Have you ever been to Magnolia Bakery in New York? Did you wait in the interminable line for the fairly decent cupcakes? Did you get to the front and notice that the line is only for the cupcakes? If you don’t need a cupcake, you can come right to the front and you can get their banana pudding immediately. And it is good. Nilla wafers, bananas, and vanilla pudding. Simple, sublime.
Four years after leaving New York, I am still having cravings, so decided that it’s time to make my own.
One recipe I considered said “Magnolia” in the title, but it used instant vanilla pudding mix and condensed milk. Nope. That can’t be right. Instant pudding tastes artificial and isn’t as creamy. Plus it still had to set in the fridge for hours, so you don’t save yourself any time.
Another recipe on Martha Stewart required cornstarch, which I didn’t have or want to buy, and it seemed fixated on whipped cream, which to me is the least important part.
Then I found Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate. Her website was delightful. She’s funny, and she knew exactly the kind of banana pudding I was looking for. She also has an article on bacon grease where people can post their own photos of their bacon grease jars, which is kind of beside the point but just goes to show the general wonderfullness of her site.
Her pudding consists of milk, egg yolks, sugar, flour, salt, and vanilla. Then she pours it over Nilla wafers and a lot of bananas in a big bowl. I made a few changes – lowering the sugar, increasing the salt, and actually doubling the amount of pudding to reach the ratio I like. The results were much better than I had even dreamed of, and I got to eat it warm, which you certainly can’t say about instant pudding, or even Magnolia’s.
Banana Pudding (adapted from Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate.)
You can make it in one large bowl or in individual serving dishes. I doubled the amount of pudding (reflected in measurements below) because I prefer a higher pudding-to-wafer ratio and I wanted to fill a larger serving bowl. If your love of pudding is more, shall we say, subdued (no judgments…), then you could halve the pudding and keep the wafer and banana amount the same. The recipe below filled a big bowl and served 10 quite happily.
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup flour
- 6 egg yolks
- 4 cups whole milk [I’m not sure if you could get away with a lower-fat milk. Let me know if you try it].
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 box vanilla wafers [I agree with Christy that Nilla wafers are probably the best. I couldn’t find any so went with the Whole Foods store brand, which were fine].
- 5 bananas
1. Peel and slice your bananas into discs so they are ready to go once the pudding is done.
2. In a sauce pot, whisk the sugar, salt, and the egg yolks together. Then add the flour in small portions, stirring as you go. Then pour in the milk slowly, stirring bit by bit so that you don’t get lumps. Turn on heat to medium-low and keep stirring for about 10 minutes to prevent scorching. (I like that Christy recommends reading a magazine during the stirring portion — which I did).
3. Pay attention because when the mixture starts thickening it will happen fast. You’ll first notice it as just a little bit more resistance as you’re stirring. Let it thicken until it coats the back of a spoon, then remove the pot from the heat as quickly as you can.
4. Stir in the vanilla.
5. With everything ready, start composing your layers in the bowl (pudding, wafers, banana slices, pudding, repeat). This is totally based on your preference but make sure that wafers get nice and pudding-soaked, especially on the bottom.
6. Finish with some crumbled wafers on top, and serve warm or chilled. The longer you wait, the softer the wafers will get, which is great — but it really is hard to wait. Some people like whipped cream on top too, but for me this just impedes access to the pudding.