Let's talk Nutella and bananas. Why? Because on their own, they're pretty darn good. But together: magic. Magic happens.
First up: Bananas. Ah, what fond memories I have of bananas. My dad eats one banana a day religiously, so growing up, there was always a wealth of bananas lying in the fruit bowl, ready for a quick snack. Then, on my trips to visit family in tropical Taiwan, I learned about all of these different varieties of bananas, plucked fresh from the plants, putting the supermarket variety that we find here to shame--oh, the creamy richness! mmmm. Incidentally enough, there's a fascinating article about bananas in this month's issue of Saveur magazine, talking all about the history of the commercial banana trade, the other types of bananas there are around, and how richly entrenched the banana is into many of the world's cultures.
Plus, who doesn't have at least a few blackened bananas sitting in their freezer to be used at some later date? I'm constantly shoving mine aside in the freezer to make room for ice creams and other frozen fruits, oftentimes cursing them as a bit of an annoyance because they take up so much awkward room. And, who wants to be constantly making banana bread, as good as it is? Not me, that's for sure. So, as a project this weekend, I set out to figure out some new recipes to use up my frozen ripe bananas, using the perfect companion for them: nutella.
Oh, nutella, you blissfully smooth concoction of chocolate and hazelnut, you. I know that David Lebovitz thinks that he's found a replacement for you, but in my book, thou art truly irreplaceable. I would drink you with a straw if I could. One of my favorite parts of traveling in Italy a few years ago when I was there (um, aside from the fact that I was in Italy--um, hello? what can beat that?) was waking up to a deliciously simple and guilt-ridden breakfast of soft, fresh bread with thick layers of nutella slathered on top. Yeah, I want to go back to there, plz?
So, out of Italy- and tropics-inspired nostalgia and the need to clean out my freezer, I give you today a duo of banana and nutella desserts: banana+nutella whoopie pies and banana+nutella ice cream.
These banana whoopie pies, adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe, turned out to be a wonderful translation of banana as the fruit into banana as a cake form. They are super moist--like, have-to-lick-crumbs-off-your-fingers moist and pack so much creamy banana flavor into them. To help enhance the banana, I also threw in some ground cinnamon, and so the smell that filled the house as these were baking up in the oven was just positively divine. Sandwiched between the cakes is some sweet nutella and cream cheese frosting, whipped until completely light, airy, and fluffy with a hint of the chocolate and hazelnut nutella coming through.
In doing research for nutella ice cream, it seemed as though most of the recipes out there are just a simple blend of nutella and milk/cream. But, being the huge believer that I am in custard-based ice creams, I really wanted my version to benefit from triple the creaminess via the chocolate custard base, the nutella, and the banana. And let me tell you--it does. Even for a homemade ice cream, this version of banana-nutella ice cream achieves a rich, smooth, completely non-icy creaminess where you can basically dig a spoon into it immediately out of the freezer without having to wait for defrosting. The subtle bit of banana, especially, really helps the texture go a long way underneath the sweet flavors of the nutella.
All in all, I am so happy with having found new ways to use up all of those leftover bananas in the freezer--I'm just sad that there are no more! And, now, as for Italy...
[P.S. I also originally intended to make ice cream sandwich whoopie pies, with these banana cakes and banana+nutella ice cream, but time and laziness both got the best of me! If you try it, you must tell me.]
Read on for recipe...
Banana Nutella Ice Cream
2 cups heavy or manufacturing cream
3/4 cup Nutella
1 medium extra-ripe banana
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
big pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tbspn cocoa powder (I used Dutch-processed)
4 egg yolks
1 tspn vanilla
1. Combine 1 cup of the cream, the nutella, and the banana in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the banana mixture into a bowl and prepare a fine mesh sieve on top of the bowl. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan, combine the remaining cup of cream with the milk, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Whisk until the cocoa powder is evenly distributed throughout the milk. Bring the milk to a bare simmer.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a separate bowl. Set aside.
4. When the milk comes to a simmer, remove from heat. Whisking constantly, pour the milk gradually into the prepared egg yolks to temper them. Return the egg yolks and milk to the saucepan and to heat.
5. Cook the milk and yolk mixture over medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and can coat the spoon/spatula. Remove from heat immediately and pour through the strainer into the nutella and banana cream. Whisk until smooth.
6. Add the vanilla and stir.
7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker of choice. (Here's mine, which works like a dream, and I also have this one.) Transfer from your ice cream maker to the freezer to harden, preferably overnight.
Note: this ice cream mix probably won't harden completely in your ice cream maker, so please allow for extra freezing time in the freezer.
Banana Whoopie Pies with Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
makes about 20 mini whoopie pies
Cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living
for banana cakes:
2 cups flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn baking soda
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed banana (~1 large extra-ripe banana)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
1 tspn vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In another small bowl, stir to combine the mashed banana and sour cream. Set aside.
4. Beat the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar on medium high for about three minutes, until light and fluffy.
5. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated.
6. Add the banana mixture and the flour to the butter in two separate additions, alternating between wet and dry.
7. Using a scoop or a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, form small mounds of batter on the silpat, leaving about 1-1 1/2 inches between each mound.
8. Bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven when done (cake will spring back if pressed lightly) and let cool completely before filling.
for nutella cream cheese frosting:
1/2 stick butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup nutella
1 tspn vanilla
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1. Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium high for about three minutes, until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the nutella and vanilla extract to the butter and cream cheese mixture until completely incorporated.
3. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the desired consistency (~stiff peaks) is reached.
4. Using a piping bag or spoon, spread a small amount of frosting onto the bottom of half of the cakes and sandwich together with the other half. Roll in sprinkles, if desired.
5. Keep refrigerated until serving.