Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Banana Pudding

When I first started dating my hubby, I was very intimidated by American cuisine. The thought of cooking American food used to make me break into a cold sweat. My experience with American food ended at burgers and fried chicken courtesy of KFC, whose chicken I had eaten-only once-while living in Kenya. So whenever we decided to eat in, I would go the tried and tested path. I would always make African food. At least that, I knew I was good at making. I had a life-changing experience however, when hubby (then boyfriend), took me to meet his grandma (we called her "Gramps") in Cleveland. She was the sweetest little lady, and MAN, could she cook!! Now Gramps was originally from the South (Andersonville, North Carolina to be precise). Its no secret that cooks from the South of the US are a force to reckon with in the kitchen. On that day, mine eyes saw the glory of a wonderfully prepared meal my friends! And I was grateful for the experience. It was at that point that I resolved to learn how to make, and be good at making American food. To be more specific, Southern food. Food with soul and flavor. What I'm about to share with you is the recipe for one dish that I have come to love and is quite popular in the US. I first tasted this dish at Gramps'. 

Banana pudding is now one of my signature dishes. This is one dish that always makes an appearance at my Thanksgiving table each year. Since Thanksgiving is around the corner, I thought I would share the recipe with you. This recipe is a "from scratch" recipe and does not involve using packaged vanilla pudding as you will make the pudding from scratch. It is pleasing to the senses as it not only looks good, but tastes great as well. The recipe follows:
2 cans evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk!),
11/2- 2 cups sugar depending on how sweet you want the pudding (I use 11/2 cups).
2 Tablespoons  unsalted butter.
1 extra-large egg (slightly beaten).
2 Tablespoons cornstarch.
2 boxes good quality vanilla wafers.
3-4 ripe bananas.
1 Teaspoon good quality vanilla extract (not essence. Get the real thing, it adds such a rich flavor!)
***Special Equipment: metal whisk and ladle***
-Pour the 2 cans of evaporated milk into a heavy-bottom, medium-sized saucepan and heat on medium heat.
-Before the evaporated milk gets hot, add the egg, butter and sugar and stir constantly with the whisk so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
-Gradually add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously as you add to break down any lumps that may form,
-keep whisking regularly for 10mins until the pudding thickens. Do not let it cook for too long as it will be too thick to pour out when assembling the pudding.
-Remove the pudding from the heat, add the vanilla and stir.
-Place the pudding aside and allow it to cool for 5 mins.











-While the pudding cools down, arrange a layer of wafer cookies at the bottom of the bowl in which you will assemble your pudding (I used a trifle bowl). Make sure the cookies are arranged such that they are touching each other in the bowl.
-Use the ladle to pour a layer of pudding over the wafers.
-Slice your first banana at this point to 1/4 inch thickness (you don't want to pre-slice them prior to this point as they will oxidize and brown).
-Lay your banana slices over the layer of pudding and arrange in a single layer ensuring that they too, touch each other.
-Then using the ladle, spread another layer of the pudding over the bananas and repeat the process again (wafer layer-pudding layer-banana layer-pudding layer-wafer layer).
-Your last layer should be the wafer layer and you should arrange them is a staggered fashion (as shown in the video) to make the final product aesthetically pleasing.

You can serve it at room temperature or you can chill for 30mins-1hr prior to serving. I prefer mine at room temperature. Serve in a bowl and enjoy! :-)
Tip: Using a whisk as opposed to a solid spoon will produce a silkier pudding/custard as a whisk will be better at breaking down the lumps that a solid spoon would leave behind. If you do not have a whisk, use a solid spoon, but run your pudding through a strainer/sieve once you are done cooking it (before you assemble the banana pudding).