Banana pudding is one of those quintessential, down south, home-cooking desserts. I have fond memories of after-church events where we would find a large pan of this creamy-crunchy treat. Those round, brown ‘Nilla Wafers’ were layered with sliced bananas and creamy vanilla pudding. I loved the bits of cookie that hadn’t completely disintegrated from the weight and moisture of the pudding. Those crunchy little bits of the cookies were my favorite! As much as I love this dessert, I had never made it myself. I was delighted when I saw the recipe as I perused Carla Hall’s newest cookbook, “Carla Hall’s Soul Food.”
Carla Hall is continuing to bring her love of soulful food to the mainstream with this newest cookbook. And as nostalgic as those ‘Nilla Wafers are.. I’m really skeptical of a cookie whose entire branding is based on the fact that there isn’t actually any real vanilla in it (hence the name “‘Nilla…”) Carla’s Banana Pudding recipe takes this rustic, soul food dessert and gives it am upgrade: No more ‘nilla wafers! Instead, there’s a delightfully buttery and crumbly shortbread cookie. Plus, instead of the Jell-O box vanilla pudding, there’s a pastry cream with mashed bananas cooked into it for double the banana goodness!
To make this dish, layer shortbread cookies with creamy banana custard and sliced bananas. The dish is then topped with meringue which can be browned in the oven, or toasted with a kitchen torch! (Of course, I love any chance I have to use my kitchen torch!)
This dessert was so good I made it twice in one week. I used a large trifle bowl the second time to make it family-style, and it was so classy! But, you can use any casserole dish.
Banana pudding with shortbread cookies recipe
From “Carla Hall’s Soul Food”
shortbread cookie recipe
3 cups (375g) all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups (150g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Combine flour and salt in medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream softened butter and sugar on medium speed. Once the mixture is creamy, add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture gradually. Beat, scraping the bowl down, until the dough comes together.
Remove the dough from the bowl and press together with your hands to form a 9 by 5 inch rectangular block. Transfer the dough to a large ziplock bag. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days).
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Slice the dough into 3x1 inch rectangles. Carefully place on the baking sheet, 1/2 inch apart.
Bake one sheet at a time until the edges are browned and the tops are golden, 14 to 18 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks before using. [These can be made ahead and stored in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.]
banana pudding recipe
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) half-and-half
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2 inch slices
6 large egg whites
1 cup (225g) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Make the pudding. Whisk the cornstarch, sugar, egg yolks and salt in a medium bowl. Heat the milk, half-and-half, and mashed banana in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges. While whisking the egg yolks, drizzle in the hot milk, continuing to whisk constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan set over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the pudding thickens. Once the custard boils, and bubbles break the surface, continue whisking for an additional two minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter.
Pour the custard through a strainer into a large bowl. Place plastic over the bowl, and push down so that it touches the pudding (this will prevent a skin from forming on the pudding). Refrigerate until cold.
Once the pudding is completely cold, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the cream into the cold pudding to loosen it. Gently fold in the remaining 2/3 of the whipped cream. Fold in the sliced banana.
Prepare the meringue. Whisk the egg whites and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch. Immediately transfer to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed until shiny, stiff peaks form. The bowl should no longer feel warm. Whisk in the vanilla and vinegar.
Assemble the pudding. Layer crumbled cookies with the pudding. Top with meringue and either bake in the oven (on “broil”) or torch until golden brown. Serve with whole shortbread cookies on the side. Serve immediately.