I do not like banana-flavored things. Also, not a huge fan of bananas. Can eat them fresh only in certain OCD-laden circumstances.
As a kid, if my Halloween-candy-bag had anything banana-flavored, I instantly put it in the “trade/discard” pile that my sisters and I would create as we sifted through our stash (fresh food also went into that pile, since my mom was always on the lookout for hidden razor blades and other death-traps). I never bought banana-flavored snow cones, or ice pops, or anything yellow, for that matter.
Then one day in high school, I opened the freezer door and found a carton of Blue Bell’s Banana Pudding ice cream. I’m quite sure I avoided it at first, thinking it would have that same fake, syrupy, bright yellow flavor of all things banana. But at some point I must’ve caved — and how fortuitous. It was truly a creamy, frozen version of a big bowl of cookie-laden banana pudding (which, ironically, I always loved — what’s not to like about vanilla custard, a “tasteful” [modifier quantifiable only by me] amount of sliced bananas, whipped cream, and vanilla wafers?). How did they do it? How could they make it taste so… real? It became my go-to ice cream flavor, until I moved to an unfortunate state in our union that didn’t sell Blue Bell; I remember withdrawal symptoms, until my system adjusted to the void.
And then, one dark day, you couldn’t find it anymore. Not in Mississippi, not anywhere.*
I began to discover that there are two types of people in this world: those who have experienced Blue Bell’s Banana Pudding ice cream, and those who have not. You can tell who is who by their verbal and body-language response when you say the words; if they raise an eyebrow, or scrunch their nose, or back away a few inches, they were never exposed to the perfection. On the other hand, if their eyes widen, and they grasp at your shoulders in hopes you will be the bearer of good news, telling them you’ve found a place where they still sell it — then these people? They’ve had it.
I found two of the latter, one night as I shared pints with a couple of Indy bloggers: Angie and Amy. These ladies knew of The Ice Cream. They knew, we remembered, we mourned, and then they challenged. You make ice cream, don’t you Katy? Why don’t you try to recreate the flavor? You know, for the good of mankind?
Well, if you put it that way.
Four months later, I am here to share the results. I have nothing to compare it to, since it’s been a full decade I’ve been without the original. But it tastes like my memory — creamy, cookie-laden, homemade, Southern banana pudding. It’s good. My family and Angie say the same (hoping Amy can join the fan club once she gets a taste).
Have you longed for it? Do you have an ice cream maker? It’s a little labor-intensive, but worth it. Try it — and let me know your thoughts if you do!
Banana Pudding Ice Cream (just like Blue Bell’s)
Before subbing store-bought marshmallow creme, try the recipe — it’s super-easy, and the only version I can vouch for. It is very important that the vanilla ice cream base be chilled, and you are ready to churn, before you purée the bananas (the ice cream will turn an unsightly coffee-color if you don’t freeze asap after adding the bananas). The ice cream tastes best if it is eaten withing 3 days of freezing — though I don’t think that will be a problem.
For the ice cream (inspired by a vanilla ice cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz)
(The vanilla ice cream base must chill for at least a few hours before adding the bananas & freezing — I usually start it the night before and refrigerate overnight)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- heavy pinch salt
- 6 large egg yolks (save the whites for macaroons)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1/2 tsp fresh lime or lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the milk, sugar, and salt. Warm until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
In a large bowl, pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. While whisking the yolks vigorously, slowly pour a couple ladles-full of the warm cream/sugar mixture into the yolks. Once tempered, slowly whisk the hot yolk/cream mixture back into the saucepan, and stir.
Continue to heat until the mixture thickens slightly, or reaches 165º on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat, pour through strainer into the remaining cup of heavy cream, and stir in the vanilla. Cool mixture over an ice bath, and then chill for several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to churn, place the bananas, lime juice, and about 1 cup of the chilled ice cream base into a blender or food processor. Purée together until smooth. Stir the purée back into the rest of the ice cream base. Pour into your ice cream maker (there is usually a little leftover after my maker is filled — I pour the extra into a couple popsicle molds for banana ice-cream popsicles), and freeze according to the directions for your maker.
For the marshmallow creme (I adapted this recipe from Cold Creme):
Makes enough for 3 or more batches of ice cream, but freezes well.
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 cups light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In large mixer bowl, use a whisk attachment to combine egg whites, corn syrup, and salt. Beat for 10 minutes until thick. (After only a minute or so, it begins to fluff up, but keep beating!)
Add powdered sugar at a low speed to thoroughly incorporate. Add vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a month (it’s usable right out of the freezer, as it doesn’t harden, so freezing is your best bet).
To put it all together:
- vanilla wafer cookies (I like the 365 brand from Whole Foods), broken into halves or quarters.
In a 1 1/2-quart air-tight container, scrape about 1/4 of the churned ice cream. Add 2-Tbsp dollops of marshmallow cream over the surface, and then scatter cookies on top. Layer in more ice cream, then more marshmallow creme and cookies, repeating the process 2-3 more times (finish with a layer of ice cream). Press plastic wrap or wax paper directly on the surface of the ice cream, seal with lid, and freeze for several hours before enjoying.
* I have since heard rumblings that people can still get Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream. I have no idea how, since they don’t list the flavor on Blue Bell’s website. But apparently, at a Walmart, somewhere, in the midwest (?):
I would hate him, but for the fact that he at least acknowledges the greatness of The Ice Cream.