After almost 50 years of popularity, banana pudding has become a classic with many variations. What follows is an old-fashioned custard-based banana pudding. Since its humble beginnings in the 1940s to its appearance on boxes of Nabisco Nilla Wafers, to its transformation to instant pudding mixes, this dessert has been American home food of the best sort. The current edition of The Joy of Cooking calls banana pudding an American grown trifle (English pudding). Others compare it to banana cream pie. With a custard to cook and a meringue to beat and bake, this pudding is fairly difficult to prepare.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups milk
- 4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 40 (6 ounces) vanilla wafers
- 4 (1½ to 2 pounds) ripe bananas
- 4 ounces marshmallow cream
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and then prepare the custard. In a medium-size cold saucepan combine the sugar with the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk, and then cook over medium heat until the mixture bubbles 1 minute.
- In a small bowl whisk the yolks until smooth. Whisk about 1/3 of the hot milk mixture into the yolks, and then return this to the saucepan. Whisk and cook for a moment or until the yolks thicken and reach 177 degrees F. Do not let the mixture boil. Stir in the vanilla. Cool 15 minutes.
- Line the bottom of a small (6-cup or 6x10-inch) casserole dish with 12 vanilla wafers, and slice 2 bananas lengthwise over the wafers. Stir the custard and pour 1/3 of it over the wafers. Repeat, adding 12 more vanilla wafers and 2 bananas. Press 10 wafers into an upright position around the sides of the dish. Position these wafers so they touch the sides of the dish. Top with the remaining custard.
- To prepare the meringue topping, beat the egg whites until frothy, and slowly add the marshmallow cream. When these are fully mixed and stiff, spread the meringue over the pudding, sealing to the standing vanilla wafers. Using the back of a spoon, draw the meringue into peaks. Garnish by pressing 6 vanilla wafers across the center of the pudding. Bake 3 minutes, or until the peaks of the meringue brown.
Serve warm or cold in small dessert bowls. Offer hot coffee or tea.