A Banana Split To Die For
You really can't mess up a bowl of ice cream, bananas, and chocolate sauce, but when I decided to put the said concoction up on the menu, I knew I still had to take it seriously. I was definitely aiming for the "classic" looking split --a row of three ice creams resting in a boat of fresh banana, rosettes of whipped cream atop each scoop, and cherries on top. The details and particulars, though, kept my mind spinning.
Before we can get into the details, though, we need to decide what actually makes the perfect banana split. Here are my requirements:
- ice cream
- two sauces (one of them must be chocolate)
- whipped cream
- did I mention bananas?
First, the banana. I want a perfectly yellow (with even light shades of green blushing the skin), perfectly firm and unbruised fruit. And I want a lot of it! My biggest dissappointments from splits always lie in the lacking quantity of bananas...really peeves me! So a whole and a half banana per portion. With the whole banana, I'll slice it lengthwise and caramelize the cut sides. Scroll down to see what I do with the remaining half.
Then the ice cream. For each of the three scoops, I want different flavors. The first, and yes most obviously, but absolutely mandatory, is vanilla. Second, malted milk chocolate; because 1)I am of the school that a banana split is not a banana split without chocolate ice cream, and 2)my malted milk chocolate ice cream is so damn good, I keep it around just so I can snack on it. The third scoop has to be a fruit flavor. An obvious choice would be strawberry, but I had my heart set on a strawberry sauce. One of my cooks said she liked pineapple sauce on her split, which birthed the idea for a roasted pineapple ice cream. So, done with the ice cream dilemma.
Next, the sauce(s). This part gets a little tricky. I was teetering on the idea of "wet walnuts", which would have ticked off the "nut" and "sauce" boxes in one, but I really had my heart set on a chunky wild strawberry sauce, and because not having a chocolate sauce would be out of the question, that would conflict with my two sauce rule. My sous chef made an awesome chocolate butterscotch sauce for one of her weekly desserts, and I'm afraid I had to hijack it.
Now onto the nut situation? Although I liked the idea of wet walnuts, I'm not always a fan of the bitter aftertaste of the skins. Peanuts might (and sorry to all peanut lovers) lower the tone of the dish. Toasted almonds, I love! But I've already got them elsewhere on the menu, and I really hate repeating myself. Cashews have a subtle but satisfying flavor and excellent crunch value. Yes! I want sweet n' salty cashews! Lightly tossed in corn syrup and sprinkled with a heavy pinch of Maldon sea salt, these guys toast up beautifully!
As for garnishing, the whipped cream must be whipped firm to support the cherries. I will not be using the scary red and overly sweet maraschinos from a jar to top this labored confection. I want fresh bing cherries, stoned and with the green stem still on.
Are we done? Not quite. Time to assemble. With the number of components involved in this dish, one can easily make this melange look like a pile of you know what. There must be order, there must be structure, there must be aesthetic. We start with an oblong vessel to hold everything cosily. Arrange the two lengths of caramelized bananas into a boat shape. Chop the remaining half banana into large chunks and fill the void of the caramelized bananas with them. This will keep the forthcoming ice cream propped up to stand tall above the banana. Sprinkle a small handful of sweet n' salty cashews over the chopped banana. Drizzle over the nuts a healthy dose of chocolate butterscotch. This jagged foundation of banana, nut, and sauce will keep the ice cream from wanting to slide around. Next, scoop the vanilla and roasted pineapple ice creams and place them at either end. In the center goes the malted milk chocolate. This keeps the color balance. Now that the ice cream's in place, it's time to move quickly with everything else. Spoon a couple of teaspoons of wild strawberry sauce in between the three scoops. Press a few more cashews into the top of each scoop.. this keeps the following rossettes of vanilla whipped cream from sliding off the ice cream. Drizzle more chocolate butterscotch over the cream, then crown each rossette with a pitted cherry.