Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Birthday Banana Pudding

Mr. Clever Mom requested banana pudding for his birthday.  Usually he wants a coconut cream pie (divine!!) but I guess he wanted to change things up a bit so banana pudding it was.  I pulled out an Alton Brown recipe and went to work!

First off, though you could so easily BUY vanilla wafers, when you are goofy like me and you can find an actual recipe for them, you make them!  So that is what I did.  This too was an Alton Brown recipe.

An important ingredient for this recipe is vanilla sugar.  This is something no baker's home should be without, in my humble opinion.  It is delicious with pretty much anything.  Whenever you happen to use a vanilla bean, when you are done with it's original use, rinse it off and let it dry.  When it is good and dry, stick it in a bowl with some sugar.  That's it!  I just keep refilling the bowl with sugar and sticking in new beans as I happen to have them available.  The sugar in that bowl will take on a yummy vanilla flavor!  You don't even need to be a baker to use this stuff.  Put it in your coffee!  Put it in anything you happen to sprinkle sugar on and you will be happy. 

The recipe also calls for 7 ounces of flour so that needs to be weighed first.  Then sift it with baking powder and salt and set it aside.

Cream the butter and vanilla sugar, then add an egg.

 Once the egg is mixed in, add vanilla extract and milk.  More vanilla!  Can there be too much vanilla in a vanilla wafer?  I think not.

Add in the flour mixture just until it is incorporated, and then stick the bowl in the refrigerator.  Here is where I started to think Alton was a little nutty.  The recipe says it makes approximately 70 cookies.  Does that tiny bit of dough look like will make 70 cookies to you?  Hmmm.

After taking the dough out of the refrigerator, drop them in teaspoon-sized balls onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Flatten the balls with your hand a little bit.  They do not really grow very much so you can put the balls fairly close together.  I really did make these small little balls.  I should have put something in the photo for perspective, but they are actually quite small.  But still, I did not manage to get 70 cookies.  Maybe about 55-60.  (I did count but promptly forgot what I counted!  Ugh.)

Bake them at 350F for about 15 minutes and ta-da!  Vanilla wafers!  They aren't the perfect little discs you get out of the box, but man are they good!  And no weird preservatives!  I highly recommend this recipe for your vanilla wafer needs!

Vanilla Wafers
adapted from Food Network, Alton Brown
7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.
Printable Recipe

Now let's incorporate these little wafers into banana pudding.  

Mix 3 sliced bananas with some lemon juice.  I ended up using a 4th banana...

Make the pudding.  Combine sugar, flour and salt in a saucepan.  Add egg yolks and whisk, then add the half and half and whisk.  Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 172-180F.  Many recipes I reviewed before choosing this one did not make pudding from scratch.  They used packaged pudding.  That is just not my style, so I found this recipe and went with it.  If you need vanilla pudding, this is a great recipe to try.  It really isn't hard, but having a good thermometer is a must!

Once the pudding is made, assemble your banana pudding!  First goes a thin layer of pudding (enough to make the wafers stick where they need to go).  Then wafers, banana, pudding, wafers, banana, you get it!  There are 3 layers total, ending with a layer of pudding.  Here is where I think the recipe falls short.  There simply isn't enough pudding for me.  I think the banana/wafer/pudding ratio needs to fall heavily in the pudding side, so each layer has about twice the thickness of pudding as it has wafers and bananas.  This recipe allowed for a very thin layer of pudding over each banana layer.  That is just not enough.  I like to sink my spoon into some creamy goodness accented by crunchy wafers and bananas.  If I made it again, I would probably double the pudding recipe.

Next comes a meringue.  Some banana puddings have whipped cream on top, this one had a meringue.  Ok.  Clearly, I was not thinking on this day.  I LOVE the meringue you get when you start making Swiss Meringue buttercream.  I have sworn to myself that I would never use any other meringue recipe again.  I already broke that promise.  I made the meringue from the banana pudding recipe instead of Swiss meringue.  What was I thinking?  Once you have had the perfect meringue, nothing can compare.  Alas, it was not my day.

Anyway, make your meringue and scoop it onto the top of the pudding in whatever formation you choose.  Stick it in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes, until browns evenly.  

My daughter thought the meringue looked pretty cool when it came out of the oven.  She came running in the kitchen and said "Oh, boy!!"

But, not so "oh, boy" for me.  To make it "oh, boy", I recommend doubling the pudding recipe and using Swiss Meringue.  Now THAT would be delicious!  This was good, but was lacking for us in a few ways.  It is a rare occasion that Alton Brown lets me down, and it happened today.  Oh well.  Maybe next year we'll be back to Coconut Cream Pie for my hubby's birthday.  Now that is a delicious treat!

Baked Banana Pudding
adapted from Food Network, Alton Brown

3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 vanilla wafers
1 pinch cream of tartar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
Toss the banana slices and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour and salt in a 3-quart saucier. Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add the half-and-half and carefully whisk to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 172 to 180 degrees F, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken and bubble around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
Spread a small amount of the pudding in the bottom of an oven-safe 1 1/2-quart glass mixing bowl. Cover with a layer of vanilla wafers, followed by a layer of banana slices. Pour 1/3 of the remaining pudding on top of the bananas and repeat, ending with a layer of pudding.
Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Spoon the meringue over the warm pudding, being sure to cover the edges. Bake until the meringue is evenly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pudding from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Cool completely before refrigerating. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Printable Recipe

1 comment:

  1. Love getting a chance to hang out in your kitchen with you!! Thanks so much for sharing. 70 cookies from that ball of dough?! HA!


Due to some bizarre spam comments I have recently received, I am moderating the comments for a while. I hope this spam craziness stops so this becomes unnecessary!