Banana Buttermilk Gelato

The other day, I was telling my friend Claire about my new gelato machine. My beautiful new gelato machine which was at that very moment being shipped to my doorstep so that I could make buckets of real, no fooling, Italian-style ice cream. She asked what I would be making for my first gelato and I said, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a straciatella, something simple to start with, nothing fancy.” Okay, so first of all, listen to what a food snob I am! Straciatella is chocolate chip. Good grief. And second, I am going to make a simple gelato for my first batch? Really? It’s like I’ve never even met me.

So, back to this gelato machine. Now, I already have a countertop ice cream maker with a bowl that goes in the freezer. It has been my tried and true compatriot for many years now. I love that thing and it is not going anywhere. But in researching the difference between ice cream and gelato (small window into my spare time), I discovered that one of the key factors is how it is churned. You need less air getting into mixture. My countertop ice cream maker would never get it right. I would need a completely different machine. Damnit.

I hemmed and hawed. I researched. I thought, yeah, one day. And then I bit the bullet. The DeLonghi GM6000 Gelato Machine now sits on my counter. Oh my.

The machine came with a recipe book. I figured this was the best way to get the proportions right for my first go-round. It is a smaller bowl than my ice cream maker so my normal preparations would be too large for this batch. I flipped through the booklet and saw Banana Gelato. I happened to have six blackened bananas sitting on my countertop. Oh, I should put some of those in the freezer. Just a moment….okay, we’re back.

Now, the recipe instructed me to combine half the sugar, banana pulp and lemon juice in a blender and then mix in the cream, milk, vanilla and remaining sugar. Very simple. Too simple. I mean, why would you just blend the sugar and banana when you could cook them on the stove top first until they were all caramelized and gorgeous? And why would you only use white sugar when you could do half white and half brown? And I have buttermilk that only has a few more days of value. Some decisions just make themselves.

And the result…is pretty damn good. It was a little icy, which I think was because I did not let my mixture chill enough before putting it into the machine. Lesson learned. But I am going to have some fun with this machine. I can tell already.

Banana Buttermilk Gelato

Two ripe bananas
1/3 cup light brown sugar*
Juice of one lemon**
1/3 white sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, well shaken***
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste****

Peel and slice two ripe bananas. (I remove half the peel and use the other half as my mini-cutting board to slice the banana. Especially with ripe bananas that are a bit mushy.)

Put the bananas in a small saucepan with the brown sugar and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and has a few minutes to bubble and caramelize. Pour mixture into a blender and add lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, white sugar and vanilla bean paste until smooth. Pour in the banana mixture and stir to combine. Taste it. Make your decisions about levels of sugar and lemon and adjust mixture accordingly.

Chill your mixture, either by refrigerating for an hour or two or stirring over an ice bath for fifteen minutes.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker (or brand new gelato machine!) and churn according to manufacturer instructions. (Try not to hover over the machine staring the entire time. Or do. I felt reasonably okay about doing so.)

The only way to determine if your gelato has achieved proper consistency is to taste it. (No, really, there is noooooo other option. You must.) When it is finished, pour it into a container and stick in the freezer.

****************

* Did you know how easy it is to make brown sugar if you have white sugar on hand? Light brown sugar is one cup of white sugar plus one tablespoon of molasses. Dark brown sugar is one cup white sugar plus two tablespoons of molasses. You can mix it together by hand or in an electric mixer (so much easier). Unfortunately, I know of no way to help you if you need white sugar and only have brown sugar. In that circumstance, I think you need to find a store.

** Ugh, I absolutely hate that recipes are always saying “Juice of one lemon” as if every lemon were the same size and contained the same amount of juice. Be specific! So, uber kitchen nerd that I am, I like to measure the juice of each lemon that I am using so I know what I am using for next time. (And by “like to” I mean I just decided today to start doing that from now on.) I have a little shot glass that is actually a tiny measuring cup and measures liquid teaspoons and tablespoons. It is adorable and super useful and I have no idea where I got it. But I can tell you that the lemon that I used today had 2 1/2 tablespoons worth of juice in it.

*** If you want to make this and don’t have any buttermilk on hand, did you know you can make your own buttermilk in about fifteen minutes? Combine one cup of milk with one tablespoon lemon juice and let stand for 10 – 15 minutes until it curdles slightly. (The longer you let it stand, the thicker it will be, though I have never gotten it to achieve the thickness of store bought buttermilk.)

**** I have spoken of my great love for vanilla bean paste, which is especially fabulous in ice cream, but yes, you can use vanilla extract here.

Final thought: I hate myself for not adding some salt here. The gelato recipe booklet did not say anything about salt, but how, HOW could I have not thought to add any? Next time, I am adding at least a pinch of salt. Maybe even a 1/4 teaspoon. Also, maybe some dark chocolate chips. Oh, so many possibilities.

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