Are you sick of reading about banana ice creams yet? I'm kind of sick of making them. But they're low fat and banana does go with a lot of different flavors so I guess I'll keep at it for a little while longer.
The immediate cause for this ice cream flavor was Kat's recipe for banana caramel chocolate swirl cupcakes. But before that prompt I had a couple ideas on the back-burner. First, I haven't yet made a successful swirl. My raspberry swirl melted into the ice cream; my peanut butter/honey swirl was more like chunks; and my coffee swirl ended up crunchy. A caramel swirl is pretty traditional so I figured I could find a well-tested recipe to use. As for the chocolate, I wanted to try an Italian method called stracciatella which is less a swirl than solid chocolate streaks.
For the base, I used the Good Eats recipe for banana ice cream:
3 medium ripe bananas, (a little over 1 pound), frozen and defrosted
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
3/8 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
No cooking required; just blend the lot. I've made this before, but I don't think I used the corn syrup. I don't think I will again either as it gave the ice cream an artificial banana-taffy sort of flavor. I know brown sugar, honey or maple syrup would make good substitutions. I wonder if a light molasses would work. I wish I could get my hands on some sorgum. That would be ideal.
Caramel recipes specifically made for freezing are not as common as I expected. Of the few I found, I went with this one:
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream
20g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
Cook the sugar and water over medium high heat until it turns amber. Slowly mix in the whipping cream. Let cool five minutes and stir in vanilla and salt.
That first step is a little tricky, as you know if you've ever made candy. A sugar syrup goes from clear to burnt in seconds even after being removed from the heat. Stopping to take a picture is not a good idea. Mine turned out with a slight burnt flavor, but not enough to make me toss it.
I didn't like how it was thickening up in the refrigerator so I added a teaspoon of rum to thin it out and keep it liquid below freezing.
The stracciatella is even simpler. It's just melted chocolate drizzled over and folded into the frozen ice cream. David Lebovitz demoed the technique on the Gourmet: Diary of a Foodie episode on bloggers. (They focused on the big names who eat their way through food meccas like Paris, San Francisco and Hong Kong. No love for cooking blogs or those of us in nowherevilles like Miami. OK, why does my spell-checker not recognize the word "bloggers" but is perfectly happy with "nowherevilles"?) He recommends using a semisweet chocolate with no more than 60% cocoa. I only have 72% bar on hand, but I've also got a chunk of white chocolate ( 0% cocoa) so I can thin it out. But how much to use?
Starting with three quarters of my 3.5 ounce bar of 72% and adding X amount of white chocolate to get 60% when melted together:
0.72*(3/4*3.5 oz) + 0*(X oz) = 0.6*(3/4*3.5 oz + X oz)
0.72*(2.625 oz) = 0.6*(2.625 oz + X oz)
1.89 oz = 1.575 oz + 0.6*X oz
0.315 oz = 0.6*X oz
0.525 oz = X oz
Stay in school, kids!
On to the actual swirling. After churning the ice cream, I packed it into a medium baking dish and let it ripen in the freezer for an hour to get it good and firm. Then I brought it out into a well-air-conditioned room and drizzled on spoonfuls of the caramel and the chocolate. I really wanted to use plastic squeezy bottles but I couldn't find any. The caramel stayed liquid, but the chocolate solidified on contact. It was pretty cool--like I was using one of those fancy anti-griddles. I can see why the avant garde chefs like them so much.
Once I had the top covered, I scraped it off, packed into a storage container, drizzled the top of that, drizzled the new surface in the baking dish, packed that and so on. I don't think the caramel stayed in strings, but at least it'll be unevenly distributed. The end result wasn't packed all that well since I didn't want to break up the stracciatella too much.
And here's the result. The ice cream is light and maybe a bit fluffy. (I'd have preferred creamy, really.) The caramel is pleasantly oozy. The chocolate crackles enticingly as you carve out a scoopful and crunches between the teeth. The mixture of textures is great but the banana flavor is too pronounced. I'm going to blame the corn syrup here. I think maybe it would be best to leave out the banana entirely and just go with straight vanilla and let the caramel and chocolate carry the load.