Banana Pudding is a thoroughly classic Southern dessert. It comes in many forms, but almost all involve vanilla pudding with slices of bananas and a layering of vanilla wafers. This combination, quite frankly, reminds me of going to Morrison’s Cafeteria with my grandmother in Clearwater, Fl. Although I have fond memories of those outings, the food was neither good, nor memorable. It seems to me that banana pudding should be made with bananas, not just as an accessory. This may be a conclusion based on the fact that I only had two overly ripe bananas in my fruit basket when this recipe came to me. I pureed them and added them to the vanilla pudding as I whisked it. The result is a rich flavor, which beats the pants off of the unnatural “banana extract” or liqueurs many recipes call for and it has a silky smooth texture. I thought it should be topped with something warm, caramel-y and have just a slight bite of Bourbon. Banana Foster on top of the pudding, an ode to Mardi Gras! For those who just can’t fathom banana pudding without vanilla wafers, by all means you should crush some up and sprinkle them over the top.
I’d like to thank YOU and Babble.com for voting Zoë Bakes on to the list of Top 100 Mom Food Blogs 2011!  It is a crazy honor to be listed with such talented women.
Banana Pudding with Caramel Bananas and Bourbon Banana Carmel Sauce:
For the Pudding:
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoons salt
2 very ripe bananas, pureed
2 cups half and half
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 
2 tablespoons butter
For the caramelized bananas and sauce:
2 just barely ripe bananas – (if they are too soft they will fall apart while cooking)
1/2 cup brown sugar, well packed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Bourbon
1/3 cup heavy cream
To make the pudding:
Heat the half and half, 1/4 cup of the sugar and vanilla bean in a non-reactive pan over medium low heat, unitl just simmering.
Whisk together the egg yolks, remaining sugar, cornstarch and banana puree. Once the milk simmers, add a small amount of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture to warm the yolks.
Return the yolk/banana mixture to the pan of milk and bring the mixture to a boil.
Whisk continuously for 3 minutes. This is very important or it will feel grainy.
The pudding may get thick before the 3 minutes are up, but keep whisking.
Once the pudding has been boiling for 3 minutes, whisk in the butter.
Pour into a non-reactive shallow dish and cover with plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding.
To make the bananas and sauce:
In a skillet heat the brown sugar, butter, vanilla bean, salt and bourbon. (NOT the cream yet!)
heat over medium until the mixture melts and is just beginning to smoke.
Slice the bananas into 1/4 inch thick coins and add to the caramel.
Gently toss them in the caramel.
Once they have softened slightly and have taken on some of the caramel color, remove the bananas with a fork and set them aside.
Add the heavy cream to the remaining caramel and
whisk until smooth.
Spoon the bananas and caramel over the pudding and serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipping cream and vanilla wafers.
See my Mardi Gras “King Cake” on Andrew Zimmern’s Blog!