The rest of the country has been buried under snow, but in Seattle, spring came early, and suddenly – unexpectedly. February itself had enough of the dark and gloom, and that was that: Crocuses appeared along with the sun, and the Red Dog and I started taking longer and longer walks in the midday sun. Some days, I don’t even bother wearing a jacket.
My East Coast coworkers email updates about weather-related transportation delays, while my Facebook friends post videos of snow falling and updates about school closures, and everyone grumbles at my replies: 55 and sunny here!
I know that makes me sound like an awful person, or at least a bit irritating, but turnabout is fair play – every time a Seattle resident complains about bad weather to a non-Seattle resident, they receive this reply: I don’t know why you live there. I couldn’t stand the weather.
Usually, of course, they’re right. This is the one time in the history of everything that Seattle has had better weather than the rest of the country. Let us enjoy it. It isn’t likely to happen again.
It’s not quite warm enough for the garden to begin growing, but I optimistically start some seedlings. This year, I will have fresh vegetables; this year, my garden will grow. I’ve got some waiting to do, for the garden, and the farmer’s market. In the meantime, we eat frozen strawberries from Costco and frozen blackberries we picked last August, and when we think of it, fresh bananas from the store.
You know the bananas I mean: The wallflowers of the kitchen; the ones that turn brown waiting for us to remember them, notice them, invite them to dine with us. This last bunch turned a very depressed shade of brown, waiting, but I just wasn’t feeling it – not the bananas, nor the banana bread, nor even the banana cake. Spring arrived, and all I want is More Spring. Spring On A Plate. Spring In A Bowl.
Then, something magical happened – as magical as unexpected sunshine in Seattle.
I found a copy of Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking at the local library, and checked it out, since I’ve enjoyed some of her recipes (Spicy Caramel Corn and Granola Jam Bars) in the past. I opened the pages to a recipe for Banana Malt Ice Cream – a most unexpected thing to find in a baking book – but, more importantly, it called for ripe, pureed bananas, something I just happened to have three of.
I had to do a little driving to make it happen – not being snowed in, I can do that – as the recipe calls for malt syrup, which isn’t something I keep on hand, but fortunately I had no trouble finding it at the local PCC, and DeMasco offered a substitute in case I couldn’t (malt powder or ovaltine). The custard is simple enough to make, just remember to leave time to chill it before putting it in the ice cream maker.
I found this made a little much for my ice cream maker, which overflowed toward the end of the cycle, just after I stopped watching it like a hawk. This may have been my fault, though, as I got some extra-large eggs and so there was probably more yolk than there was supposed to be.
Which is fine by me, because that means there’s also more delicious ice cream, and it is so delicious: the malt flavor intensifies the natural banana flavor, yet both are smooth and mellow in the frozen custard. It doesn’t need anything else, but you could toss in some chocolate chips or chunks if you wanted some texture (or, you know, chocolate).
The Child looked at me as though I had lost my mind when I offered her some banana ice cream; then she took a taste and cried out with joy and scooped herself a big bowl.
When I went looking for my next helping a day or so later, the ice cream was more than half gone.
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 cup barley malt syrup
- ½ cup plus 3 tbsp sugar
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ vanilla bean, split
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 very ripe bananas (to yield about 1 cup pureed banana)
- In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, barley malt syrup, and about half the sugar.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the rest of the sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, and when the mixture begins to rise in the pan, remove from the heat.
- Add the the milk mixture to the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Whisk in the salt.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
- Mash the bananas thoroughly (or puree in a blender or food processor), then whisk into the chilled custard.
- Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's instructions.