Caramelized Banana Ice Cream
The first time I had real banana ice cream (as in made from actual bananas) was in Paris. I was 20 years old and working as an Au Pair for a French family. Naively, I went with the impression that I’d be visiting museums and lingering in Parisian cafés but instead I was taking care of three mischievous little boys – ages 2, 4 and 6 – ironing for hours on end (the French iron everything – even toddler clothes!) and doing lots of errands. It was an all-too-early taste of motherhood for sure, but the job had one thing going for it: Every morning after I dropped the kids off at school, my host mother would send me from block to block to pick up meats from the boucherie, breads from the boulangerie, and seasonal produce from the open-air markets. If she was entertaining, she’d send me to Berthillon, a famous ice cream shop on the charming Île St-Louis, to pick up a block of freshly made ice cream or sorbet.
I tried many flavors from Berthillon on those little excursions, but banana was my absolute favorite. It tasted like banana bread in ice cream form. I’ve never been able to find Berthillon’s recipe, but this version, adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, brings back all those delicious taste memories for me.
It’s very simple to make, as long as you have an ice cream maker.
Begin with 3 very ripe, spotty bananas.
Slice them into small chunks, then toss them with brown sugar and a pad of butter.
Roast them in a hot oven until soft and caramelized.
Blitz the caramelized bananas in a blender with whole milk, a few tablespoons sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and a hint of salt.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream machine.
As with most homemade ice creams, the mixture will not get completely firm in the machine. It’s best to transfer the creamy ice cream to a plastic tub and freeze it for a few hours until firm enough to scoop.
The beauty of banana ice cream is that it’s naturally low in fat. The thick texture of the puréed bananas makes it incredibly rich and creamy without the addition of eggs or heavy cream. All the more reason to try it!
Makes about 3 cups*
3 medium-sized ripe spotty bananas, peeled
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice the bananas into 1/2-inch pieces and toss them with the brown sugar and butter in a 2 quart baking dish until the sugar dissolves into a wet caramel-colored coating. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring once during baking, until the bananas are soft and golden brown.
3. Immediately transfer the bananas and caramel syrup into a blender or food processor (if you wait too long, the caramel will begin to harden). Add the milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and salt, and puree until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.
4. Give the mixture a quick whisk, then freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer soft ice cream to plastic container and chill for a few hours until firm. Scoop and serve.
*My only issue with this recipe is that it makes a rather small quantity of ice cream. If you double it, it makes 6 cups of ice cream base, which is too much for most standard ice cream machines. I have two bowls for my ice cream maker so I typically double the recipe and freeze it in two batches. If you only have one bowl and want to double the recipe, you can save half the base in the refrigerator overnight, then re-freeze your bowl for the second batch.