. Once the caramel is thick enough, turn off the heat.
Decide at this point whether you're going to set the cookies on fire. They're delicious either way.
Slice the banana. If you're going to be using fire, use a small knife to cut a small hollow in each banana slice. If you're not going to torch them, just leave the slices plain. Place the slices into the (still hot) pan of caramel. Make sure the hollow sides are up. Let the pan cool for a few minutes; the heat will gently cook the bottoms of the banana slices; this mellows out the flavor and texture, making them just slightly softer and fruitier. Don't turn them over.
Step 5: Top and Torch
Once the caramel is cool enough and thick enough to spoon over the cookies without immediately running off, arrange the cookies on the plate you're going to use for presentation. Top the cookies with caramel. Scoop it from around the banana slices still in the pan. You can either spoon it neatly on top of the cookies, or drizzle it a bit more to let it run down the sides (a bit messier, but more caramel).
Once the cookies are topped with caramel, scoop up the banana slices and place one on each cookie. Drip a little caramel into the hollow of each banana slice, making sure not to fill them completely.
I have vanilla extract I made by soaking split vanilla beans in everclear. I used this, but you can use another kind of alcohol that's at least 80 proof (40%). I hear lots of people like dark rum with bananas.
I filled a small syringe to make this easier, since the banana slices are small. I ended up using less than 1/2 mL of alcohol for each cookie... just a few drops.
When people are ready to watch the show, dim the lights, turn on your kitchen torch, and light those cookies! Mine burned for a couple minutes, just enough time to snap a few quick pictures while kids were pulling on me and trying to eat the caramel from the pan.
There will still be traces of alcohol in the banana slice after the flame dies out, so don't do this if you're allergic to alcohol. These cookies are best eaten right after the flame burns out, while the top of the banana is still warm. The bananas will get softer and brown if the cookies sit out for a few hours. The cookies don't get soggy from the caramel, though.
Please post pictures if you make your own. I really want others to try this amazing flavor combination, with or without the fire.
Thanks for reading!
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