How to make Classic Banana Pudding like a true Southerner
By Southfacin’ Cook Patsy Brumfield
This is one of the most nostalgic desserts ever. Don’t kid yourself that the yellow powder in the box will do – it won’t, once you’ve tasted this. Sure, it takes a little longer. But damn!, my fussy grandmother Rosalie Dial would have said: This stuff is bowl-licking good!
EQUIPMENT – Mixing bowls, cereal bowl, whisks, heat-proof rubber spatula, measuring equipment, large heavy saucepan or medium-size dutch oven, paring knife, ladle, plastic wrap, 9×12 casserole dish (I’m using the 9-inch round Corningware casserole with a glass top because I can get at least 3 layers of bananas and wafers, but it takes longer to cool than the flatter casserole dish.)
6 large egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small bits
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Box or bag of vanilla wafers
3-4 bananas, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
First, put one mixing bowl into the freezer. It’s easier to whip cream with a cold bowl.
Make the filling: Separate eggs, yolks into mixing bowl and whites in a cereal bowl. I use my hand to let the white slide through and hold onto the yolk. It’s sticky but easy. (Freeze those whites for later, maybe a great omelet. Mark the plastic bag to show how many whites you’ve got in there.) Add ½ cup milk to the yolks and whisk thoroughly. Add sugars, cornstarch and salt. Whisk well.
In your heavy saucepan or dutch oven, add remaining 3 ½ cups milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat – whisking often until it gets hot, then constantly until you see you’ve got a frothy steaming pot going. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Into your egg/sugar bowl mixture, slowly whisk in the hot milk (¼ cup at a time. You do not want to “cook” the eggs. This is what’s called “tempering” the eggs.) Pour milk/egg mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with spatula until bubbles rise and the mixture has thickened after about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Let the pudding cool 15-20 minutes. (I like to put the saucepan in the sink, then carefully add cold water into the sink – not the pudding pan. Be sure you don’t splash water into the saucepan. Ugh.)
Layering the pudding: In your casserole dish, add a layer of wafers (don’t forget wafers standing on the sides), topped with banana slices and slowly ladle the pudding about a third of the way up the dish (or at least to cover the bananas). Repeat wafers, bananas and pudding until you’ve filled the dish. (I usually get 3-4 layers in the Corningware dish, but it takes longer to cool than a flat 9×12 casserole. Keep that in mind.) When you’ve poured the last, top layer of pudding, cover it with plastic wrap and press the wrap softly against the pudding. This will prevent a “film” from forming on top, although I’m not so sure the pudding-eater will care.
Refrigerate at least 4-5 hours.
Whipped cream: Take the cold bowl out of the freezer, add heavy cream and whip into stiff peaks with a standing mixer (whisk attachment) or hand mixer. When the cream starts to firm up, add 1 tablespoon sugar. When your pudding is firm and cool, take out your cold bowl and whip the cream. Add sugar when it starts to firm up. Then top individual servings. If you top the pudding in the fridge, the cream will collapse a bit before serving, so wait until the end to dollop on the whipped cream.