I’m pretty sure the season finale of LOST already happened, so just use it as a stand-in for whatever other thing you want your kids asleep for: pulling out the bong, playing Grand Theft Auto, watching an R-rated moving picture, talking about them behind their backs, or obsessively watching Discovery Channel specials about the truth and/or fiction of the conspiracy theories behind Angels & Demons even though you find the book itself to be a horrid pastiche of cliches and harbinger of the destruction of literature.*
*Say what you want, but link to the Illuminati or no, Freemasons are weird.
Even if none of those things are the case for you, you’re going to want to make this anyway: grown-up banana pudding. Bananas folded into bourbon pastry cream, layered with gingersnaps and topped with a thick layer of slightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream.
A little more work than traditional banana pudding, maybe. Worth it? I can’t actually say, since I’ve never had traditional banana pudding, so I probably shouldn’t have asked the question. I can say that this is really, really good; a sophisticated pudding that makes a lovely ending to the killer arroz con pollo one’s neighbors have prepared for dinner. Also, you get to lick the bourbon pastry cream bowl and spatula, so bonus.
Sadly, I’d already started making the pudding when the dinner invite came in, and one of the hosts doesn’t like bananas. Fortunately, that just meant more banana pudding for the rest of us. I’m not making a second dessert just because someone freakishly doesn’t like bananas, The World’s Most Benign Fruit.
Aside: The funny mustache-to-conspiracy theorist ratio is really quite high, while White House historians tend to prefer either the classic walrus or a clean-shaven face. I’ve learned this thanks to the Discovery Channel, the channel you turn to when you want to learn about Templar conspiracies, horrific and rare medical disorders* and crab fishing. (I watch it mostly for the crab fishing. I know every episode of that show is basically the same, but I’m like a moth to the flame.)
*This 175-pound tumor was actually my twin sister! And since it’s the Discovery Channel, the actual name of the show would be “This 175-Pound Tumor Was Actually My Twin Sister.” The Discovery Channel: At least we’re up front about our questionable programming.**
**Also popular: The World’s Oldest Teenager and My Bones Are Made of Solid Rock.
Gingersnaps: Delicious, but a bane to dental work. Maybe I’m none too bright, or maybe I’ve just never had a gingersnap (which does beg the question why I would make my own version of a dessert I’ve never had using ingredients I’ve never tasted, but I don’t like to let rationality stop me where pudding is concerned). These things are fricking HARD. Like, they could be used as a building material. I have had Nilla Wafers – I’m sorry, vanilla flavored wafer cookies – which are the traditional cookie used in banana pudding and are much lighter and less paving stone-esque in texture.
I was a little worried that the gingersnaps wouldn’t soften up in the pudding, or softening them would suck every drop of moisture out of the pastry cream, but forged ahead anyway. I put a layer of gingersnaps in the bottom of a casserole, spread half the pastry cream/banana mixture on top, added another layer of cookies, the rest of the pudding and topped the whole thing with a goodly layer of vanilla whipped cream.
I put a few cookies on top for garnish, and so this wouldn’t be the World’s Most Boring Photograph of Food.* They’re like the banana pudding version of chives. And yes, I know, the photo still isn’t that interesting.
I let the pudding sit in the fridge while I finished planting my vegetable garden – I’m looking forward to the Mr. Stripey tomatoes – and took a really high-quality nap. I know it’s strange to list sleeping as a hobby, but goddamn do I love a nap.
By the time it was time to head over to dinner, the pudding had been sitting for about three hours. I stuck a knife it in to see whether the gingersnaps were softening at all; it went in, but there was definitely still some texture there. I knew it would sit for another hour or two during dinner, giving things a little more time to meld. In the end, it sat for about five hours before devouring.
*Want to know what this actually is? Tune in to Discovery tomorrow night at 10.
In the future, I’d try to assemble this a little earlier in the morning to give it more time to sit; the gingersnaps definitely softened up, but the bottom layer was still distinctly crunchy albeit not bridgework-shattering (though the textural contrast was pleasant, even if it made the pudding a little harder to eat – gingersnaps, at least Nabisco gingersnaps* – are not exactly bite size).
Like I said, I don’t know from old school banana pudding, but now I know from this and it is GOOD. Bourbon pastry cream I could just eat plain with a spoon. It’s not overly sweet and has a slight (or not so slight) alcoholic bite; mixed with sweet ripe bananas (which is what you would use instead of the bright yellow numbers I picked up at Pathmark this morning), it’s smooth and rich but not cloying. The gingersnaps add their own bite, a gentle spicy heat and some texture, while vanilla whipped cream tames the zing of the bourbon and ginger and is generally delicious. It’s a homey but sophisticated dessert, and is not much more difficult to throw together than the instant pudding version.
I may be seeing a giant pan of this for The Porkening III: Smoke With a Vengeance.
*I know, if I were a real foodie I would have made the gingersnaps myself. YOU can do that when you make this. I like naps too much.
Grownup Banana Pudding
2 c. half and half
3 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
5 egg yolks
10 tbsp. sugar
3 1/2 tbsp. corn starch
4 tbsp. butter
pinch of salt
4 ripe bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch thick disks
1 1/2 heavy cream
1 tsp. + 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Make the pastry cream: Heat the half and half, 3 tablespoons of bourbon and 6 tablespoons of sugar over medium-low heat. While it’s heating, whisk the egg yolks and another two tablespoons together of sugar until the sugar starts to dissolve. Add the corn starch to the eggs and whisk until the mixture is smooth, thick, and lightened in color, about a minute. Use a mixer if you’re lazy.
When the half and half comes to a simmer, slowly whisk half of it into the egg mixture to temper it, then pour the tempered eggs back into the pot with the rest of the half and half. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cream is thick and smooth and a few bubbles burst on the surface. Cut the heat and stir in the butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and remaining tablespoon of bourbon.
Pour the cream through a fine sieve (to get out any egg bits that may have cooked) into a clean bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap flat against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until the cream is thoroughly chilled.
Assemble the pudding: Mix the bananas into the chilled pastry cream.
Put an even layer of gingersnaps in the bottom of a casserole dish. Spread half the cream-and-banana mixture evenly over them. Add another layer of gingersnaps, followed by the rest of the banana cream.
Whisk the heavy cream, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and tablespoon of vanilla to stiff peaks. Spread evenly on top of the pudding.
Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, preferably 6-8. Scoop servings out with a large spoon.