Most of us have been faced with the dilemma of dealing with a few rapidly ripening bananas and understand the tension between not wanting to waste good food while also not wanting to put overly soft, brown bananas on top of our morning cereal. After my partner and I both purchased a full bunch of bananas on the same day, I found myself staring down at half a dozen soft, spotted pieces of the yellow fruit and debating what I would bake to use them up. Bananas are wonderfully versatile in baking, as their soft consistency doesn’t create the worry of getting the fruit soft enough to be enjoyable (like apples), but aren’t so juicy that one must compensate for the extra liquid by adding other ingredients (like with blueberries). I quickly found a recipe for banana cookies in my recipe tin, copied down during the year of so I spent building out this tin’s collection as a college student. Since I had just purchased some hazelnut paste (basically unsweetened Nutella), I decided to incorporate it into the recipe. I added the claim of “healthy” to this recipe after modifying the original to include less sugar and more banana, as well as more oats. I find that with a little experimentation, one can always decrease the amount of sugar and increase the amount of redeeming ingredients, and luckily, I got it right on my first try with these cookies.
Healthy Banana Nutella Cookies
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon China cinnamon
3/4 cup butter (1 and 1/2 sticks), softened to room temperature
2 large (or 3 small) very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon double-strength vanilla (The Madagascar variety is my favorite)
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup or so Nutella or hazelnut spread
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Stir flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Then cut in the butter and mix with your hands (you could use an electric mixer on a low setting, but I always prefer the bit of labor of mixing things by hand to the chore of cleaning up a mixer). Incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until you have the butter mostly incorporated and the batter feels sort of sandy and the butter is in small chunks. This should take about five minutes – don’t worry if you still have visible butter pieces, you won’t get it 100% incorporated and that’s fine.
Next, stir in the egg, vanilla and mashed bananas (I mash the bananas on a plate with a rim with a fork). Next mix in the oats. Finally, loosely mix in half of your Nutella/hazelnut spread. Don’t mix it in completely, as the stripes of the spread make the cookies pretty. If you are using a hazelnut spread, the consistency may be quite thick, in which case you’ll have to warm up the contents by placing the jar with the lid off in a small pot, filing the pot with an inch or two with water, and bringing the water to a simmer over the stovetop until the spread melts and is easily pourable.
After you’ve loosely incorporated half of the Nutella/hazelnut spread, spoon out chunks of the batter onto greased cookie sheets. This dough is a lot softer than normal cookie dough, so your spoonfuls will be a bit loose on the sheets. These cookies also don’t expand outward as much in the oven, so you can put the dough spoonfuls a bit closer to each other than with typical cookies. Once you’ve got all of your dough piles on the cookie sheet, take a spoonful of the rest of the Nutella/hazelnut spread and pour on top of the batter piles in lines or dots, whichever you prefer. (Be sure to save some for the rest of your dough if you don’t have enough baking sheets or room in your oven to bake them all at once!)
Cook at 400 degrees F for 9 – 12 minutes. I prefer my cookies to be soft and more like batter (heck, I’d just eat the batter over the course of a week if that was an alright thing to do) so I took them out after 9 minutes, but if you prefer more solid cookies, leave in for a bit longer. Let them cool on a baking rack and then transfer to a plate. These will keep for about a week in tupperware, but will also keep if left out on a plate for a few days. They’re great for breakfast in the morning or a sweet treat after dinner!