October, and the main difference we notice here is that it’s cooler in the mornings, or at least not as hot. I sneak in my 6 miles before 7:30 a.m. and if I’m particularly lucky the temperatures hover in the high 70s/low 80s until almost 10. I missed the true heat of a desert summer so I am not that hardcore, but we’re hoping for a consistent thermometer reading of less than 100 degree Fahrenheit very soon. Much less, if I’m being honest! And it’s coming, just slowly. To tide ourselves along I’ve been baking, as per the usual, both sweet (honey cakes and gluten-free cakes and banana-oat-coconut cookies and savory (tomato and tomato and squash galettes) plus weekend pancakes and assorted grain-based vegetable dinners.
And a new kind of frozen dessert: banana ‘nice cream’ as it’s known on the Internet, which is quite simply when you throw sliced and frozen banana pieces in your food processor and let the machine go at it for about 5 minutes. The result is, surprisingly at least to me, a soft serve-like ‘ice cream’ that can be served plain or with various delicious additions of choice slipped in during the last minute of blending. It’s good as-is but because I like to push the envelope I’ve experimented with chopped bittersweet chocolate (!), toasted shredded coconut + both together (!!), and my evergreen favorite peanut butter and chocolate (!!!).
This isn’t ice cream and we shouldn’t pretend it is; it’s banana after all, and has that quintessential banana flavor so if you hate bananas this isn’t for you. However, if you like bananas well enough I’d argue that this a very fine replacement for frozen dairy delights. (I also think the taste grows on one, so if you don’t love it at first it’s worth trying again.) Truth be told I overdid it on the ice cream this summer with copious trips to Sebastopol’s beloved Screamin’ Mimi’s, the weekly splurge on Clover’s organic PB&C (peanut butter and chocolate), and then there was that enormous scoop enjoyed poolside Yosemite in the shadow of the granite walls that line the valley. I made myself a bit sick of ice cream and since we’ve been back in Saudi I have eaten it maybe once? I haven’t missed it at all. This reminds me as always that habits can be broken and out of sight out of mind really can be a thing.
But, it’s still pretty hot out there. I’ve always been skeptical of this banana ‘ice cream’ phenomenon but did I mention it’s pretty hot? Measures must be taken. Even if I add in a bit of peanut butter and chocolate to my frozen bananas I still feel virtuous and as if I’ve gotten away with something — this is dessert, right?, but it’s healthy(ish). If I add in blueberries and a pinch of cinnamon I feel even more proud of myself. Who needs ice cream? Well – I do, and no doubt I’ll be back eventually. In the meantime, I stash my on-the-edge bananas in the freezer for a quick dessert. Actually I’ve started buying extra bananas just in case.
The key here is to slice your bananas before you freeze them. The Kitchn recommends using a food processor rather than a blender and because that’s what I’ve done I’ll also recommend it. My recipe doesn’t call for any liquid (some do, and I don’t think I’d go that route) and it’s sort of magical – and like a science experiment – to watch how the frozen bananas get blasted into a creamy, ice cream-like consistency. Bananas are high in pectin, which makes for a rich, custardy ice cream. (Bonus: potassium, magnesium, vitamins B-6 and C!) Either keep things simple or add a handful of toasted, shredded coconut, some chopped almonds and a bit of cocoa powder, a drizzle or two of good honey, raspberries or strawberries, a tablespoon or two of nutella, almond butter, or …
The maple syrup here is just for flavor; you won’t need any additional sweeteners if your bananas are as ripe as they should be so you can omit the syrup if you like. You can also fool around with how much peanut butter you add according to your personal taste, or try another nut or seed butter in its place.
Makes 3-4 servings.
2 large ripe bananas that have been peeled, sliced into coins, and frozen at least overnight
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
To make the ice cream base:
Place the frozen banana pieces in a food processor and blend. Stages of the process: at first bananas will look crumbly; scrape down the processor. Then bananas will look gooey; scrape down again. Keep blending until the texture changes into a creamy, soft serve-like ice cream.
Add the peanut butter, maple syrup and and chocolate and keep blending until well incorporated.
Place ice cream in an airtight container and freeze for a few hours until solid. Let stand a bit at room temperature before eating.