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 changing diapers.

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.

Caramelized Banana Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

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 mik
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

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.

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.

Give the mixture a quick whisk, then freeze in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer soft ice cream to a plastic container and chill for a few hours until firm. Scoop and serve.

*My only quibble 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.

Jennifer Segal is the founder and publisher of Once Upon a Chef, a cooking blog featuring easy and elegant recipes. Before launching her blog, Jennifer earned her culinary stripes working front and back of the house at some of DC's top fine dining restaurants, including L'Auberge Chez Francois, Sam & Harry's and The Caucus Room.

She has also done private catering and restaurant public relations. Jennifer is a graduate of the professional Culinary Arts Program at L'Academie de Cuisine.