FOOD: Southern Banana Pudding Recipe

Banana pudding is a dessert generally consisting of layers of sweet vanilla flavored custard, cookies (usually Vanilla Wafers or ladyfingers) and sliced fresh bananas placed in a dish and served, topped with whipped cream or meringue.

It is commonly associated with Southern U.S. cuisine, however, it can be found around the country. Furthermore, it closely resembles an English Trifle in that it is assembled in layers and includes custard, fruit, sponge cake, and whipped cream.

It can be prepared using a baked or refrigerated method, with the latter being the more popular, particularly among home cooks. Moreover, many recipes have been adapted using vanilla or banana pudding instead of a true custard. Other recipes omit the wafers. An early Banana pudding recipe was published in “The Kentucky Receipt Book,” by Mary Harris Frazer, in 1903. However, even this recipe does not include wafers.

North Carolina rock band Southern Culture on the Skids throws banana pudding (possibly pudding mix) during live shows and have a song, “Banana Pudding”, on their Plastic Seat Sweat album, dedicated to the dessert itself.

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
36 vanilla wafers
3 medium ripe bananas, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar

In a large saucepan, combine sugar and flour. Stir in milk until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter and vanilla.

In an ungreased 8-in. square baking dish, layer a third of the vanilla wafers, banana slices and filling. Repeat layers twice.

For meringue, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over hot filling, sealing edges to sides of baking dish.

Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until meringue is golden. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 8 servings.