Banana Pudding pairs creamy smooth vanilla pudding with chunks of sweet banana
and crunchy vanilla wafers. Some like
to layer this dessert, like an English Trifle, so you can see the separate
layers of pudding, banana slices, and vanilla wafers. Others like to just mix
everything together in one big bowl. History seems to
suggest that Banana Pudding originated in the Southern States where it is still
very popular. So popular, in fact, that It is not uncommon to walk into a
grocery store and find boxes of vanilla wafers and instant vanilla
pudding mixes alongside the bananas. Southerners often like to top their Banana
Pudding with a meringue, but I am partial to a dollop of softly whipped cream.
Now, we are going to make this
Banana Pudding from scratch, which means homemade vanilla pudding.
Use the best ingredients you can afford. If possible, use
"organic" milk and eggs from vegetarian fed hens. And since vanilla is
a prominent flavor in this vanilla pudding it is important to use
vanilla extract. Stay away from the ones labeled "imitation" vanilla extracts as
they are made with synthetic vanilla and leave a bitter aftertaste. Also,
products labeled 'Vanilla Flavoring' are a combination of pure vanilla
extract and imitation vanilla extract and should be avoided.
A vanilla pudding is
really a 'cooked' custard. There
is only one real difference between a pudding and a custard and that is
cornstarch (corn flour). Cornstarch is added to a cooked pudding so it
becomes thick enough to eat with a spoon. The important thing is that they
have to be cooked carefully as we do not want lumps or even worse,
scorching. So keep the heat fairly low and use a heavy bottomed saucepan,
making sure that you stir constantly with a large heatproof rubber
spatula. When stirring it is important to reach the bottom, sides and
corners of the saucepan to prevent the pudding from sticking and
scorching. Once the pudding has become thick, like mayonnaise, remove it
from the heat and add the butter and vanilla extract. Then strain the
pudding to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
Once the vanilla pudding has cooled to room
temperature, we can make our Banana Pudding. (You can make and refrigerate
the vanilla pudding a few days ahead.) Slice the bananas and break the vanilla
wafers into bite sized pieces. You can layer the ingredients (like a
trifle) or simply mix everything together in a large bowl. Add as much
banana and vanilla wafers as you like. If you are using Ladyfingers, instead of vanilla wafers, I like to use
a commercial brand because they are thicker
and their texture is crisp and very absorbent.
(Ladyfingers are finger-shaped cookies that
are about 3 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide (8 x 3.5 cm) that are made
with a sponge cake batter. They are called Savoiardi in Italy and are so
named because they come from Savoy Italy.) I like to make the Banana
Pudding just before serving. That way the vanilla wafers stay nice and
crisp. While you can cover and refrigerate the Banana Pudding, the vanilla
wafers will soften and start to break down. Garnish with dollops of
whipped cream. Lastly, if you would like to try a different version of
Banana Pudding, replace the Vanilla Pudding with Butterscotch Pudding.
Banana Pudding: In a large
stainless steel (or heatproof) bowl whisk together the 1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar,
cornstarch, salt, eggs, and egg yolk. Whisk in 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk. Set aside while you heat the
rest of the milk and sugar. Have
ready a fine medium-sized strainer and bowl as you will need
to strain the pudding after it is cooked.
First, rinse a
medium-sized heavy saucepan with cold water and then shake out the excess water.
Doing this step prevents the milk from scorching. Then pour the remaining 3 cups (720 ml) of milk,
along with 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar, into the saucepan and bring just to a
boil. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly,
until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture to a clean large,
heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring
constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise (about
3 - 5 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in
the butter and vanilla extract. Pour
through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking.
Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or two (or even
To Make Banana
Pudding Trifles: Take 6 or 8 bowls or wine glasses (depending on size) and place
a few vanilla wafers or ladyfingers in the bottom of each trifle glass. Spoon a
little of the vanilla pudding over the cookies. Peel and slice the bananas and place a
layer of bananas over the pudding in each bowl. Place another layer of pudding
and bananas, then finish off with a layer of pudding. Garnish each pudding with
dollops of softly whipped cream, whole vanilla wafers, slices of banana, and
maybe some chocolate shavings. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be covered and
refrigerated, but the vanilla wafers will soften.
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