Old-Fashioned Homemade Banana Pudding: Hot or Cold?

Meringue-topped banana pudding -- one of the ultimate comfort foods!
Meringue-topped banana pudding — one of the ultimate comfort foods!

When I was little, one of my mom’s “go-to” desserts was banana pudding. It was quick, easy, and didn’t require any special ingredients (except bananas, and we kept those most of the time, too). She could pop it in the oven while we were eating and it was ready to eat by the time we finished. She always served it hot out of the oven. Imagine how shocked it was the first time I encountered cold banana pudding!

Okay, yes, she did put it in the fridge if there were any leftovers, but we almost always reheated it when we ate leftovers.

And THEN I found out . . . some people use instant pudding from a box to make banana pudding!!! I thought that was possibly the most horrendous thing I had ever heard. It also went a long way toward explaining why no one else’s banana pudding tasted right to me.

I once considered trying graham crackers instead of vanilla wafers, but my daughter set me right pretty quickly. “You can mess around with recipes all you want, but you don’t mess with my banana pudding!” (This was said in a very determined tone of voice, while giving me the evil eye.)

(I wonder what she would do if I tried to serve this to her cold . . .)

Once you try this recipe, you will also wonder why you would ever do that. (The ingredients are in bold to make it easier to find them.)

Start by putting a cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of flour in a saucepan. (That’s all-purpose flour, in case you wondered.) Mix the two well, until there aren’t any lumps in the flour.

Separate 2 eggs. (If you don’t know how, check out this video. Or this one — it’s pretty cool if you have an empty plastic drink bottle.) Set aside the whites, but beat the yolks well in their bowl. (You will need the whites later.)

Add 2 cups of milk and the beaten egg yolks to the dry ingredients. (I use whole milk, but I think my sister used 2% and it turns out okay.) Stir the mixture well, until the dry ingredients are completely mixed in. Put the saucepan over medium heat  until the mixture starts to thicken.  Be sure to stir almost constantly, to keep the milk from scorching. While you are stirring, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan (especially the sides) very well, in case you missed some of the dry ingredients earlier.

When the mixture has thickened to a pudding consistency, take it off the heat. Stir in about a teaspoon of vanilla ( I almost never measure this, to be honest. I just pour a little in, and then add just a touch more to make sure I have enough), a pinch of salt, and 3 tablespoons of butter. (Yes, real butter. Always real butter. And yes, it matters.) If you cut the butter into 3-4 pieces, it will melt faster.

Let the butter melt into the pudding. You can stir it, to help it melt faster, but you don’t have to since you took the pan off the heat. While the butter is melting, line the bottom of a medium sized glass dish with vanilla wafers. Slice about 1 -1/2 bananas over the cookies. (That makes about 3 bananas total. If your bananas are small, it may take 4.)

Once the butter is completely melted, stir to make sure it is mixed in, and then pour half the pudding over the cookies and bananas.

Make another layer of cookies on top of the pudding, slice the rest of your bananas on top of that, and finish off with the rest of the pudding. You can also make a row of cookies standing up on the top edge after you finish the layers. This just makes it pretty. (It doesn’t affect  the taste at all, so if you are running out of cookies, it’s okay. You don’t have to go to the store to finish!)

To finish up, you need an electric mixer. Dump the 2 egg whites into the bowl and mix them on high until soft peaks form. Use the wire whisk attachment if you have one. (You CAN do this with a whisk by hand, but it takes a lot longer. Go with electric.) When soft peaks form, gradually add 2 tablespoons of sugar, while mixing. When all the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and use a spatula to get all the grains of sugar off the side of the bowl. Restart the mixer and mix on high until stiff peaks form. You just made homemade meringue!

Using the spatula, spoon the meringue onto the center of the pudding, then gently spread it all the way to the edges with the spatula. No pudding should show on top when you finish. Pat the top of the meringue wiht the flat side of the spatula to pull up peaks.

Put the pudding in the oven at about 350 degrees to brown.  (If you are cooking something else at the same time, the temperature isn’t terribly important. I wouldn’t try to brown it at less than 300 degrees because it won’t brown very easily. I also wouldn’t go higher than 400 degrees, because it is really easy to burn it.) Watch it closely because it only takes about 5-8 minutes to brown, depending on your oven.

Take the pudding out when the peaks are golden brown and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving. (The pudding will thicken even more as it cools.) It may not look pretty on a plate, but it probably won’t be there long enough for anyone to notice!

One tip: don’t use bananas that are overripe, or they will just turn into mush. Yuck. I personally like the tang of using them a little bit green, but some people don’t like that.

If you have never eaten banana pudding hot, you don’t know what you are missing, so I will forgive you. As long as you promise to try it hot when you make this recipe!

If you actually prefer it cold, I don’t know what to say. . . words fail me. Just . . . bless your heart! (You know what that means in Southern, right? 😀 )

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4 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Homemade Banana Pudding: Hot or Cold?

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