Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gone Bananas

Hi there,

Hope you all have enjoyed the writings of Mike, I know I have, nice to sit back and let someone else take the reins. I sat and watched TV and sipped at my water while he typed away about the duck. Very pleasant.

So, having spent a weekend away from home I of course tend to get bored by myself. Having Mike and roomie off at work gave me plenty of time to mull about and do my own thing at my home away from home.

I of course had found this fabulous Banana Caramel Whoopie pie recipe the week prior and just really wanted to make them. So, knowing what ingredients were kept at Mike's place I figured I could at least try them out and make them. If anything Mike and roomie could take them to work if they didn't like them.

Of course before I even started baking I needed to do some research. What do they have baking supplies wise? Being that Roomie and Mike do not bake, well, OK, they bake but I call it cheating. Roomie does the baking usually and usually that involves some kind of boxed mix, bagged muffin, or pre-made version of a baked good. Yes, I call that cheating. It's fast and easy and they taste good but I can honestly tell you that my caramel sauce doesn't have nearly as many ingredients as the one you just bought at the store for your ice cream. You know who you are! -_-

Yes, I just called all of you out on buying foods that you can easily make. I do understand the convenience aspect or the quickness. If you're like Roomie, you really don't have a lot of time to just kick back and bake like I do. To complete these whoopie pies plus clean up was 3 hours. I know neither of them would take that time to make whoopie pies.

But I digress. So I looked through all the cabinets and jars and spices to see what I would need. Ultimately I had myself a little list. Flour, sugar, bananas, baking soda, heavy cream, sour cream and trail mix (the trail mix was to nibble on while I baked).

So I returned happily with my bag of goodies, ready and willing to bake. Of course then I needed to wait until Roomie went to work. I just don't care for baking while others are also trying to use the kitchen. If you're helping me that is one thing but otherwise, get out of my way.

Of course when I returned from Wal-Mart with a bag of goodies, I popped out this huge bunch of bananas, upon which I was told later, after explaining, please help yourself and I will take some with me, "she bought a HUGE bunch of bananas." I was not expecting either of them to actually eat all those bananas, I planned to take some home as I too eat a banana every day like Roomie does. So in the end I went home with three while about 4 of the 8 bananas had been eaten. Complaints? I think not ;)

 So, moving forward with these delicious delicacies. I adore whoopie pies, as my mother and father are from New York and whoopie pies are predominately an East Coast item. I remember making classic whoopie pies as a child with my brother and having my mom tell us, "OK, match up the cookies to make pies." So we would match the halves that fit best and mom would pipe in the delicious filling and each of us would scarf them down as we ran to play outside.

In any event I thought the banana and caramel aspects of these were fascinating and potentially delicious. So after everyone had left me to my own devices, I had worked my tushie off doing the Insanity workout and had showered I promptly began my quest for banana caramel goodness. (and yes, I say it CARE-A-MEL, not CAR-MAL. I'm fancy like that.)

I soon found myself splattered with batter and filling. The batter was easy and the two ingredients that surprised me were the sour cream and heavy cream. But in the end it worked fabulously.

I struggled with the filling, however, but I believe that is due to having to use a hand mixer to create stiff peaks with egg whites and sugar. My arms were about to fall off. At home I have a beautiful kitchen aid stand mixer which I can just turn on and walk away and let it do all the hard work. I now appreciate my grandmother and her mother before. Salute to the great women of the depression and their lack of kitchen aids.

So I had to fix the filling, that soon became loose and gooey, by adding 1 lb (1 box) of powdered sugar, which still did not thicken the filling enough to my liking. So I matched up cookies and filled them anyway and promptly put them in the fridge to chill and set.

You know you have a good recipe on your hands when the following happened.

I fell asleep on the couch since Mike said he would try to be home around 1:30 AM from work. Well, I feel asleep on the couch after my 3 hour baking adventure that ended around 11 so about 12:30 AM/1:00 AM I was sound asleep when he arrived. He soon plopped himself on the couch with some Taco Bell and I was now in the upright position trying to be someone cognisant of what was going on. He soon went to the fridge and tried one of the little guys. He was mm-ing and yumming his way back to the couch and when he goes back to the fridge he says "Damn you" and promptly eats another. Definitely good.

The next day Roomie tried one and was equally happy with how they turned out.

 Cute no?

So here is the recipe, I got the recipe from Indigo Scones who got it from Annie's Eats.

Here is the recipe (with my alterations and notes)

Caramel Banana Whoopie Pies
Says 30-36 sandwiches -- depends really on how big you make them

Ingredients for caramel sauce:

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (recipe called for 1/2 vanilla bean split and scraped but yeah, I'm not buying vanilla beans)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt (I used sea salt, as I wasn't going to buy more salt)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients for the cookies
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 - 1 1/2 bananas) **psst - I used 3
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (don't skimp, just use regular)
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick or 1/2 cup) butter, unsalted and at room temperature (I used blue bonnet regular - it's a favorite of mine for baking and works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (brought mine to room temp)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients for filling***
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 16 Tbsp (2 sticks or 1 cup) butter, unsalted and room temperature cut into 1 tbsp pats
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (pretty much what the caramel sauce recipe makes), cooled
***This will make more filling/frosting than you actually need. I had about 1 cup left over. Just freeze it and save for some other naughty use.
----------> Sarah Disclaimer: Since I had issues with my filling and added powdered sugar to thicken and tighten up my filling I had about 2 1/2 cups left over, which I froze and left sitting in Mike's freezer. Enjoy honey. So depending on what you end up doing you may have more than planned.

Directions:To make the caramel sauce, (this is not as intimidating as it may seem, just follow instructions and follow the "oops" fixers that are in there too and have some patience, it will turn out lovely.) measure out your cream into a microwavable measuring cup or dish.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into it (if using) and heat in the microwave until warm.  Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, deep, sturdy saucepan.  Place over medium heat, watching carefully.  When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir the sugar into hard chunks.  If this happens, reduce the heat and try to melt the chunks without stirring.  Once the liquefied caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat (to test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl).

Carefully whisk in half of the warmed heavy cream/vanilla bean mixture. The mixture will steam and bubble violently, be careful.  Whisk until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Whisk in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has hardened (seized), place the saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk until smooth.  Allow to cool. (This sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and reheated.)
To make the cookies, (cookies are easy, of course mine included an extra bit of banana, since Mike likes real tangible and taste-able banana flavor, as do I). preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. (This my friends is critical if you do not want your cookies to spread into giant discs on your tray. If you do not use wax paper or parchment paper you will have really thin and large cookies to fill instead of nicely puffed small cookies. Trust me on this, I tried for you.) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend, and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana and sour cream.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the banana mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix each addition until just incorporated. 
Pipe the batter using a plain round tip (or use a zip-lock back with the corner cut off) onto the prepared baking sheets into about 1¼-inch rounds, spacing a couple of inches apart.  Bake until the cookies are just set and the bottom edges are starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Let cool on the baking sheets 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, combine the egg whites and sugar in a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat the mixture, whisking very frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved and reaches 160° F on an instant read thermometer (Or until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch; when you pinch some of the mixture between your fingers it should feel smooth and very warm.).  Transfer the mixture to the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture holds stiff peaks.  Reduce the speed to medium low, add in the salt and then begin adding the butter one piece at a time, beating well after each addition (If your butter became too soft, your mixture may become soupy and curdle-y in appearance.  No fear!  Just keep mixing, it will eventually come together.) (Can't say mine eventually came together, it just stayed loose and thin, I also didn't have any more patience to hold my arm up while mixing with the electric hand mixer. If you have a hand mixer maybe you should find someone to help tag team the filling so it gets to the right consistency, or if you have a stand mixer, turn on and walk away until your egg whites are nice and stiff peaked. Unlike me. Learn from my mistakes y'all!) Stir in ½ cup of the cooled caramel sauce until well blended.

Once the cookies are completely cooled, match them up in pairs by size.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the caramel filling.  Pipe a dollop of filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair, and sandwich the cookies together, pushing the filling to the edges.  Store in an airtight container.

So, all in all a success. I just love love love the banana cookie part. I am replacing my mother's banana bread recipe with this. I know, blasphemous but if you find something more delicious, why use something that isn't as superior? Sorry mom, love you still but I found a better recipe.