Sunday, July 26, 2009

Homemade Southern Banana Pudding

Banana pudding, layered with vanilla wafer cookies, bananas, and a made from scratch egg custard, topped with a homemade meringue.
Banana pudding, layered with vanilla wafer cookies, bananas, and a made from scratch egg custard, topped with a homemade meringue.

Homemade Banana Pudding

Woohoo, it's homemade banana pudding y'all! And let me tell you - while we southerners love our banana pudding, we really love it, homemade, from scratch, with real custard, layered and meringue topped. Now that's southern banana pudding - the way banana pudding was meant to be eaten y'all.

So, yesterday y'all might have seen my tweet where I mentioned I was piddling about in the garage with the garage door wipe open, when I noticed there were a couple of birds sitting on my car in the driveway. One glance at their fuzzy little heads and I realized that it was the baby finches that had been birthed in one of my hanging plants on the front porch, finally flying the coup. Unfortunately, when I inadvertently walked up on them, I also frightened them, and they flew straight into the open garage.

Now, like many of you {c'mon now, I know I'm not in this alone}, I don't use my garage to park cars in. Rather, I use my garage to store stuff in.  There are boxes in there from heaven knows when, some I think from when I first moved into this house. Every once in awhile I go out and pick through and purge them and straighten up the garage. When those birds flew in there, well let's just say that I hadn't done that in awhile.

I had to shift and move around a lot of boxes and I finally found one of the babies fluttering about in an open box, so I carefully took what was in there out and then brought the box out to the driveway where he apparently found his way to his mama. The other baby I never found despite rearranging and digging through many open boxes, but I left the garage open all day and hoped that he would manage to find his way out too.

My Mama has been passed on for about 12 years now, and when we finally sold her house in 2002, since my brother and my sister live elsewhere, I was left with the chore of emptying out the house. Many things went to charity, some things I kept. And much of what is out there are boxes of some of my Mama's kitchen things. In all that digging and moving boxes around, I found something that I had been looking for, for a long time and frankly thought was lost. {You might have also seen me tweet about finding a ThighMaster in one of those boxes, but no ... we ain't goin' there!} I found a vintage Pyrex baking bowl.

Not just any bowl you see... a 1950s vintage Pyrex Thumbnail Pattern ovenware baking dish and the very bowl that my Mama used to make her banana pudding in! Now I have a lot of vintage dishes - not ebay indulgences {though there's nothin' wrong with that!}, but things that I've had since I was a young bride - so, I knew I had some old dishes, but this one is as old, or even older, than me! I was so excited, I decided that in honor of finding the official banana pudding makin' bowl, that I absolutely must immediately make banana pudding!

As if I really needed a reason.

I know that some folks don't layer their banana pudding like this. They just sort of dump everything in a bowl, give it a good stir and then let it soak for a bit. Well, I layer mine, because Mama layered hers. It just looks nicer in a pretty clear bowl that way anyway, though there's not a thing wrong with a dump and stir either.

I also know that some folks are a bit intimidated by the process of making meringue, or they just flat out don't like it, but I do a meringue topping on my banana pudding, because that's how Mama did hers. You don't have to, and you can even top your banana pudding with whipped cream if you like, but in my humble opinion, meringue is decidedly southern and it's not at all hard to do with a mixer. Click right here for a step by step tutorial on making meringue that includes a few helpful tips too.

But y'all know what I always say about cooking. Don't let anybody tell you - no, not even another southern cook - that there is only one way to make something, because even in The South we tend to do things a bit different from one another, depending on what area of The South that we grew up in. Nothing gets me madder than a wet hornet for somebody to tell me a "real southerner" wouldn't do this or that because well, that's what they do. So you go right ahead and make this fabulous southern dessert your own and do it the way your mama did, because we all know for each of us, Mama's way is our right way.

The one thing that I do hope you will do however, is make up the custard from scratch. While using the shortcut pudding version makes for a fine banana pudding, I am totally serious when I say there is a world of difference with the homemade custard. Very. Big. Difference. And, truly, while you have to take it slow so you don't burn it, it is just not that much more work than making up a pudding from a box, I swear, so go ahead and give it try. You will love it! Be sure to let the hot custard cool just a bit before layering the dessert, otherwise you'll have the cookie wafers turn to mush, instead of just softening up. If you like your cookies with more of a crunch to them, prepare the custard in advance but layer into individual parfait dishes instead.
So here's to you Mama... and I promise. I will treat this bowl with the respect it deserves from now on. Miss ya bunches!
For a step by step tutorial with more complete directions on how to make a homemade custard banana pudding with meringue, go here for my original post.

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Recipe: Homemade Southern Banana Pudding

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min |Inactive time: 1 hour | Yield: About 12 servings

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided to 1/2 and 1/4 cups
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 3 cups whole milk (not reduced or low fat)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box vanilla wafer cookies (Nilla brand recommended)
  • 4 to 6 ripe bananas, sliced
  • Pinch cream of tartar

Separate the egg whites and yolks into separate bowls; set aside the whites at room temperature to make meringue. In the top of a double-boiler (I use a stainless one), whisk together 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour, salt, and milk. Whisk in the yolks until blended. Cook, using a wooden spoon to stir regularly (do not whisk), until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees F). Remove top bowl, whisk in the vanilla until mixture is smooth and set aside. Mixture will continue to thicken as it sits.

In a 1-1/2 quart sized bowl or baking dish, begin layering two or three layers of wafers, bananas and custard. Smear a small amount of the custard on the bottom of your dish; add a layer of the wafers on top of the custard and also around the outside of bowl with the rounded tops facing out, if desired. Top the layer of wafers with banana slices, top that with custard and repeat layers, ending with custard on top. Set aside.

Make the meringue by beating the egg whites on low speed until they begin to look frothy. Add in the cream of tartar, increase speed to medium and beat until soft peaks begin to form, gradually adding in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat until stiff peaks begin to form. Spread the meringue all over the top of the last layer of custard, spreading it completely out to the edges. Using a spatula, create some swirls on top and place pudding under the broiler, with the door ajar, for a few seconds, only long enough to brown the peaks and edges of the meringue. Alternatively, you can bake it at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Let pudding rest for 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving. Garnish with a sprinkling of crushed wafers, if desired. Makes about 12, 2/3 cup servings - double custard recipe for a larger bowl.

Cook's Notes: When taking this to a holiday or other event, I double the custard portion of the recipe. Depending on your size bowl (mine is 10" across and 3" deep), you might want to do the same!

Please note that I use large eggs and 3 cups whole milk, not reduced or low fat. If you have never made a homemade egg custard before, understand that it must be cooked slowly and it simply takes time to thicken, but stick with it and eventually it will get thick. I always recommend preparing it with a double-boiler method which is slow, but faster than stovetop and you are less likely to curdle or burn the custard, which happens easily with a direct stovetop method. As long as you follow the recipe and continue to cook it, it will thicken, but you must practice patience. I use a stainless double boiler, and once the water begins to boil, the custard takes from 6 to 8 minutes to thicken. Once the top bowl is removed from the double boiler, the custard will continue to thicken.

Cookie Pudding: Prepare as above, however, omit the bananas.

Pineapple Pudding: Prepare as with banana pudding above, except substitute one large (28 ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained, for the bananas and combine the pineapple with the custard before layering. Also excellent with the alternate cream cheese and condensed milk or shortcut custard below.


Shortcut "Custard"
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of Watkins vanilla extract
  • 2 (3.4 ounce) packages of Jello vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) container of sour cream
To a mixer bowl combine the milk and vanilla extract. Add the vanilla instant pudding mix and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until thickened. Let stand for 5 minutes and then stir in the sour cream. Use this mixture in place of the homemade custard, eliminating the 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, milk and egg yolks. Layer the shortcut custard with the wafers and bananas, and prepare the meringue as directed above to top it off. Can also substitute whipped cream or Cool Whip for the meringue, if desired.

Cook's Note: Also excellent with a cream cheese, condensed milk and vanilla pudding filling found here.


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Posted by on July 26, 2009
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