Thursday, May 14, 2009

Banana ice cream with stuff in it

said stuff being a peanut butter/honey swirl and graham cracker brittle. A bit long to put all that in the title.

This is a new version of an ice cream I made back in February '08. And part of that recipe I took from Alton Brown:
Banana Ice Cream
3 medium ripe bananas, peeled (a little over 1 pound)
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
3/8 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Freeze and defrost the bananas. Mix everything in a blender, chill, churn, ripen and serve.

My innovation was adding habeñero peppers and an attempt at a peanut butter/honey swirl that ended up more as chewy chunks (albeit tasty ones). That turned out fine, but could have done with some improvement and since I was responding to a request for banana ice cream this week, it seemed a good time to look back and see what could be done with it.

First thing was adding some more texture. I was very happy with how the almond brittle worked in the lapsang ice cream I made a while back so I thought that approach would work well. There was already going to be nuts (well, legumes) from the peanut butter so I wanted to make a cookie brittle instead. Nilla Wafers were my first choice, but I had graham crackers in the house for another recipe I'm going to make sooner or later and they'll do fine. When you look up recipes for graham cracker brittle on-line, though, you find some weird cookies that soak the crackers in whole sticks of melted butter before pouring caramel over top. Not what I was looking for. Instead I just crushed up a half cup of crackers, cooked three ounces of sugar to hard crack stage, mixed them together, spread it out flat and, once it hardened, whacked it with my crab hammer into bitty pieces. There: brittle.

For the swirl, I saw honey roasted as an option in the grind-your-own-butter peanut bins at Whole Foods. Half the price of the plain peanuts for some reason so I tried that. It came out crunchy style which wasn't my intention, but was actually a plus as it eventually added some more textural interest to the ice cream. I mixed roughly equal amounts of the peanut butter and a wildflower honey and then, to make sure it would stay liquid, a good dose of vodka. It got gooey in a refrigerator test so in went more vodka and then too much vodka so I had to add more peanut butter and honey to get some flavor back into the mix. And some hot sauce too; what the heck. I wasn't entirely happy with the final result, but the texture seemed to hold up well as it chilled and the alcohol burn tends to fade at freezer temperatures so I figured I'd be OK.

So, once everything was good and cold, I churned up the ice cream mix and as I was scooping it out mixed in handfuls of the brittle and dollops of the swirl. After a night in the freezer, here it is:

I like the clarity of flavor the agave syrup gives the banana ice cream. It's not banana/honey (although that's a fine flavor combination); it doesn't have that industrial tinge corn syrup gives or the deep undertones of molasses; it's just banana. This really cements agave nectar's place in my pantry for the times that I need fructose, but don't want any of those other flavors. Thanks to that fructose, along with the bananas, the texture is nicely smooth and creamy. The bananas make it a bit goopy as it melts but given how much fat their substituting for, that's a minor quibble.

The peanut butter/honey swirl I screwed up a little as I tried to ensure it stayed liquid in the freezer. The vodka thinned out the flavors unevenly so the result tastes of peanut butter first, vodka second and then a little honey. The hot sauce was really completely unnecessary as there was already some burn from the vodka (although not a lot).

The graham cracker brittle is also a little off. The sugar cooked a little too dark and contributes a a touch more flavor to the combination than I wanted. The graham cracker is still easy to recognize but it's pairing with the caramelized sugar and not with the banana, peanut butter and honey that it was supposed to. And if you're not going to get those combinations you kind of lose the point of using graham crackers in the first place.

My last gripe is that I over-swirled the ice cream so you don't get the distinct layers I was hoping for. That said, the mixture is still sufficiently uneven that you get a different balance between banana and peanut butter in each spoonful which is a nice effect. And those flavors are pretty nice. Coming at this without knowing what I had in mind, this is a dandy ice cream and an improvement on last year's model I think.


kat said...

I've been really sticking to straight ahead ice creams & gelatos since getting the ice cream maker. I really want to start diving into adding swirls & such. Not sure I'll be as imaginative as you though

Sarah C. said...

I loved this ice cream! Super tasty with little crunchy nuggets, surrounded by peanut butter...yum!

billjac said...

Thanks, Sarah.

Kat, I don't know if I'm really being all that imaginative; For the most part, I'm just putting together classic flavor combinations in ice cream form. All it takes is keeping an eye out and an openness to new ideas.

LaDivaCucina said...

Ok, gonna give this a try soon, thanks Bill.

billjac said...

If you're going to mix anything in, I'd suggest going this route instead as it turned out better overall than this batch.