Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fried banana sesame ice cream

If you look at the full list of ice cream flavors I've made, you'll find a whole lot of variations on banana. Mainly that's because bananas are a low-fat alternative to eggs to the recipes, but also because of how versatile their flavor is. I ran out of ideas in this area a while ago, but with the bunch of bananas in the buying club share, I'm back working that vein. Here's one I'm surprised I didn't think of earlier; This flavor is a play on Malaysian banana fritters. Those are bananas dipped in a rice flour batter, deep fried, sometimes candied, but always garnished with lots of sesame seeds. The key elements I wanted to include were the cooked bananas, a bit of the caramel flavor of the candying and the sesame. Here's what I came up with:
1 generous pound bananas, frozen
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 large pinch salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (more or less. Adjust to get a thick, but not soft-serve texture)
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

The first step was to sear the bananas. Since they've been frozen, they're going to dissolve to mush pretty quickly. That means I'm only going to be able to get color on one side. To help that out, I sliced the bananas lengthwise to get a flat side and sprinkled a little sugar on it. It only took maybe 30 seconds in a very hot cast iron pan. There is some burnt sugar bitterness, but a generous pinch of salt works to cut that down.

I found the pan roasted bananas mixed with that pinch of salt, 1/3 cup sugar, a squeeze of agave nectar and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil gave me the flavor I'm aiming at in the final dish. The sweetness is at a natural ripe-banana level and the sesame and banana flavors are beautifully blended with the toastiness adding dimension to the cooked banana's caramelly tropical sweetness.

But flavors shift when you thin a mixture out with heavy cream and chill it down and I need to figure out how to shift them back. I think the sesame flavor won't vary with temperature so I only need to double that amount. But I need to lay on more sugar to compensate for the dampened sweetness at low temperatures. I also need to add the lemon juice to keep the bananas from browning. I'm not thrilled with the extra acidity unbalancing my flavors, but I think it'll be less prominent frozen.

After ten hours in the refrigerator it was ready for churning, but could use a little more sweetness and a little sesame so I added another squirt of agave nectar and another teaspoon of sesame oil along with the toasted sesame seeds.

The mix didn't harden up on the sides of the bucket during churning so the process went slowly and allowed a lot of air to be churned in. That meant that the churning process was limited by overflow instead of thickening up as far as I would have liked. On the other hand, the churned up matrix was pretty stable, showing little signs of melting as I packed it into a container for freezing.

After ripening here's the final result:

It's got that typical banana ice cream texture where it's a bit fluffy and melts suspiciously slowly, but otherwise it's pleasantly creamy and scoopable even if it hasn't got that ultra-premium richness. The crunchy sesame seeds add a little interest. I think I got the flavors back to where I wanted them. It doesn't have the intensity, of course, what with it being half cream, but the balance is right and the banana flavor flows smoothly into the sesame. I thought maybe I'd top it with a drizzle of sesame oil, but that would have been too much. It's good right where it is. What I might do, if I were going to make this again, is fry up some bits of rice-flour-batter to mix in to complete the set of banana fritter flavors. They'd probably get soggy quick, though. They might be nice to serve on top hot from the fryer, though. Yeah, that would work.


kat said...

I'm liking this idea, perhaps a banana foster ice cream?

billjac said...

I did bananas foster ice cream a couple years ago. Here's the recipe. It turned out really well the first time I made it, less well the second time because I doubled the batch which overcrowded the roasting pan.