What this recipe isn’t: low fat, low sugar, paleo, vegan or low carb.
What this recipe is: the real thing.
It’s not much different from banana pudding recipes from 50 years ago, and I figure if our great-grandmothers made it, it’s okay to eat it. (Okay – maybe with a whole bunch of caveats, like every once in a while, as part of an otherwise healthy diet that consists of vegetables and lean protein). I’d rather have half of cup of the custardy goodness of real banana pudding than twice that amount of the artificially flavored, comes-in-a-box variety.
We Southerners are crazy about our banana pudding. It’s a staple at church suppers, potlucks , VFW dinners, and Fourth of July picnics. If there’s no banana pudding, it’s probably not a real party.
It’s worth looking at where this craze came from. According to Our State Magazine, banana pudding caught on after the Civil War, first in the ports of New Orleans and Louisiana, where bananas arrived by ship, imported from Latin America. Serious Eats reports that home cooks began including bananas in classic English trifles – layers of cake, custard, fruit, and whipped cream. By the turn of the century, recipes for banana puddings were showing up in cookbooks and newspapers.
In 1960s the interstate system was completed and exotic fruits like bananas began to be shipped to grocery stores around the country. At around the same time Nabisco began producing its classic Nilla Wafers and boom - a national dessert was born.
There are regional differences – a good Southern banana pudding is built in alternating layers of vanilla wafers, bananas and custard , while I hear it’s acceptable in other places to just pour the custard over a pile of wafers and bananas. I prefer the layered method because the cookies and the custard absorb the flavor of the bananas better.
The base for this recipe is a classic custard made with eggs, sugar, and cornstarch. For the vanilla wafers, I used Trader’s Joe’s Ultimate Vanilla Wafers, which have little flecks of vanilla in them, but next time I think I’ll try making my own, like these from Kitchen Joy, or these from the Baker Chick.
A couple of other notes: You can buy whipped cream for topping, or use the same method and ingredients we used for homemade whipped cream in our Strawberry, Chambord and Mascarpone Parfait. Place a metal bowl and whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes. Pour 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar into the metal bowl and add 1 cup heavy whipping cream. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks – 2-3 minutes.
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 dash salt
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 Tablespoon of bourbon
- 3 -4 ripe bananas, sliced
- Vanilla wafers
- Whipped cream for topping
- Mix sugar and eggs together.
- Add salt, cornstarch, and milk.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly from the minute you begin to heat the mixture. Cook until thickened.
- Remove from heat; mix in vanilla and bourbon
- In a 9-inch square casserole dish, layer the wafers, bananas, and the pudding. You can also layer the pudding in 6 individual sized glass jars or ice cream bowls.
- Top with whipped cream.