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Banana Splits with Hot Fudge Sauce

The vanilla bean was first cultivated and processed by the Aztecs, who used it to flavor a drink that would later be known as chocolate. Of the worlds vanilla beans, 75 percent come from Madagascar, with Tahitian and Mexican beans making up the rest. When time allows, it is always best to use vanilla beans, scraping all the flavorful seeds from the interior, but high-quality extract also delivers the distinctive sweet and complex flavor of the bean.

Ingredients:

For the hot fudge sauce:

  • 6 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 1⁄3 cup boiling water
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 12 small scoops best-quality vanilla ice cream
     (3 to 4 pints)
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1⁄2 cup sliced almonds
  • Sweetened whipped cream for serving
  • 12 maraschino cherries, drained, or raspberries
  • Liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Kahlúa, for
     drizzling (optional)

Directions:

To make the hot fudge sauce, in a small, heavy saucepan, combine the cocoa with just enough of the boiling water to make a thick paste, whisking with a fork (if you add all the water at once, the lumps will be hard to break up). Add the remaining boiling water, whisking until the cocoa dissolves. Set the pan over low heat and add the butter. When it melts, stir with a wooden spoon, then stir in the sugar and corn syrup.

Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally; do not allow it to boil. When small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, simmer, without stirring, until glossy and thick, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a clean spoon, stir in the vanilla. If not using the sauce right away, keep warm in a double boiler.

Arrange 3 scoops of ice cream in a line down the center of each of 4 chilled oblong dishes. Place 1 banana half, cut side in, on either side of the ice cream. Spoon a generous amount of the hot fudge sauce over the top and sprinkle with the almonds. Dollop with whipped cream. Top each serving with 3 maraschino cherries, drizzle with liqueur and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Serving Tip: If you do not have oblong dishes, cut each banana half in half crosswise. Put the ice cream in chilled round bowls and surround each portion with 4 banana quarters.

Note: The hot fudge sauce may be prepared in advance. Let it cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Reheat the sauce gently in a double boiler over barely simmering water before serving.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Sauce, by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2004).