Thursday, 27 January 2011

Banana and salted pecan caramel ice cream

I think that if I had lived in the age where they still taught Home Economics to girls at school, I would have come top in my year, simply based on my uncanny ability to never throw out a banana. I just can't do it. I see a bowl full of withering, blackening bananas as a huge goldmine of untapped potential. The possibilities are almost endless. Banana cake is my favourite (and has appeared on this blog a couple of times), but equally good is a smoothie made with any combination of fruits and a ripe banana or two. The fun doesn't stop there: ripe bananas mashed into pancake batter give a fluffier, slightly sweeter pancake that is ideal with a compote of poached blueberries or apricots, and ripe banana sliced into porridge is great with cinnamon and berries. Having tried and tested all these possibilities, however, it was time to attempt something else. I'd been sent some samples of Billington's sugar to try out, as well, and it seemed appropriate to try out a recipe that combined three different types. This ice cream is the (sublime) result.

Billington's boast that their sugar is some of the best because, instead of refining out all the goodness of sugar (i.e. the natural molasses of the sugar cane), their unrefined sugars lock it in. I much prefer this sugar to the bland, virgin-white granules you put in tea or coffee, though I concede that white sugar does have a place in recipes where you just want sweetness, rather than added depth of flavour. However, on opening packets of Billington's molasses sugar and dark muscovado sugar, the smell is enough to foster an addiction. Molasses sugar is one of the darkest, stickiest, richest sugars you can get: almost like powdered treacle. Dark muscovado has less molasses in it (around 13%) but still has that almost coffee-like flavour that works so well in fruit cakes. Both of them are just the thing for a dense, dark, banana bread or coffee cake, or, of course, banana pecan caramel ice cream. I used the muscovado in the pecan caramel, and the molasses sugar in the brandy snap baskets I decided to make to showcase my frozen labour of love.

I used a recipe from my favourite food blog, Pastry Studio. It's astoundingly simple, as far as ice cream goes: the actual ice cream is simply a mixture of (white) sugar, ripe bananas, cream, whole milk, nutmeg and lemon juice, blitzed in a blender. No faffing around with infusing milk, then adding eggs to make a custard. The nutmeg brings out the banana flavour rather wonderfully, though I'll probably add more next time. I have a bit of an addiction as far as nutmeg is concerned.

For the salted pecan caramel, you just mix dark muscovado sugar and cream together, heating until it thickens, and then stir in some toasted pecan nuts and a generous pinch of salt and vanilla extract (the key is to keep tasting until it's got that wonderful salty tang that accentuates the sweetness and the nuttiness of the pecans). Leave this to come to room temperature, and then it's layered up with the churned ice cream base. It's immensely satisfying, layering the whole thing in an empty Carte D'Or tub, and knowing that its contents will be infinitely better than the sad, processed, commercial rubbish that the tub once contained.

To encase my delicious creation, I decided to make brandy snap baskets. Or rather, snap baskets, as I had no brandy. These are a simple mixture of molasses sugar, butter, golden syrup, flour and ground ginger, heated together until smooth. Dollop the mixture on baking parchment and bake for about seven minutes until it has spread out. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then mould the baskets around the bottom of a jam jar or glass (another immensely satisfying process, albeit one that burns your hands a little bit). Mine were thicker than I'd like, possibly because I didn't loosen the mixture with any brandy, but they still tasted fantastic. I'm a definite fan of molasses sugar now, and am keen to try it in a cake or muffins.

If you have an ice cream maker, I'd urge you to try this. It really is amazing. The banana flavour is incredibly pronounced, considering it's frozen, I think because of the lemon juice and nutmeg in the cream. The salted caramel is just wonderful. The brandy snap baskets are so much more than just a container (though a nightmare to eat without snapping pieces off everywhere). All in all, a triumph, and a homage to Billington's sugar. They should be proud.

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1 comment:

  1. I always used Billington's Muscovado sugar in my baking, simply because the "dark" brown sugar in the UK is too dark, but the "light" brown sugars weren't dark enough. The Muscovado made the dough of my chocolate chip cookies really dark, but also made the cookies super moist and flavorful!


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