Updated: April 7, 2013 1:34AM
There are those recipes that call for certain processed and packaged ingredients. Turkey dressing made with seasoned bread cubes, a quiche made with a frozen pie crust, and pizza with sauce straight from a jar can get away with the label “homemade,” but those who cherish the art of truly homemade components might cringe at the description.
But it all comes down to the flavor. From-scratch recipes yield bolder tastes, crispier texture and something unidentifiable that just makes the entire recipe seem a little bit fresher.
That can be said for one recipe that is almost exclusively a semi-homemade meal: banana pudding. A classic in itself, it could be said that this Southern specialty doesn’t need any improvement. But a crunchy base of homemade vanilla wafers will argue differently. And so will a thick filling of real banana pudding.
Start with the wafers. These vanilla wafers have spunk: a lemony-vanilla aura with homespun crunch. They are, veritably, what moves this famous recipe from average to awesome. Each bite contains the same medley of flavors as the original semi-homemade recipe — banana, cream and vanilla wafer — but with drastically overtones.
There is, of course, a couple of drawbacks to a completely homemade banana pudding. For one, preparation is much more involved and time-consuming. Also, homemade cookies are perishable, so if the pudding isn’t consumed the day it is made, they will soften with time and refrigeration.
But that shouldn’t be a deterrent to making this upgraded version. Bold flavors and homespun charm make this comfort food dessert a real keeper.
31/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 large firm, yet ripe, bananas
Homemade vanilla wafers
Whipped cream for garnish
In a large stainless steel (or heatproof) bowl whisk together the 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and egg yolk. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk. Set aside while you heat the rest of the milk and sugar. Have ready a fine, medium-sized strainer and bowl as you will need to strain the pudding after it is cooked.
Rinse a medium-sized heavy saucepan with cold water and then shake out the excess water. Doing this step prevents the milk from scorching. Then pour the remaining 3 cups of milk, along with 1/4 cup of sugar, into the saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture to a clean large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-low heat.
Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or even overnight).
To assemble pudding: Take 6 or 8 bowls and place a few vanilla wafers in the bottom of each bowl. Spoon a little of the vanilla pudding over the cookies. Peel and slice the bananas and place a layer of bananas over the pudding in each bowl. Place another layer of pudding and bananas, then finish off with a layer of pudding.
Garnish each pudding with dollops of softly whipped cream, whole vanilla wafers, slices of banana.
7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
31/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon whole milk
Position one oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.
Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on two parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake two pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Let pans cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.
Banana pudding recipe adapted from thejoyofbaking.com, which cites “Sugar Pie & Jelly Roll” by Robbin Gourley and “Classic Home Desserts” by Richard Sax.
Vanilla wafer recipe adapted
from Alton Brown, 2010