Banana Pudding

My dad has always joked that it was my mom’s banana pudding that made him fall in love with her. When anyone asks what makes it so good my dad responds, “It’s real banana pudding not banana-banana pudding.” What he means by that is that you start with vanilla custard as the base. “Banana-banana” pudding uses banana flavored (gasp) instant pudding. I have to agree with him that this is a big “no-no”. The only way to make a banana pudding is to start with from scratch vanilla custard. Beyond that my mom’s recipe is no big secret. In fact, (gasp again) she uses the recipe on the back of the Nilla Wafer box. But it is delicious and I have such fond memories of making it with her. Maybe that’s why it tastes so good. With every bite I remember standing over the stove making the custard and eating any that was leftover right out of the pot. Snacking on the Nilla wafers and of course whipping up egg whites into the meringue for the topping. There’s just something magical about those beautiful golden peaks of meringue when the pudding comes out of the oven.

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I like to consider myself a banana pudding expert, but surprisingly I had never thought of making banana pudding any other way until recently I ran across this recipe that uses pound cake instead of Nilla Wafers and my mind was blown. I just had to try it. It is so decadent that I don’t think I can ever go back to using the cookies. Please don’t tell my Mama, but she has been dethroned.

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Warm Banana Pudding

Ingredients

8 Eggs, large, room temperature, separated
2 1/2 C  Sugar, divided
2 C  Whole milk
2 1/2 C  Half-and-half
1 1/2 t  Vanilla extract
1  Vanilla bean
1 C  All-purpose flour
1 t  Salt
6 T  Butter, unsalted, room temperature
8  Bananas, ripe, sliced
12 oz  Sour cream pound cake (store-bought is fine)
1/2 t  Cream of tartar
Preparation
  1. First make the custard: In a large saucepan, heat whole milk, half and half, vanilla, and vanilla bean until bubbles just begin to form around the edge of the pan. Remove from head and set aside. Beat the egg yolks and 2 cups sugar on high until light and fluffy. Add the flour to the egg/sugar mixture and stir just enough to incorporate. With the mixer on, slowly pour about a cup of the custard base in to the egg mixture to temper the eggs and prevent them from cooking. Then add the remaining custard base and stir until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer back into the saucepan to eliminate any remaining lumps. When the mixture is combined and smooth, scrape the vanilla bean and add back into the custard along with the pod.
  2. Heat the custard mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Whisk in salt and butter until smooth; then remove the vanilla bean pod and discard. If you want you can use an immersion blender now to make the custard super smooth. Set custard aside.
  3. Assemble the pudding: Thinly slice the pound cake into about 12 slices and set aside. Pour 1/3 of the custard into a 9×9 casserole dish to cover the bottom. Add 1/2 the cake, breaking pieces as needed to cover entire dish. Add half of the bananas and press the ingredients down. Repeat the layers, finishing with the last layer of custard.
  4. Now for the meringue: Preheat oven to 375° F. Mix the egg whites on medium-high until they begin to get foamy, then add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and cream of tarter. Continue to mix until soft peaks form. Spread meringue over the banana pudding and bake for about 5-6 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool and serve warm.

Adapted from Panna.