Generally speaking, I've always been a little suspicious of low-fat desserts. In my experience, there is usually something off about them, whether it be the texture or the flavor itself. I kind of don't see the point; if dessert is supposed to be about indulging a craving, how does some vague approximation of the flavors in question satiate your desires? What is the point of being able to eat a huge serving of a low-fat dessert if it tastes like crap? Quality over quantity, I say.
Nonetheless, while I was flipping through the pages of an old issue of Food & Wine recently, I skimmed my way through an article on low-fat desserts and actually found my attention captured by a recipe for chocolate frozen yogurt. Though my attempts at making homemade frozen yogurt have been universally disastrous in the past, the flavor combination in this recipe were right in my wheelhouse: chocolate, banana, and caramel. Caramelized bananas are easily in my top five favorite desserts, so I figured that any dish that incorporated them had to be worth trying.
The recipe called for caramelizing the bananas in a bit of brown sugar before pureeing them and adding them to a simple, no-cook dairy base of Greek yogurt and milk. Though they smelled heavenly and I wanted to eat them straight out the pan, I saved all of them for the recipe and came to regret it. Though the banana flavor came through loud and clear in the finished product, the caramel was completely overwhelmed by the fruit and chocolate. Basically, it tasted like a straight-up chocolate banana frozen yogurt, but that was by no means a bad thing.
In fact, this was easily the best frozen yogurt to ever emerge from my kitchen. Despite being low-fat, the texture was much less icy and crystallized than my previous efforts. I enjoyed the chocolate chunks, which added a sense of indulgence in addition to providing a nice textural contrast. Though I initially found the characteristic tartness of the Greek yogurt to be off-putting, after repeated spoonfuls I came to appreciate the way it paired with the chocolate, and eventually, it came to be downright addictive.
I would definitely consider making this again, though in the future I would experiment with skipping the caramelization process. It's possible that the bananas need to be cooked, and it's also possible that they need that extra bit of sugar, but given that the caramel makes absolutely no difference in the taste of the finished product, I'd be interested in seeing if it can be left out. Still, I'm going to count this effort as a success, and take some pride in the fact that I was able to produce a low-fat dessert that was actually worth eating. I wouldn't count on this becoming a trend around here, but a change of pace is always a good thing...
Chocolate Frozen Yogurt with Caramelized Bananas
adapted from Food & Wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large, ripe bananas cut into 1-inch rounds
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon creme de cacao
1/2 c. plus 3 tablespoons 2% milk
2 1/2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 c. granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. Greek yogurt (2% or nonfat)
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the creme de cacao and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar. Scrape the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes.
2. In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.
3. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.