The quintessential southern dessert — banana pudding — is found on the back of the box of Nilla wafers. You can certainly use Nilla brand wafers for this banana pudding and there will be no judgment and it will taste just like you remember when you ate it as a kid. OR you can make your own vanilla wafer cookies and be so glad you did.
They are super easy and fast to make and they don’t have any of the cardboard box flavor overtones. Wait, did that just come across as judgy? Either way you are going to love this recipe. I was inspired to make it after an old friend from high school (that’s a very old friend) made it for New Year’s Eve and posted pictures on Instagram. I found the Nilla wafer recipe in the BraveTart cookbook by Stella Parks.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram you probably have seen my pastry tutorial “stories.” I’m slightly obsessed with working through a recipe in 15-second intervals, often with eclectic baking music. You’ll find this banana pudding recipe made from start to finish on my Instagram page archived in my “highlights.” There are many other recipes and techniques you may want to check out there as well.
- 1 recipe vanilla wafers from BraveTart cookbook or a box of Nilla wafers from the store
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream whipped to stiff peaks
- 3 or 4 bananas
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- pinch salt
- 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 cups egg whites
- 4 cups (450g) sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract make your own
- pinch salt
- Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat.
- Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the egg and yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.
- Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. This is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle. Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.
- Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. The pastry cream will thicken almost immediately but it is important to cook out the starch so that it isn’t grainy and so your pastry cream won’t separate. Separating pastry cream is when the liquid releases from the cream, easily prevented by cooking for 2-3 minutes! When the pastry cream is done it will be smooth and glossy.
- Strain the pastry cream into a shallow container. Because the pastry cream is so thick you will need to press it through the strainer with a rubber spatula.
- Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Set the container in the freezer for 15 minutes (this cools down the eggs quickly) and then refrigerate for up to a few days.
- Bring about an inch of water in a saucepan to a simmer. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir the egg mixture with a rubber spatula until it is hot and all of the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place the bowl onto the stand mixer, fit with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until very think, glossy and stiff peaks when you lift the beater.
- Place a layer of the cookies in the bottom of a large glass bowl (so you can see the layers). To make the individual ones, divide all of the ingredients into small cups or jars.
- Fold the cream into the pastry cream, then spoon in 1/3 of the pastry cream over the cookies. Top with slices of bananas.
- Add a layer of cookies and repeat with 1/3 more pastry cream, more bananas and another layer of cookies. Finish with the remaining pastry cream. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.
- When ready to serve add more bananas and then top with Swiss Meringue. Toast with a torch and serve.