Last year, when Kelly was transferred to a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, our family and her closest friend took a break to get a bite to eat at a quaint bistro near the hospital. After everyone had eaten, the waitress brought the dessert menu and we ordered several of their special Banana Puddings to share. It was probably the best dessert I've ever tasted and was so satisfying--in fact, the dishes were "licked" clean! We went back on another day and repeated the same routine...it was that good.
I haven't made banana pudding in a long time, but thinking back on those last days, it definitely put us all in a hopeful mood, longing for Kelly to beat this and come home with us. Looking at ripening bananas on my counter, I thought back to this time and wanted to try to recreate this feeling; not to mention I'm tired of making banana bread.
Nilla Wafers are the brand name of Nabisco's biscuits that are used in this pudding--which made it's debut in 1967. The "no-bake" dessert combined fresh bananas, vanilla pudding, and the Nilla wafers in layers to create a beloved dish that families looked forward to at the end of a meal. My mother made it in a large glass bowl and when it was time to serve, she would spoon up this luscious concoction into a dessert cup. In the time between when my mother made the dessert and we ate it, the Nilla wafers would soften and become cake-like. It reminded me of a very simple trifle, of course, minus the booze!
In addition to roasting the bananas, I decided to make my own vanilla wafers. They're so easy to make and if you have a craving for this dessert and the grocery store is closed, you have an alternative. I was thinking about all the families affected by Hurricane Irene this weekend and how this dessert ranks up there as a Top Ten Comfort Food. I know, being so far away from family and friends, who endured this Category 1 storm, I needed something special today to let me know it's going to be alright and we'll get through this--that's what family means to me.
Roasted Banana Pudding with Homemade Vanilla Wafers
14 T unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 large eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Powder
1 1/3 + 2 T King Arthur all-purpose flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 275F-degrees. Use a Silpat on a baking sheet on lightly butter a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Put butter in a medium glass or stainless steel bowl over heated water. Beat with a wooden spoon or a whisk until light and fluffy.
Sift confectioners sugar over the butter and whisk in until completely combined.
Add two of the eggs and whisk once more. Add the final two eggs and vanilla and whisk again until combined. Sift the flour over the batter and fold in.
You can use a small scoop or place batter into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip to place cookies on baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly on the sheet, then, transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.
Raise the oven temperature to 350F-degrees. On a small baking sheet, lined with parchment, place five bananas (with their skins) on it.
Bake 20 minutes and remove three of the bananas to a cutting board to cool completely. Continue to roast the last two bananas for another 20 minutes.
The first 3 bananas should be peeled and carefully sliced in 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside. Mash the remaining bananas to use in the pudding.
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk and sugar, just to a simmer.
In a medium bowl blend:
1/3 granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
Pour the hot milk mixture over this mixture, whisking the entire time so you don't "cook" the eggs.
Return mixture back to the sauce pan and bring to a soft boil. After the mixture thickens, remove from the stove top and add 1 tsp. Vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. Banana Flavoring. Stir well.
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pour the pudding back into the medium glass bowl and set that bowl on top of an ice-filled bowl.
When the pudding cools down (about 30 to 45 minutes) add 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream.
(Whisk heavy cream in a copper bowl or use a hand held mixer.)
Place cooled banana pudding in the bottom of a dessert dish
Pace 3 vanilla wafers next, hen add the sliced roasted banana slices, distributing them among 6 dishes.
Add more pudding, then a few more vanilla wafers and finally whip enough cream to stread on top. Chill dessert at least an hour before serving.
Likewise, you can make this dessert in one large dish and scoop out the amount for serving as my mother would do when serving it.
Banana Pudding is truly comforting and after a long weekend of worrying about our loved ones, it was just what "the doctor" ordered. As Ari and Maddie would say..."All Done." Enjoy!