The Frozen Banana, Evolved
As a kid growing up in the early 80s, homemade frozen treats were rather simple. A popsicle was OJ, frozen. A frozen treat was a whole peeled banana, wrapped in tin foil, frozen. No one complained. Quite the opposite: we thought we’d won the lottery when these special treats appeared each summer in the freezer.
But my, how times have changed.
Frozen novelties are a sophisticated business now. Your standard cherry-orange-lime popsicles have given way to gourmet Mexican-style Paletas, composed of unusual fresh fruit and herb combinations. The “Chipwich”–once a bastion of innovation in and of itself (ice cream AND a cookie?!?) has scioned a legendary roving bi-coastal ice cream sandwich truck, Coolhaus, whose innovative cookie and ice cream combinations (including vegan and gluten-free options!) dwarf their progenitor in comparison.
Clearly, if the frozen banana was going to stay relevant in the modern age, it needed to evolve.
And evolve it has.
Frozen banana is trending– at local Farmer’s markets, on Pinterest and even in the freezer section of Whole Foods. And the newer versions are far more appealing (pun intended) than the bare-bones original. Here are some Darwinian expressions of the frozen banana, circa 2013:
Soft Serve Frozen Banana “Ice Cream”:
In my neck of the woods, a roving retail concept called Amanda Bananas has brought the genius that is soft-serve frozen banana to farmer’s markets throughout Northern New Jersey. They take fresh bananas, run them through a soft serve machine to freeze, mush and aerate, and voila: a CREAMY, soft-serve banana treat whose texture is spot-on for soft-serve ice cream. No dairy, no added sugar, no weird gums or stabilizers. Just 100% pure banana– which makes it naturally gluten-free, vegan, lactose-free and low calorie. You can keep your treat as righteous or indulgent as you wish; consuming it plain or with any number of the available toppings.
Homemade, One-Ingredient Banana “Ice Cream”:
If there’s no soft serve banana vendor in your neighborhood, it’s easy enough to make your own scoopable, banana-based frozen treat, which trends as “one ingredient banana ice cream” on Pinterest. Basically, you slice up a bunch of ripe bananas and freeze the pieces in a Ziploc bag. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to your food processor and give them a whir until creamy. The final product will look crumbly, but as soon as you stick a spoon in there to stir, it becomes super creamy. Homemade banana “ice cream” is a terrific summer dessert to offer babies and toddlers, as there’s no added sugar. You can scoop it into a cone for older kiddos (and by older kiddos, I mean you) and top it with the usual suspects… chocolate chips, crushed almonds or peanuts, whipped cream. Toasted coconut would work especially well, methinks, as would crushed graham crackers (gluten-free versions are available).
Frozen Novelty Bananas:
Of course, if you’re nostalgic for the old timey frozen bananas of yore, you could just update the concept a bit to keep up with the Joneses. I’ve made this recipe for Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas from Eating Well magazine to great results (see photo; banana is model’s own.) You could swap out coconut for other toppings, like crushed nuts or sprinkles.
If you cannot possibly be bothered to freeze your own bananas and cover them in melted chocolate, a Chicago-based company called Diana’s Bananas offers assorted chocolate-covered frozen banana products in supermarkets nationwide. They’re free from all the junky crap that goes into most other frozen novelties, and sugarwise, they’re a far better bet than most anything else you’ll find in the frozen novelty section of your grocery store that has the word “chocolate” in it. (Don’t forget– most of that sugar comes from the fruit itself!)
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