An update on my favorite childhood dessert.
Granny (my mom’s mom) was an exceptional southern cook. Fried chicken, greens, fried okra, & creamed corn were her go-to dinner. But, banana pudding was a special treat reserved for Sunday afternoons.
My grandfather grew bananas in the back yard. They were tiny specimens and we could normally harvest enough little bananas during a growing season for 3 banana puddings. The key was to pick them green (maybe so the kids didn’t eat them?) and store them in a paper bag on top of the refrigerator to ripen.
I’ve updated granny’s classic a bit. I start by making vanilla wafers the day before, cover them with a towel and store them in the microwave overnight to dry a bit so they absorb more pudding. Then a rich vanilla pudding is poured over alternating layers of banana and wafers.
Of course, I stick close to granny’s recipe by topping the assembled pudding with meringue.
- Vanilla Pudding
- 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons tapioca starch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups whole milk
- 5 large egg yolks (reserve the whites in bowl of stand mixer)
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 egg whites (reserved from above)
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 50 grams (~¼ cup) granulated sugar
- Stir sugar, tapioca starch and salt together in a large heavy saucepan.
- Pour about ¼ cup of milk into saucepan and stir to make a thickish paste. This will prevent the starch from clumping.
- Slowly add the rest of the milk and stir until smooth.
- Whisk in the egg yolks thoroughly.
- Add the butter pieces.
- Cook, stirring constantly over medium-high heat until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.
- Thinly slice 4-5 large very ripe bananas.
- Spoon about ½ cup of pudding into bottom of 2 quart casserole dish.
- Beginning and ending with bananas, arrange bananas and wafers in alternating layers. I usually get about 4 or 5 layers.
- Pour ⅓ of the pudding over the final layer of bananas and tap the casserole to encourage the pudding to sink in. You may need to do this a couple of times but all the pudding should fit in your casserole.
- Set aside to continue settling while you make meringue.
Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 425°F.
The goal is to ensure a uniform thickness rather than shape. Because a banana curves, by the end of a banana I’m cutting long strips of banana. Also, be sure the bananas are very ripe but not turning to alcohol yet. You’ll see in the photo that mine were falling-off-the-stem ripe.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment, combine 5 egg whites and ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar.
- Whip egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Slowly add ¼ cup granulated sugar and beat until eggs hold a firm peak.
Spoon meringue over top of pudding, pressing so that it seals at the edges. Use the back of your spatula create peaks.
Place in middle of preheated oven for 5-6 minutes until meringue is browned slightly. Take care not to overcook the meringue.
Cool on countertop for about 2 hours then refrigerate up to 24 hours. If you leave it much longer the wafers will turn to mush.