I’ve had a long-standing love for banana pudding. Between it and Bananas Foster, I have a hard time choosing my favorite. At one point, it was my favorite dessert on earth. I bounce back and forth, now, between Sticky Toffee Pudding or Bananas Foster. Or anything with lemon. Or chocolate.
My favorite type of banana pudding, however, is the one that has the sweetened condensed milk and sour cream and extra Nilla wafers and all that awesome goodness, but I’m always up for trying a new version. (Matt made this version pictured, by the way). I’ve seen pastry chefs putting meringue on more than just pies for a while. So when we saw a meringue on top of a banana pudding in the latest issue of Bon Appetit, we knew it had to be a winner. And it was! However, I immediately knew a few tweaks I wanted to do to it once we tasted it. First, the base custard just wasn’t banana-y enough. We always keep a few black bananas in our freezer – when you want banana flavor, nothing beats an over-ripe banana. It’s so concentrated that just one will do to amp up the flavor in a vanilla pudding to make it burst with sweet banana flavor. Also, I would use a cooked meringue or a brown sugar meringue instead of the one from this recipe because the meringue wept too much, filling the leftovers up with water. Ick. Cooking your egg whites and sugar before whipping takes care of this problem.
However, for a eat-in-one-sitting recipe, the Bon Appetit version was great (but not banana-y enough, and leftovers got weird). So as long as you have a crowd, this dessert will impress and satisfy! (for the recipe below, I’ve included my favorite meringue and I’ve added a super-ripe banana, pureed into the base).
4 large eggs
⅔ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 super ripe (black) banana
Pinch of kosher salt
Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and whisk leaves a trail in pudding (it should be the consistency of mayonnaise), about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter, vanilla, a super-duper ripe banana and salt and puree with an immersion blender until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
3 large egg whites (room temp)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Place the brown sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan with high sides (that sugar will boil up and scare the meringue right out of you if you have a small pan), add water to cover, attach a candy thermometer to the pan, and turn the heat on high. When the sugar is at about 240 degrees, start whipping the whites on high speed (they should be foamy and starting to thicken before you add the sugar). When the sugar is at the high soft-ball stage (245 degrees), remove the thermometer from the sugar and, with the mixer still running, carefully avoiding the whip, pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin stream. When steam starts to come off the whites, add the sugar more quickly. When all sugar has been added, continue whipping until firm but soft peaks form.
1 box Nilla wafers
3 ripe bananas, sliced
Spread one third of the banana pudding into a casserole dish (9×9 or 9×13 will do fine). Top with a layer of alternating bananas and cookies, then more pudding and repeat until most or all of your ingredients are used up. Top with meringue and torch with a blow torch if that’s how you roll, or under a broiler with a very watchful eye (as in, don’t take your eyes off it).