Banana Pudding Please

This weekend I learned a valuable life lesson. Never, never make instant banana pudding.

I love banana pudding. It’s one of my all time favorite desserts in the history of desserts. So this weekend when Heath and I were assigned to bring dessert to our Second Annual Valentine’s Potluck Dinner, I knew I had to bring banana pudding. After all, it meets all three of my key criteria: it’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s delicious. I loaded up on a few packages of JELLO-brand instant banana creme pudding, fresh naners and a box of Nilla Wafers.

In went the milk, in went the mixture and the fresh bananas and out came a completely unspectacular dish of jiggly, bland pudding. No, no. This wouldn’t do. There was a dinner party for eight to be had and I owed my guests something grander than this pathetic display of artificial banana-flavored sugar.

Luckily the box of wafers came to my rescue. There, on the side panel, were instructions for homemade-in-less-than-30-minutes banana pudding.

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional NILLA Wafers and banana slices, for garnish

1. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

2. Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.

3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

4. Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly or refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.

I must apologize for being late to the party. While I’m sure everyone in the universe has made homemade banana pudding before, I sadly admit this was my first stab at it. In a world where fast food drive thrus, Ramen Noodles, and instant coffee are all a part of mainstream America, I bought into the idea that, perhaps like Betty Crocker cake mixes, prepackaged, precooked and essentially premade banana pudding is probably just as good as the real thing. It. Is. Not.

The frothy egg white topping, the rich and soothing custard, the light and crunchy mingling of wafers and ripe bananas made my tongue and insides do somersaults. How could I have been so blind during all of these years of cooking for myself? And what’s more perplexing, why would anyone make instant pudding when in just 15 extra minutes you can have a platter of heaven in your own kitcken? Oh world, how mysterious thou art.

So this is my farewell to the old, and a big bear hug welcome to the homemade good stuff. I feel homemade banana pudding and I will be very happy together.

 



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