Growing up in California where fresh produce is ample. I had always taken for granted the fruits available in the farmers market. Especially strawberries. There is something intoxicating about an entire case of strawberries, with the delicate scent alluring all that pass by the stand. My mom brought my sister and me to the farmers market weekly in Oakland chinatown. As she shopped for the freshest fish and vegetables, my sister and I would greedily find the ladies handing out samples. Especially those of strawberries.
During high school, the first smoothie bar opened up downtown. (Unlike what others believe, smoothie bars didn’t become popular until I was nearly 16). After working on a science project together, my classmate’s mom drove us downtown to the new smoothie bar. Sheltered from mainstream trends, I was surprised by the incredible smoothie now served to the masses. A mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, lemon and bananas. With a drop of yogurt (or some dairy product).
So, on a warm fall day (the summer in San Francisco), Chris asked, “Strawberry banana?”
It was an easy inspiration. (Granted, it had not been the first time he asked for the flavor or the smoothie equivalent.) A combination of sweet and tart.
No such recipe existed quite yet.
In making the ice cream, I adhered to the principles I learned in Ohio. Do it the right way In the recipes that I scoured for on the Internet, they were simple. Just chop up the strawberries and toss in! to Mash up the bananas and mix during churning. There was something missing.
Flavors intensify with a bit of heat…to evaporate the water. With too much water in any mix-in, the mix-in (or fruit for that matter) can taste like a bite of ice inside ice cream. So in an effort to minimize that, I roasted the strawberries and caramelized the bananas.
In making the ice cream, I initially started with an egg-based custard but in the process, I turned up the heat too much and the eggs…scrambled. So instead, I went with a cornstarch base, which was easier but also allowed for the fruit flavors to stand on its own than to be masked by eggs.
So more by accident, I let the roasted strawberries and caramelized bananas sit for a few hours. I am almost quite certain that the flavors were more intense as a result.
On taste, it was truly Proustian, yanking me back to the moment that I had a strawberry banana smoothie growing up.
For the roasted strawberries
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced into quarters
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice or juice of a half lemon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a glass or ceramic pan (something nonreactive), mix well the strawberries and sugar together. Roast for 8 minutes until soft. Cool. Puree with the lemon juice. Set aside.
For the caramelized bananas
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
In a medium pan, mix the bananas and brown sugar together with a fork until fully mashed. Cook under medium heat for about 4-8 minutes until brown. Cool. Puree. Set aside.
For the ice cream base
4 1/2 cups of whole milk, half & half, heavy cream or combination
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the cream, half & half or milk until there are no lumps to create a cornstarch slurry.
In a medium pot over medium heat, mix the remaining cream, half & half, or milk with sugar and salt. When the mixture begins to steam, add the cornstarch slurry. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens or begins to simmer.
Chill at least three hours or overnight in a refrigerator.
To make ice cream
Mix in the strawberry puree and banana puree into the ice cream base. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve plain or with fruit toppings (e.g. banana slices and/or strawberry slices).