Grilled Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwiches

By: Nealey Dozier

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I inherited my banana bread recipe from my future mother-in-law; it's the only recipe my fiancé claims is worth making. I've made a few changes of my own to the recipe over the past few years, and now it's the only recipe I claim is worth making. My secrets? I roast the bananas to bring out their natural sweetness (no need to let them rot on your counter). Both butter and a splash of oil keep the bread moist for days, and vanilla bean paste adds a certain something extra you can't quite put your finger on.

Banana bread — especially this banana bread — is delicious all year round, but how 'bout a little summertime makeover? Think grilled banana bread ice cream sandwiches, a fun twist on an old classic! The best part? These are so simple you almost don't need a recipe. I threw the bread on the grill to add a nice toasty flavor and to help it stand up in the freezer. When it came to choosing ice cream flavors, I got a little crazy. Vanilla made for a classic ice cream sandwich, but my favorite pairing was rich and creamy coconut gelato — such an amazing flavor combination. If you get really adventurous, try using your own homemade ice cream. (I went with banana. Oh my word.) Then the possibilities are truly endless!

I can't wait to reveal these cool treats at my next summer barbecue, but I know they'll be just as refreshing after a long day by the water or during an old-fashioned Southern porch-sitting. Wherever you choose to enjoy them, just be sure to pack extra napkins!

Grilled Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwiches

Active time: 50 minutes

Total time: 3 hours (including chilling time)

Yields: 8 ice cream sandwiches
3 medium, unpeeled bananas
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
1 carton (1.5 quarts) favorite ice cream flavor

For the banana bread:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bananas on a parchment-lined sheet pan and pierce a few times with a fork or skewer. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes, until the banana peels are black. Remove pan from oven. Once they have cooled enough to touch, peel and mash as thoroughly as possible.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes. In a slow and steady stream, add the melted butter, followed by the oil, into the egg mixture until blended.

Add the buttermilk and vanilla bean paste to the mashed bananas and whisk vigorously. Stir the banana mixture into the egg mixture. Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the batter until combined but not overmixed.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and cook for one hour. Let cool on wire rack before removing from pan.

For the sandwiches:

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill (or an indoor grill pan) on medium-high heat. Cut off the crust of the ends and slice the banana bread cross-wise into 16 thin pieces. Place the banana bread slices on the grill and cook until dark grill marks form, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Allow bread to cool before making the sandwiches.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer and thaw until spreadable but not melted, about 5-10 minutes. Scoop a generous amount of ice cream (about 1 cup) on a slice of grilled banana bread and spread evenly across the surface to make 1/2-inch of ice cream filling. Top with another slice of banana bread, pressing firmly to even out the ice cream. Wipe excess ice cream from the edges and wrap sandwich tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze sandwich and continue with remaining sandwiches. (You may need to put the ice cream carton back in the freezer a few times throughout the process to keep it from getting too runny.)

Chill the sandwiches until the banana bread is frozen, at least one hour. Remove sandwiches from plastic wrap. Using a serrated knife, cut off a thin piece from all four sides to create a smooth, clean-looking sandwich. Allow to thaw for a few minutes before serving, to soften the bread and ice cream.

Note: The banana bread and ice cream sandwiches can be made 2 - 3 days before serving.

Nealey moved from Alabama to the West Coast to follow her dreams, only to realize once there how much she missed good ol’ country cooking.  So she took to the kitchen and began re-creating the dishes of her past, but this time without any help from a can. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, so she quit her day job to pursue cooking, and eating, fulltime. Dixie Caviar is where you can follow her pursuits of all things Southern.

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