May 17, 2012

Perfect Banana Pudding

Ah, banana pudding. That quintessential Southern dessert, perfect for summer picnics or rainy winter nights. Delicious with toasty meringue or cold whipped cream and even better the day after, banana pudding is one of those classic desserts that compliments just about any meal - or breakfast. Just sayin.

Banana pudding also holds a very special place in my heart because it is Andrew's favorite dessert of all time. We started talking about banana pudding when we were first together and I'm pretty sure that the lifelong promise of banana pudding effectively kept him around for the long haul. (Ladies, take note.) The wedding is now only a scant two (!) days away, so I take this week to honor banana pudding and the joys it has brought to both of us these past two years.

Now, a caveat: this is real banana pudding. Real. REAL. None of that boxed business. Honestly folks, it takes about 5 minutes longer just to cook up your own vanilla pudding so why not do it? I've been noticing a proliferation of banana puddings made with pudding out of a box and it always makes me anxious and sour. Last summer at the Masonic Pig Jig Cookoff in Raleigh there was one team that made banana pudding out of a box. Really? I understand concerns about eggs and cooking pudding in big batches, but at least try for Pete's sake. I had to turn to hushpuppies and extra pepper sauce to keep me happy that day. (It wasn't hard.) There is nothing more iconic than hushpuppies, North Carolina barbecue, and banana pudding. Nothing. Just make it real, please. Thank you.

For these reasons I am always skeptical when I see banana pudding on even the most eclectic of Southern menus. I just don't want to be disappointed so I usually stay away. No big deal, but I know for a fact that mine is better. It just is. When you make this recipe, you will understand.

I feel strongly about banana pudding. Like I feel strongly about cheese grits and homemade biscuits. Anything less than real is just unacceptable. Try this recipe; you too will understand what Clairee Belcher meant when she said, "if you can't say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me." I have a feeling she and I would have had a lot to talk about when it comes to real banana pudding.

Banana Pudding
Adapted from Southern Living, 1982

3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
3 cups milk*
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce package vanilla wafers
6 bananas 

1/3 cup (or more) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and whisk until combined. Whisk egg yolks and milk until thoroughly combined and add to dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a flat-bottom wooden spoon. The mixture will begin to thicken after about 7 minutes and will be fully cooked around 10 to 12 minutes. 

Pudding after 3 minutes
After 6 minutes
After 8 minutes
A more useful rule of thumb in cooking pudding is to just "feel" when it's done. The pudding will first get very creamy then thick. Do not let pudding boil. When you can scrape a finger across the back of the spoon and the pudding doesn't slide back into place, it's done. Stir in vanilla and set aside to cool slightly.
Not quite done
Done! Pudding doesn't slide back onto spoon.
To assemble the pudding, begin with a layer of vanilla wafers, followed by a layer of thinly sliced bananas. I used about 1 1/2 bananas per layer but it really depends on the size of the dish. My dish was fairly small - about 8"- and ended up being piled over the top. (I would recommend something 9" or larger - a 9x11 casserole dish or a trifle dish.) Follow the banana layer with a layer of warm pudding and repeat twice more. You should end up with three scrumptious layers of wafers, bananas, and pudding. 

Once cooled, combine whipping cream and sugar and whip with hand mixer until cream forms soft peaks. Spread over top of pudding and garnish with more bananas or wafers. Serve warm or cold. 

1 comment:

  1. I found this via Joyner (who I know from UVa and then Nashville). First, congrats on the wedding, and second, wow, this recipe looks so great. I'm going to have to try it soon,