Thursday, July 20, 2006

Banana-bo-bana, Bonana fanna fo...or something like that

Yesterday, I mentioned bringing banana pudding to school, so I thought that might be a good topic for today. In my years of observation, there seem to be two schools of thought in the South on banana pudding: The Cooked and The Uncooked. Each kind has its rabid devotees, and while some of us can cross over the lines, because we'll eat anything with 'Nilla Wafers, the debate rages on.

And, heaven help you if you take a box of Jell-O instant banana-flavored pudding and plunk a few bananas in it along with a few vanilla wafers and present that as "nanner puddin'"...that amounts to treasonous blasphemy, and you will be summarily executed by both camps, and you will be deemed to be unfit and (gasp) a bad cook. And no one will ever ask you to a barbecue again. Ever.

See, banana pudding doesn't really contain a banana-flavored base pudding. It starts with some sort of vanilla-based concoction, to which you add bananas and vanilla wafers. Hence, the undisguised contempt for instant banana-flavored pudding. To me, the cooked variety is sort of "old school," in that most of the ones I have come across were prepared by the proverbial little old ladies. It involves cooking a custard and making meringue and baking/browning the meringue. Way too much work for it looks really ugly the next day.

My favorite version is the uncooked one developed by the good folks at the Borden Test Kitchen (producers of the delectable and delightful Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk) least I assume that's how they did it. I got the recipe from the can label, and it is a bonafide, no-fail, people will love you for-evah if you bring this to the next potluck, kind of dessert. Plus, it is so very easy that anyone can do it...including people who don't normally cook (i.e., can't cook) and are relegated to bringing soft drinks to potluck gatherings.

Creamy Banana Pudding


1 14-oz can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed milk (NOT the evaporated kind)

1 1/2 cups cold water

1 4-serving size package of instant vanilla pudding mix (Jell-O is my preferred brand)

1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream, whipped

1 box of vanilla wafers--I use either 'Nilla Wafers or the Keebler ones

4-6 or even more bananas, sliced (you can toss them in lemon water if you want, but this pudding won't last long enough for them to turn brown)


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, water, and the pudding mix; chill for at least 5 minutes. I usually throw it in the fridge while I beat the whipped cream. Fold the whipped cream in to the pudding mix and blend thoroughly. Mixture will be sort of light and fluffy. Line the bottom of a footed trifle bowl with a layer of vanilla wafers. Place some of the sliced bananas on top of the wafers. Spoon in about 1 cup of the pudding mixture. Top that with another layer of wafers, bananas and pudding. Repeat twice. Garnish the top with a layer of vanilla wafers and chill until ready to serve.

You don't have to use a trifle bowl, but it does make a nice presentation, and looking good is always half the battle. And, I always buy the name brand version of the ingredients. Especially the wafers. Nabisco's 'Nilla Wafers are the preferred, and the elves over at that Keebler joint make a pretty good version, too.

Of course the key to this dessert is the Eagle Brand. Whatever you do, don't buy the low-fat version (or the non-fat version of the damned!) of the sweetened condensed milk. This is dessert! It is an indulgence! Eat smaller servings if you must, but don't skimp on the flavor! Besides, it has bananas in it, so it should count as a fruit serving. Take that, USDA food pyramid!

Besides, how many times do you get to legitimately lick the Eagle Brand can? I have to really make myself take a rubber spatula and scrap out the can to get every drop to put in the bowl. I war with myself every time about leaving some in the can to eat, and I've come way too close for comfort to the slicing of my tongue than you really want to know. Sometimes, you just have to lick the damn lid.

Hell yes, I know it's a diabetic coma in a can, but...but...but it's so very yummy. And the voices in my head told me it was okay to lick the lid. Honest. I bet your voices would tell you the same thing.

The fine folks at Eagle Brand have a whole bunch of recipes chock full of the fine and tasty stuff. The Coconut Custard Pie looks worthy of a whirl. And, the Eagle Brand fudge is the easiest fudge in all the land, and is also fantabulous!

The most entertaining thing about the actual can of Eagle Brand is the statement on the label that warns you not to cook the unopened can. Boiling a can of Eagle Brand until it makes a sort of creme caramel is one of those things that I long to do, but am extremely afraid to do...something about exploding cans of hot caramel napalm. There's some alternatives to this method on the Eagle Brand website, but where's the fun in that? Danger Cooking Theater! Maybe the alternative is to sucker a friend into doing it in his or her kitchen. Yeah, that's the ticket!!


Linna said...

Thank you for the nanner pudding recipe! I reveal my Yankee-hood when I confess that I've never made one.

Can we have banana pudding for your birthday? Joseph would grovel at your feet.

About making caramel sauce using the Eaglebrand sweetened condensed milk, I've heard that you can make it in a crockpot by putting the can on something in the crockpot (so it doesn't touch the bottom), filling half way up the can with water and then cooking all day on Low with the lid on. Might be worth a google.

Kim said...

My whole family loves banana pudding. I will have to try out your recipe.

Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed milk is the best. I understand licking the lid. I use it to make my Key Lime pie, for which is a staple at family picnics.

Belinda said...

YES, you DO have to serve it in a trifle bowl--are you kidding me? With alternating layers of 'Nilla Wafer and nana slices mushed up on the glass. This is not something I eat (just not a big banana fan, not ever), but it's something my entire family LOVES. When I was little, I just picked out the cookies and ate them.

And I have to tell you that, when he was a baby? My husband was seriously fed PET milk. In a bottle. I kid you not.

And around here, it would always be PET brand before Eagle when dessert-making, I'm pretty sure.

jessie said...

Paula Deene's "Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding" is pretty darn good, although it's by no means classic:

2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6 to 8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.
In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Honestly, I always hated the bananas in banana pudding.