- ½ Batch Linzer dough (recipe follows)
- ½ cup banana schmutz (recipe follows)
- 4 ripe but firm bananas (less ripe is better than fully ripe)
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cups vanilla ice cream mixed with ¾ cup creamy caramel sauce
- ¼ cup croquante, pulverized (recipe follows)
- spun sugar for topping (optional) (recipe follows)
FOR THE SPUN SUGAR:
- ¼ Cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
FOR THE BANANA SCHMUTZ:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 large very ripe bananas, cut into ½ -inch pieces
- ¼ cup dark rum
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
FOR THE LINZER DOUGH:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 ounces hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and ground
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably vietnamese
- 1 teaspoon chinese five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
FOR THE CROQUANTE:
- ⅓ Cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ½ cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and still warm
Makes Four 4-inch Tarts
1. Place a rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat the oven to 375˚f. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Roll out the Linzer dough into a 9-inch square, ¼ inch thick. Cut into four 4-inch round disks with a cookie cutter and place on the baking sheet.
3. Bake the disks for 12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet from front to back and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly or completely. (the disks can be baked up to 2 days ahead.)
4. To assemble the tarts, spread each tart crust with a layer of banana schmutz or apple compote. Place a banana on a cutting board so that it is smiling at you. Cut thin slices on the bias. Fan the banana over the schmutz or compote like the petals of a flower, overlapping the slices. Repeat with the remaining bananas and tarts.
5. Place a rack over a 12-x-17-inch half sheet pan and place 2 tarts on the rack. Sprinkle each tart with a heaping teaspoon of sugar, making sure to dust the bananas evenly. Using a propane or butane kitchen torch, following the manufacturer’s directions, set on a medium flame and holding it 1 inch from the bananas, begin the caramelize the sugar, moving the torch in a circular motion. When the sugar has melted, add another teaspoon of sugar and lightly caramelize with the torch. Repeat with the other 2 tarts. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
6. Place a scoop of ice cream in the middle of each tart, sprinkle with croquante, and serve immediately. Top with spun sugar if desired.
SPUN SUGAR DIRECTIONS:
Makes Enough for 30 to 40 Nests
1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup. Stir them together with very clean fingers, making sure no lumps of dry sugar remain. Brush down the inside of the pan with a little water, using your fingers to feel for stray granules of sugar.
2. Cover the saucepan and place it over medium heat for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, remove the lid, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Do not stir from this point on. Keep an eye on the pan. It will be very bubbly. When stray sugar crystals appear on the sides of the pan, brush them down with a wet pastry brush.
3. As the sugar cooks, the bubbles will get larger and the sugar will turn golden brown. Insert a candy thermometer. When the temperature reaches 300˚f, lower the heat to medium, which will slow the cooking. Continue to cook until it reaches 320˚f, about 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the caramel to cool for about 8 minutes, until it drops to 300˚f. It should be thick but still liquid, like honey.
4. Cover your work surface and floor with tablecloths or parchment paper. Place three saucepans on the edge of the work surface with the handles facing out. Now you are ready to spin.
5. Scoop up a forkful of the caramel and let it fall back into the pot. It should flow in a smooth, steady stream. If the sugar drips as it falls. It is still too hot. If it’s thick and unwieldy, reheat until it is the consistency of honey. Dip your fork into the warm caramel and pull it out, hold it above the saucepan handles, and begin to move the fork back and forth, fanning it over the handles and waving the strands carefully back and forth. After two or three forkfuls, stop and gather up the spun sugar with your hands, then repeat again. If the caramel becomes too cool, reheat it over medium heat for 5 minutes, without stirring. Do not let the temperature exceed 310˚.
6. Wrap the spun sugar around a cake, fashion it into a nest, or loosely gather it into balls. Or store in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, with a small cheesecloth sachet of moisture-absorbent silica gel or limestone. Spun sugar can be stored for only a few hours, less if the environment is humid.
BANANA SCHMUTZ DIRECTIONS:
Makes 2 Cups
1. In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until the milk solids separate, sink to the bottom, and begin to brown and the butter is a dark golden color, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar and brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
2. Add the bananas and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until soft-ened and caramelized. Remove from the heat and carefully add the rum and salt. Stir to combine, place the pan back over low heat, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more, or until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
3. Immediately, working in 2 batches, puree the bananas in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Be very careful, as the mixture will be extremely hot. Use at once, or allow to cool, then transfer to an airtight container. (the schmutz can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
THE LINZER DOUGH DIRECTIONS:
Makes Two 10-inch Tart Shells or 36 Linzer Cookies
1. Sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt. Stir in the ground hazelnuts and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until lemony yellow, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and five-spice powder and continue creaming the mixture on medium speed until it is smooth and lump-free, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
3. Add the honey, egg, and orange zest and beat on low speed for 15 seconds, or until they are fully incorporated. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. On low speed, add the flour and hazelnut mixture. Beat slowly until the dough comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix for 15 seconds, until an even-textured dough is formed.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Wwrap in plastic wrap, pressing the dough into a square, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (the dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
5. See directions for pate sucree to roll out and prebake.
THE CROQUANTE DIRECTIONS:
Makes 1 ½ Cups
1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Coat the parchment with a very thin film of butter or pan spray.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup and stir to dissolve the sugar. Dip your clean fingers in water, then wipe down the sides of the pan to make sure there are no stray sugar crystals. Place over high heat and boil until the mixture turns amber brown and the temperature reaches 325˚f on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and wait until the bubbles have dispersed, then stir in the warm toasted almonds. Immediately pour the croquante out onto the lined baking sheet. Using an oiled metal offset spatula or an oiled rolling pin, flatter the croquante to ¼ inch thick. If it hardens and is too thick, reliquefy by placing it in a 350˚f oven for 1 to 2 minutes. The heat will cause the croquante to melt and spread.
4. Quickly, while the croquante is still hot and pliable, score it into 2-inch squares with an oiled chef’s knife. When the croquante cools, the square will snap apart easily. (the croquante can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container).
Note: to pulverize croquante, break apart the squares and place, a few at a time, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse gently until pulverized.