It never fails– I buy a bunch of bananas that are nice and green, figuring I’ll have plenty of time to eat them at my favorite stage (yellow with green tips) before they get overripe, but then life interferes and I’m stuck with a bunch of soft brown bananas with rapidly forming bruises that even my preschooler won’t touch. What to do? I’ve already made a batch of banana muffins and I don’t have any occasion to make a real banana cake. Then it hit me: ice cream.
Not the “freeze pieces of banana and then whirl them in the food processor” faux-ice cream that’s making the rounds on Pinterest (though I’ve made it and it’s not bad)– real ice cream. With caramelized banana puree, a swirl of salted caramel sauce, toasted walnuts, and chunks of banana bread to give me something to dig for. Sound good? I thought so.
*Unfortunately (ominous music) I only chilled my ice cream freezer canister for 20 hours rather than 24, and combined with the unseasonably warm weather it resulted in completely non-frozen ice cream. I churned that stuff for 35 minutes and while it chilled down to 32 degrees F it never got even the slightest bit frozen. I chucked it into the freezer anyway with all of my mix-ins, hoping it would firm up nicely, but it ended up hard and icy. Very sad. Luckily, after a quick thaw and re-churning with a completely frozen canister, it turned out all right. It didn’t have the nice layers and swirls I was hoping for, but it was still edible.*
Anyway, here’s how to make it (just make sure to completely freeze your ice cream canister!):
First up is baking the banana bread– I do this the night before I’m going to churn. One thing I like about the recipe below is that it measures the mashed banana in cups rather than in number of bananas. This ensures that you know how much banana you should end up with rather than having to guess whether your bananas qualify as small, medium, or large. If your bananas don’t measure up perfectly you can always make up the difference with applesauce.
Banana Bread (makes 1 loaf)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium bananas)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1. In medium sized bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl (or I use a 2-cup glass measure) stir together the egg, banana, oil, and sugar.
3. Stir together all ingredients.
4. Bake at 350 degrees in a greased 8×4″ loaf pan for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Next we have the banana ice cream base. I know some people like custard-based ice creams, but particularly for fruit ice creams I prefer Philadelphia-style (no eggs) to really let the fruit flavor shine through. Besides, frozen bananas have such a nice, creamy texture that you don’t need the egg yolks to assist in that respect. This is also best done the night before churning.
Banana Ice Cream Base (adapted from Serious Eats)
1 pound (peeled) very ripe bananas (about 4), sliced into coins
1/2 cup raw (turbinado or demerara) sugar*
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Toss banana slices in the salt and sugar in a baking dish (9″ cake pan is fine, line it with foil for easier cleanup) and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the sugar bubbles all the way through.
2. Puree bananas (I use an immersion blender but you could use a blender or food processor) with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
3. Spread a piece of plastic wrap right over the surface of the ice cream base, so it’s actually touching the surface all around. This will prevent a skin from forming or odors from being absorbed. Chill ice cream base at least four hours, preferably overnight. The base will thicken up considerably once chilled.
* Both of these sugars are rather coarse, so if you’re going to substitute packed brown sugar, or white sugar with a spoonful of molasses, you may want to reduce the amount by a tablespoon or so to even things out.
1/2 loaf banana bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 batch banana ice cream base
1/3 cup salted caramel or caramel sauce (I make my own, but you could use store-bought)
3/4 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
1. Pour cold ice cream base into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.
2. When the ice cream is just about churned, add the nuts and cubes of banana bread. (if it’s too much volume for your ice cream maker, skip this step and just stir things in during the next step)
3. Scoop the ice cream into your container, layering it with spoonfuls of caramel sauce.
4. Freeze for at least four hours to firm up, and enjoy!
1. To keep melting to a minimum, chill your stir-ins (banana bread, nuts) before mixing them into the just-churned ice cream. Better yet, freeze them.
2. The banana bread is light and springy in texture, rather than dense and crumbly, and slices very neatly. It would probably toast well, too. If you’re looking for a richer, more cake-like recipe, this one is not for you.
3. This banana bread recipe, by the way, is the same one I used in my Babycakes Cake Pop Maker to make banana muffin balls. it works perfectly. I stir in chocolate chips to the batter for extra decadence.