Ice Cream 101 – One Simple Custard Base, Several Flavors! (Roasted Banana and more…)

Roasted Banana Ice Cream Recipe | Photo by Zoë François

Last week I did a post on the tricks to creating Sorbet and it got me thinking about ice cream. I always tend to make a big batch and then mash other ingredients into it. This way I can tailor the flavor to the dessert I am serving it with or the mood I am in. You have to start with a really great ice cream base, which for me means lusciously smooth, with a dense and silky texture. The flavor should be rich, but not too buttery (greasy) and I always start my “French custard” ice cream base with vanilla, there really isn’t a flavor that it doesn’t compliment.

When the first frozen dessert was created by the ancient Chinese, it was just a mixture of fruity syrups and snow, basically a sorbet. Not until the 18th century in England did you find the first ice cream made with milk, cream and eggs, no snow. Today homemade ice cream is still made this simple way. The secret to getting the perfect texture and flavor is not only the ingredients, but the technique of creating a custard and then freezing it.  You want to cook the cream, yolks, sugar and vanilla until the eggs thicken slightly, known as creme anglaise (English cream), and then chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator, about 6 to 12 hours. This last step is a bit of a mystery, but it works to create the best mouth feel. I have heard the overnight chill described as “maturing,” “ripening,” or “aging.” You get the picture, it gets better with age. I find when I do this extra step my ice cream is smooth and less ice crystals form. The way big manufacturers get past this step is to add gums, starches, or gelatin. I’d rather not, so I just wait.

Once you have the base, you can freeze it as vanilla ice cream or add other flavors. For this recipe I am adding roasted bananas, which I just used in a banana bread post I wrote for the Cooking Channel. Roasting the fruit not only concentrates the sugars, but it also expels some of the water in the bananas, which can cause the ice cream to be icy. I don’t stop there, I also mash in toasted maple-pecans, brandied cherries and chocolate ganache into the roasted banana ice cream, for a total of 4 flavors.  What can I say, I like variety!

Roasting Bananas

Vanilla Ice Cream Base:

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 large vanilla bean, scraped

1 cup sugar

10 yolks

For Roasted Banana Ice Cream:

4 ripe bananas (they should be at least yellow with a few spots, but even better when overripe.) – Place the bananas on a Silicone Baking Mat or foil covered Baking Sheet with sides, which will catch the juices. Poke small holes in the peels and bake at 350°F for about 40-60 minutes, depending on how ripe the bananas are.

*See below for ideas of ingredients to mash into the frozen ice cream.

To make the Vanilla Base:

Making vanilla ice cream base | photo by Zoë François

Heat the heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean and sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. The longer you let this mixture sit, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be. I often bring the mixture to a simmer, turn off the heat and let it steep for an hour or so. Before you continue with the recipe, you will need to bring it back to a simmer.

Making homemade ice cream

Whisk together the yolks in a medium sized bowl. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and whisk a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture. Add enough cream to warm the eggs.

Making homemade ice cream

Once the eggs are warm, add them back into the pot of remaining cream.

Making homemade ice cream

Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the custard over low heat. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken.

Making homemade ice cream

When the custard seems to be getting thicker, lift the rubber spatula and run your finger through it. It is done when the custard clings to the spatula.

Making homemade ice cream custard base

Strain the custard through a fine mesh Strainer or Chinois into a shallow dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and immediately place in the refrigerator.

Homemade vanilla ice cream custard

Allow the custard to “ripen” for 6 to 12 hours for the best result. If you are in a rush, at least make sure the custard is thoroughly chilled. As you can see above that the custard will be quite thick once it has chilled.

If you want vanilla ice cream freeze this custard in an Ice Cream Maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To make roasted banana ice cream:

Roasted banana ice cream base

Puree the roasted bananas in a food processor or using an immersion blender. It will make about 1 cup of puree.

Adding roasted bananas to ice cream custard base

Make sure the banana puree is chilled before adding it to the vanilla ice cream base.

Roasted banana ice cream custard

Make sure the custard is smooth. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Roasted banana ice cream custard

Freeze a bowl and have it ready for the freshly made ice cream. Immediately freeze the ice cream to harden.

Roasted banana ice cream with maple syrup and toasted pecans | photo by Zoë François

*Once your banana ice cream is done you can have fun mashing other ingredients into it. In this bowl I have added toasted pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. You can do this to the entire batch or just an individual bowl.

Roasted banana ice cream with chocolate ganache

Spread the top of the banana ice cream with a thin layer of chocolate ganache.

Roasted banana ice cream with chocolate ganache

As you scoop the ice cream out of the bowl the ganache will swirl into it….

Roasted banana ice cream with chocolate fudge

and add a wonderful chocolate fudge flavor.

Dried cherries soaked in brandy

I also soaked 1/2 cup dried cherries in 1 tablespoons brandy during the time it took to freeze the ice cream.

Brandy soaked cherries in roasted banana ice cream

Then I strained the excess liquid off of the cherries and mixed them into the ice cream.

*While I was in college at the University of Vermont, I worked at Ben & Jerry’s making the ice cream cakes. As a Vermonter I have a fondness for their ice cream and one of my favorite flavors is Chunky Monkey. If you mix all the nuts, chocolate and cherries together you can create a new version of this magnificent classic.

51 thoughts to “Ice Cream 101 – One Simple Custard Base, Several Flavors! (Roasted Banana and more…)”

  1. I have saved this as an “absolute must make.” I love making ice cream – the KitchenAid mixer attachment makes excellent, creamy ice cream. Looks delicious!

  2. How would you adapt this if you were making Philly-style ice cream rather than custard-based ice cream? Can you just add the roast bananas, or would this wreak havoc with the texture?

    1. Hi Alla,

      Great question, I think it will work just as well, but you will certainly have a different texture. I’ll have to try it and let you know! 😉

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. Oh, Zoe, this is perfect. I am actually eating toasted strawberry banana bread right now, so this ice cream looks especially wonderful. I will definitely be trying this—I’ve always wanted to try making banana ice cream.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Yes, I have Ben & Jerry’s to thank for lots of things! My husband gained 20 pounds while I was working there. 😉


  4. Wow, this looks amazing! I am seriously craving it right now! I am definitely posting a link to this on my Facebook page, Delicious Inspiration.

  5. I just got a new Cuisinart Ice Cream Mkaer and this just might be the flavor for my first try. Great post. Thanks

  6. Hi Zoë,

    Re: Banana Bread

    (Sorry for posting this comment here, but I wasn’t sure if you’d see it if it was posted to the Cooking Channel site!)

    One trick I picked up from a recent Cooks Illustrated recipe, is to sprinkle a little less than 1 tbs of granulated sugar over the top of the bread before baking. It forms a very delicate, crunchy crust. For such a tiny thing, the result is amazing.

    Another thing we do is to let the loaf cool completely on a rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then seal it in a 1-gallon ziploc bag and refrigerate overnight before slicing. The resulting loaf is a bit denser, giving it a bit more of a cake texture.

    Anyway, just wanted to share that with you and your readers, and and to say my kids can’t wait for me to make this ice cream recipe! As always, your photography is completely amazing!

    1. Hi Marc,

      Thank you so much for the note. I love the idea of having the sugar crust on the banana bread! I also am intrigued by the trick of refrigerating it in a ziplock bag, what a cool idea!

      Enjoy the ice cream, Zoë

  7. Hi Zoe…thank you so much for that wonderful class yesterday! I just spent all morning working with my first batch of dough…and everything came out wonderfully…pita, baguette, pizza and boule! My question is…can I put a touch of sugar in the basic dough? Thanks again…can’t wait for your new book! Marcy

    1. Hi Marcy,

      How wonderful that you are already baking! I am so thrilled. You can certainly add a bit of sugar to the master recipe. You can add up to 1/4 cup without having to make any other changes, but that will make it pretty sweet. You may want to start with 2 tablespoons and see if you like that.

      Thanks for the lovely note! Zoë

  8. Hi! I am curious what tips you have for making lactose free ice cream. I can easily get lactose free whole milk at my local grocery store but they don’t appear to carry cream or half and half that is lactose free (if such things even exist!).
    Any ideas how I can make a great ice cream anyway?

  9. Zoe,
    I just made the roasted banana ice cream with the ganache topping. . . Oh. Yum. At first, I thought the bananas looked a little odd, but I’m starting to feel like anything you suggest with food is probably a good idea, so went for it. So, glad I did. New favorite.

    I also “kind of” made the macarons you blogged for St. Pat’s day. . . had to use coconut instead due to an allergy to almonds, but they raised quite a stir at my mom’s group. Definitely a repeater, and a delightful way to use up the egg whites accidentally created from making ice cream!

    Thanks for doing all this!

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      So, so glad you went for it and tried the banana ice cream! I love it.

      What a great idea to make the macarons with coconut!

      Thank you! Zoë

  10. If you are even thinking about making this ice cream, DO IT. It is literally the best ice cream I’ve ever made (and maybe ever tasted). Roasting bananas must make the difference. DELICIOUS!

  11. Hi Zoe:

    I can’t wait to try this ice cream! Can you
    tell me how to increase a 1 qt. recipe to
    A 3 gallon recipe? Is there a certain ratio
    to follow?

    Thank you,

  12. OH. my. GOODNESS!!! This is totally made of ridiculous goodness! 🙂 I’ll be taking a stab at it this week.

    My favorite ice cream in the entire world is Haagen Dazs’s carmelized pear and toasted pecan.

    Any tips on how I could recreate that delicious flavor as well?

    1. Hi Christopher,

      That sounds great. You can poach the pears in a caramel sauce made with pear juice. Cook the juices down when the pears are done and add some of it to the ice cream base.

      Let me know how it goes! Zoë

  13. Made the ice cream base as is…WONDERFUL! Also made a ganache and had walnuts on hand. Everyone dressed their own ice cream. It was a huge hit! Even those that do not prefer bananas, well, let’s just say they were converted because of the Roasted Banana Ice Cream 🙂 Simply delicious!

  14. Hello Zoe
    My daughters birthday is the next week and she loves Ice Cream
    I want to make Chocolate Orange Ice Cream for her birthday , can I use the Vanilla Custard Base? Or if you have one recipes for this combination?

    Thank you for your Help.

    1. Hi Danny,

      Oh boy, it turns out I have never done a chocolate ice cream post. I will have to do that, but I’m not sure it will be in time for your daughter’s birthday. You need to start with a chocolate base.

      I’ll get on that right now! Zoë

  15. My biggest problem when making banana ice cream is the ice cream being too cold. the coldest coming from the bananas.

    1. Hi Oliver,

      You can temper the ice cream by setting it on the counter for 10 minutes or so before serving, this will give you a lovely texture.

      Thanks, Zoë

  16. Can I confirm with you the ripening process is in the fridge and not the freezer? It has been 12 hours and doesn’t quite look like the custard that you make for the vanilla ice cream base. I put it in the fridge and not the freezer.

  17. I love homemade ice cream but can’t find the recipe I’m looking 4 eggless no wait ice cream is it possible? Grandma made it every Sunday growing up so creamy so yummy and it was mixed n made, any suggestions? Thanks…Debbie

  18. I hve just tried your ice cream recipie. Will churn it in the ice cream maker after the custard’s ‘ripen’. I am from malaysia btw.

  19. Just made ice cream using your base recipe and my kitchen aid ice cream make – EXCELLENT! Best base I have tried yet – this is a keeper!

  20. Hello Zoe,
    thaks for the recipe which sound delicious.
    Im’ a big fan of mango ice cream and wonder if I can use this base to make it.
    Love your site……

  21. i made this ice cream today and i must say probably the BEST i have ever eaten. had never made custard or roasted bananas before so the recipe taught me a lot of new things. i have one question what is the purpose of passing custard through strainer?

  22. I’d really like to try this but can you tell me if it’s possible to use vanilla extract instead and how much? Also, is straining the mixture necessary?

    1. Hi Becca,

      Yes, you can use extract. I would start with 2 teaspoons and see if that is strong enough for your taste. I always strain just to make sure the ice cream base is as smooth as possible.

      Thanks, Zoë

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