Banana Pudding is a classic Southern dessert, and for good reason. With its layers of rich vanilla custard, sliced bananas and vanilla wafers, it’s comfort food at its finest. This version adds a homemade rum-kissed caramel sauce and whipped cream to the mix, making it a little richer, slightly more indulgent, and possibly even more comforting. The vanilla pudding is probably my favorite component here; it uses less cornstarch than most recipes, relying more on egg yolks to thicken it (which accounts for its silky texture). This recipe will yield 4 to 6 servings, depending on the size of your serving glasses, and how generous you want your portions to be.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 2/3 cups (402 grams) whole milk
- 1/3 cup (77 grams) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) water
- 1/2 cup (116 grams) heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 teaspoons dark rum (optional)
- 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 tablespoons (12 grams) confectioners’ sugar (sifted, if lumpy)
- 4-6 ounces/113-170 grams Nabisco Nilla Wafers, broken into ¾-inch pieces, plus 4-6 whole wafers for garnish (amount depends on whether you make 4 or 6 parfaits)
- 2 ½ large ripe bananas, sliced
Make the pudding
1. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together half of the sugar with the cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream. Place the pan over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until well blended. When the milk mixture is ready, whisk about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks, then whisk this mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the pudding thickens slightly and just begins to bubble, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the butter until completely melted. Pour the pudding through the fine-mesh sieve into the medium bowl. Stir in the vanilla, then place the bowl into a larger bowl that is filled one-third of the way with ice water. Let the pudding stand in the ice bath, stirring frequently, until it is completely cool. Once cool, cover surface of the pudding with a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the caramel sauce
3. Half fill a small cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for brushing down the sides of the pan to prevent sugar crystals from forming). Place the cup next to the stove.
4. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and cook the sugar, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with the wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals that form. Cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep amber brown color. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the heavy cream (the mixture will bubble up furiously, so be careful). Stir to combine, then return the pan to low heat for another minute or so, to dissolve any hardened bits of sugar. Add the butter, salt and rum and stir very gently until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sauce to a heatproof glass measure with a pouring spout. Let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes, until it is just warm and has thickened slightly.
Make the whipped cream
5. Put the cream and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at medium speed until soft mounds just begin to form (but no peaks). Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat at medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary, until medium peaks just begin to form. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Assemble the parfaits
6. Using 1 ounce of the broken wafers, make a layer in the bottom of each of the dessert glasses. Divide half of the pudding evenly among the glasses, spoon it over the wafers. Top the pudding with a layer of banana slices (about 4 slices), then drizzle over some caramel sauce. Top with a layer of whipped cream. Repeat the layering once more, then garnish each dessert with a whole Nilla wafer. Refrigerate the parfaits for at least 1 hour before serving.