When I crave comfort food, it usually involves cheese and/or meat and/or some sort of rich sauce — rarely do I lean toward a dessert. But a few weeks ago I was at a potluck and there were three (yaaay) banana puddings. If you’re from the South, you know the banana pudding of which I speak. Yeah, the one with vanilla wafers, lots of bananas and vanilla custard, topped with a bunch of yummy meringue. I have to admit I felt obligated to try all three of the puddings and all were great, but each was missing one special ingredient — bourbon.
The best banana pudding I ever ate was at the 3rd Annual YMCA Chili Cook-off (which I won for my black bean chili, BTW, but I digress.) This pudding won the best dessert at the Cook-off and I found out the secret ingredient was bourbon.
It was delectable, and after a few tries of replicating it, I think I’ve found a recipe that comes close. Maybe one day if anyone gifts me a cooking torch, my dessert may look like this fancy-pants one. At least mine tastes great, even without the staging!
When I was searching for an easy banana pudding recipe, I found this one from Tricia Yearwood (yes, the country singer and Food Network chef.) I liked the simplicity of it and the only thing I changed was to add some Jim Beam honey bourbon (for extra complexity and sweetness) to the custard and some cream of tartar to the meringue. Here’s a link to Ms. Yearwood’s original recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/trisha-yearwood/banana-pudding.html
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons honey bourbon or more to taste (Jim Beam will do the trick)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 30 to 40 vanilla wafers
- 3 to 4 medium ripe bananas
- ¼ cup cream of tartar
Separate the yolks from the whites of 3 of the eggs; set aside the whites. Add the remaining whole egg to the yolks.
In a saucepan, whisk together ½ cup sugar, flour and salt.
Stir in the whole egg, 3 yolks, milk and bourbon.
Over medium heat, stir often until the custard thickens, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of the pudding in a 1½ quart casserole.
Arrange a layer of vanilla wafers on top of the pudding.
Thinly slice the bananas crosswise, about 1/8 inch thick, and arrange them over the wafers.
Spread one-third of the remaining pudding over the bananas and continue layering wafers, bananas and pudding, ending with pudding. Bake for 10 minutes.
For the meringue, beat the reserved egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are stiff. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup sugar.
Spread the meringue over the pudding, making several swirls on top.
Bake on a low rack in the oven until the meringue is lightly browned, approximately 5 minutes.
Let your pudding sit a few minutes before serving. And, yes, please go back for seconds and thirds! Since bananas are in season all year around here, this pudding can always be in your dessert rotation. Yum, yum, yum, yum!