In the South we called this banana puddin’. It was served at EVERY family reunion I ever attended, EVERY church event where food was involved, and EVERY Easter as one of the desserts.
At family reunions, the banana puddings would line the table; rows of banana puddings. Can you imagine such a thing? I remember that I would only eat my mother’s version of banana pudding. It would have been a clear deviation from family loyalties to have eaten any other banana pudding than my mom’s. Besides, her’s was the prettiest and I had personally already sampled some of it before it ever left the house. Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies about how that all came about.
For clarification, when I am talking about banana pudding, I am referring to the beloved layered dessert comprised of vanilla wafers, bananas, pudding, and whipped cream. The phrase “banana pudding” can be confusing because in reality it refers to two completely different desserts. There’s banana pudding which is simply banana flavored pudding. Then there is BANANANANANANANA PUDDING which is the incredibly delicious, wondrous, heady, layered dessert.
I haven’t had banana pudding in many, many years. Suddenly one day last week I got the urge. It evolved into a need, which quickly became a gotta have it right now! Clearly there was something in my body that needed to have the nutrients from banana pudding. Yes, I said nutrients because there really are some nutrients in banana pudding. I know it, I just know it. There’s potassium, for one. Potassium is majorly important to muscle function, especially the most important muscle in your body–your heart. Ask a nurse, she’ll give you the low down on potassium and heart function. Ask me, I’m a nurse. Oh, and there’s calcium and vitamin D, too. Calcium and vitamin D = strong bones and teeth. Carbs and protein are in there. The carbs provide quick energy and the protein provides sustained energy and are the building blocks for EVERYTHING in your body. See, there’s lots of nutrition in this dessert.
Now, there is something important that I need to tell you, however. My mom always used the “cook-n-serve” pudding from a box for the pudding layer of the…pudding. I wanted to put on my big girl panties and make my own pudding for this beloved dish. Consequently, I turned to the Titans of Southern cooking for direction: Paula Deen and Alton Brown. I also did a fly by on Tyler Florence, but sadly his banana pudding recipe was too unapproachable, even for me wearing my big girl panties. I love Tyler’s recipes, but he navigated too far into the world of haute cuisine on this one.
So, Paula and Alton got my business this time around. And, since I was wearing my big girl panties, I adapted their recipes. It was almost sacrilegious. I mean, who does that to a Paula Deen recipe? Alton–one could do that to Alton without too much consequence. His recipes are built for that. But Paula? The Southern cooking queen? Scary. Big girl panties…big girl panties…big girl panties. Whew. I have nerves of steel.
Cook over medium low heat and STIR or WHISK continously. You don’t have to do this fast; just use a nice steady rhythm to keep things moving. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom as you stir. As the mixture heats, it will start to thicken; stir a little faster so that nothing will stick to the bottom or sides and scorch or burn. Just as bubbles appear around the edges of the mixture, there will be a definite change in the viscosity of the pudding. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner.
Pour the pudding into a bowl. Put a piece of plastic wrap right down on top of the pudding. The wrap should be touching the surface of the pudding; this will keep a thick skin from forming on top of the pudding while the pudding cools. Put the pudding in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or until it is completely cool.
For single servings, assemble in layers: crumbled vanilla wafers, bananas, pudding, more crumbled vanilla wafers, more banana slices, and another layer of pudding. Finish with some whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired. If you want to assemble the pudding in a single 9 – x 9-inch dish, use whole vanilla wafers and layer everything in the same order as above.
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