Thursday, October 18, 2007

Comfort me with banana pudding

For me, last week was probably one of the worst weeks ever. Now, I’m very thankful to have my job, but when I was in Phoenix last week producing a daily newspaper for a conference, I felt like everything was conspiring against me as production bounced from one miserable headache to another.

I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say that everything that could go wrong did. And because I was spending countless hours on the phone with New York tech support, I hardly ever stepped out of my hotel room to soak in the cacti, mountains, palm trees and piercing Arizona sun. I know, I shouldn’t complain—at least I have a job that sent me to Arizona, but still—it was frustrating fiddling with technical difficulties when God’s natural beauty beckoned to me right outside.

That said, there were some highlights to the trip. First, I finally got to experience the marvelousness that is Phoenix Ranch Market. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Phoenix, this is a must stop. Imagine a gigantic grocery store, filled with all sorts of Mexican ingredients. Everything from quesillo to cow heads. Not to mention aisle upon aisle filled with chiles, chocolates, chorizo and a host of kitchen tools such as tortilla presses, molinillos and molcajetes. But even more exciting, there’s a huge food court within the store, with a torta stand, a taco stand, people frying up gorditas, huraches, quesadillas and hot plates filled with simmering meats and lardy-refried beans. And right beside this bountiful buffet is a stream of freshly made tortillas flowing along a conveyer belt—even though it was behind glass, they were so close I was tempted to pluck one and eat it warm. But I restrained myself and instead ordered a carnitas taco, spiced with a bright and fiery tomatillo sauce that made me smile.

Another bright spot in the trip was getting to see Al Gore speak at the conference on Saturday, the day after he was named the winner of the Noble Peace Prize. Now this was a conference for marketers, and Gore was there in the guise of salesman not statesman, so sadly he uttered nary a word about his recent honor. (Though he wasn’t above poking fun at his participation in a "recovering-politician"10-step program. He conceded that he’s on step number nine.) Instead he touted the benefits of Current TV, his cable network comprised of much viewer-created content, including some of the ads. The speech felt a bit odd in light of recent events, and he looked tired, but nevertheless it was a thrill getting to see and listen to him in a small venue.

The computer problems never sorted themselves out and while the daily paper made it to press each night, it was such a trial that by the time I arrived back in New York City on Sunday night I was spent. And very, very hungry. In times like these, you need something soft and comforting. So I decided to whip up a batch of pudding. But not just any pudding—what I craved was the sweet satisfaction that comes from a luscious, chunky mouthful of banana pudding.

As I have mentioned, I’ve been experimenting with making homemade vanilla wafers for my banana pudding, but sadly, I still haven’t hit upon a recipe that tastes just right. I guess Nabisco has ruined me with its unique crisp cookies. Nothing I baked even came close to the pleasantly rough texture and snappy crunch of Nilla Wafers. But I did come upon a solution that I found quite tasty—replacing the store-bought wafers with homemade chocolate cookies.

I happened to have some chocolate cookie dough on hand, so after roasting a banana in the oven for about 15 minutes, I slid in a cookie sheet dotted with this rich, dark dough. Whipping up the pudding takes no time thanks to the miracle of corn starch, so in almost half an hour I was situated on the couch, tucking my spoon into a big bowl piled high with silky pudding riddled with bananas and chocolate cookies. Like baby food, this dessert didn’t require much effort or thought—it was simply a much-needed bowl of comfort and cheer.

While I love warm banana pudding, this is something that improves with age. After a night in the refrigerator, the cookies go soft and blend into the pudding, making for a creamy, cake-y eating experience. So the next day I had it for breakfast, a wonderful way to start the day.

Traveling is always an eye-opening experience, but I’m glad to be home. And while the work I did in Phoenix was difficult, after a few days and a few bowls of banana pudding, the stresses from the trip are fast fading from memory.

Banana Pudding
Ingredients:
2 cups of milk
1/3 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of corn starch
1 egg
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 bananas, 3 of them cut into thin slices crosswise
24 chocolate cookies (my chocolate cookie recipe is here. Or you can use any other cookie you like.)

Method:
1. Place 1 of the bananas on a parchment-paper lined sheet, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes or until skin blackens.
3. Remove roasted banana from skin and lightly mash with a fork. Set aside.
2. Place the milk, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, mix well with a whisk, and heat on medium, continuously stirring.
3. When liquid comes to a boil, let it boil for 30 seconds, add the mashed banana, and then turn down the heat to low and continue to stir until mixture is thick.
4. Beat the egg in a separate dish with a couple of tablespoons of pudding, and then incorporate egg mixture into pudding.
5. Mix in the vanilla and butter.
6. Remove pudding from heat.
7. You can either make individual pudding cups or one big pudding dish, but here’s the general procedure for assembly: layer some of the sliced bananas and cookies in a dish, and then pour some pudding over bananas and cookies until dish is half full. Repeat layers and then stick some of the cookies on top in a decorative flourish.
Serves four.

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45 comments:

jerry said...

Lisa,

I'm not entirely fond of 'nanner puddin' all by it's lonesome, but I bet this would be great drizzled heavily with a caramel fudge sauce!

Sam said...

I found your blog through a friend and I love reading it. I am a born and bred Texan and still live here, but am stuck in a dorm for college.

Even though I can't cook right now, I love reading your blog because it reminds me of home and all the good food that the mash up of cultures has produced in Texas.

Keep them Yankees in line and keep cooking, if only so I can keep salivating.

Yvo said...

I'm so sorry to hear you had an awful time in Phoenix... and I'm also sorry to hear that I went to Phoenix last year and missed out on this market!!! (Well, I went to spa, and I was working the whole time, so I guess it evens out...)
This sounds fantastic and I love that you "happened to have some chocolate cookie dough on hand" ;) I'm going to move in with you... haha. If it means fresh banana pudding in the mornings, okay! Hehehe.

Mike said...

man o' man that looks amaaaaazing !
....send leftovers my way please...thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

So is meringue on banana pudding not a regional thing?

Anonymous said...

I mean, is meringue a regional thing?

Tea said...

The very title of this made me laugh aloud--and the photos are making my tummy rumble. I'm in recovery mode as well--could you send some pudding out this way? Thanks!

Nabeela said...

that's the most interesting recipe for banana pudding that I've seen...and I love it! Love the idea of chocolate chip cookies in the pudding..I have a vanilla wafers cookie recipe in my williams sonoma book if you want..

Anonymous said...

I'm a homesick Texan along with yourself, however I do have the fortune to be homesick in Phoenix. I can't believe I hadn't found the Ranch Market until a couple of weeks ago...my favorite thing about it was the fresh juice stand!
I'm dying without my Tex-Mex though, so I have to make it all my by lonesome. :(

Homesick Texan said...

Jerry--I'm more a hot fudge girl myself, but a nice drizzle of something would be fun!

Sam--Will do on both counts--and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog!

Yvo--I'm out of chocolate cookie dough right now but I do have some sugar cookie dough on hand. Will that do?

Mike--Leftovers? Surely you jest! This stuff goes fast!

Anon--It is a regional thing--I just don't like it, that's all!

Tea--Glad I made you laugh! Pudding is perfect for recovery.

Nabeela--Sure...I'd love to see their recipe.

Anon--I forgot about the fresh juice stand--I was so blown away by the place, I just wish I'd had more time to spend in the store.

class-factotum said...

That sounds delish, but now I am craving a bowl of the southern version -- the one with sour cream and cream cheese and Cool Whip. (I live by the motto, "If a little bit of fat is good, a lot is better.") I was going to make myself chocolate-chocolate chip cookies for my birthday, but perhaps banana pudding is the ticket instead.

The Ranch Market sounds like Fiesta on steroids!

Rebecca said...

Thanks for your fabulous blog. I read it every time you post. Homesick Arizonan here, with strong Texas roots on both sides of the family. People here in Boston wrinkle their nose when I tell them about the Nilla Wafer banana pudding we always had growing up. This one looks like a nice variation that even the Yanks would like!

Lydia said...

Oh my, I've never had banana pudding, but now I absolutely want to try it. And I'm putting the Phoenix Ranch Market on my list of places to visit on my next trip out west.

Olivia said...

Oof, a bit rich, though if you heard about my Thai coconut milk and banana dessert you'd say the same!

JEP said...

I need a bowl of this now! Sounds delicious :)

Homesick Texan said...

Class Factotum--I don't think I know the banana pudding with sour cream, cream cheese AND Cool Whip--Oh my! Talk about a dairy fest! And yes, that's exactly what Ranch Market is--a souped-up Fiesta.

Rebecca--Ha! I know, I was surprised at how many of my East Coast friends had never even heard of banana pudding, which struck me as strange as Nabisco even prints a recipe on its box.

Lydia--It's sweet comfort--you'll love it! And a trip to Ranch Market is a must--especially for someone who loves stocking the pantry.

Olivia--Thai coconut milk and banana dessert? Please...tell me more! That sounds incredible!

JEP--Thank you! And it's super easy to whip up a batch--try some.

Olga said...

Mmm.. bananas and chocolate - this sounds divine and i have some ripe bananas on the counter just asking to be made into something other than banana bread ;-) This sounds heavenly!

Cynthia said...

I've never had banana pudding before and now you're making me crave it. Talk about the power of food.

I would looooove to visit that store you talked about. I feel it worth the effort to make a trip to the US specifically for that (lol)

Tommy said...

I think this would make a killer pie as well.

I might use Half and Half and top with mounds of whipped cream.

Old fashioned standbys like this really please guests. A wonderful way to finish a meal.

Olivia said...

Let's see...a small can of coconut milk, add 1/2 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup if you like it sweeter, but I prefer to use less brown sugar), and half a teaspoon of salt. Simmer for two mins. Add 3 bananas, split and quartered. Simmer for another 2-4 mins, depending how soft you want it. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

I used to buy it for a ridiculous £4.89 at a Thai restaurant chain until I realised I could darn well make it myself as I am no stranger to coconut milk or sesame seeds, and we always have bananas! Much happier to eat it from my own kitchen!

Miss Scarlett said...

I'm about to get my banana pudding on today, as a local frozen custard shop has it on the menu as the "flavor of the day." If you're ever in the D.C. area, pop across the river to Alexandria and try this place: www.dairygodmother.com
Her banana pudding custard tastes FREAKISHLY like the real thing. The first time I had it, I was like, "You stole my mom's recipe for nana' pudding!"
I agree that it's always better the next day though..after the nilla wafers go soft. Mmmm...I confess I've had it for breakfast too!

christine (myplateoryours) said...

Oh, would that just hit the spot RIGHT NOW! But of course, I have no cookie dough on hand, and nary a banana in sight. All I have is corn starch -- not too appetizing.

All that and Al Gore too, you lucky dog!

Homesick Texan said...

Olga--Aren't chocolate and bananas wonderful together? I'm also a big fan of peanut butter and banana--I wonder how this would taste with peanut butter cookies?

Cynthia--The power of food indeed! And if you ever make a trip to Arizona, a visit to Phoenix Ranch Market is a must!

Tommy--It does make a killer pie. And I much prefer whipped cream on top to the traditional meringue.

Olivia--Thank you! I have some bananas, a can of coconut milk and some black sesame seeds--I know what I'm making for dessert! And don't you love it when you figure out how to make something better at home?

Miss Scarlet--Thanks for the tip--my cousins live near Alexandria so next time I visit I'll pop into The Dairy Godmother. I love the name!

Christine--You should always keep some cookie dough in the freezer for emergencies! And yes, it was very cool seeing Al Gore, though I wish he'd veered off script just a bit--it felt unnatural not to at least acknowledge his newly minted Nobel laureate status.

Christina said...

Oh thank you, thank you, and thank you a thousand times over.

I've been waiting for this--I love the idea of replacing the nilla wafers with chocolate cookies. Great twist.

Julie said...

Lots of good things here.

If I ever go to Phoenix I hope I remember Phoenix Ranch Market because it sounds like just the sort of place I love to poke around in. Ethnic markets and kitchenware are my idea of fun.

I think your idea of replacing the Nilla Wafers with chocolate cookies is perfect and I'm also interested in the roasted mashed banana you add while you're cooking the pudding. I've never seen that in a recipe but it seems as it if would really intensify the flavor.

And banana pudding for breakfast? Perfect!

Olivia said...

Awesome! I hope you like!

Nabeela said...

I actually found out the recipe is posted by another blogger!
Here it is:
http://food-forthought.blogspot.com/2007/02/valentine-y-vanilla-hearts.html

Scribbit said...

Oh that looks terrific, and I'm not even hugely a banana fan, go figure.

Vanessa said...

Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Bananas and Nilla wafers are so classic, but chocolate chip sounds good too.

I appreciate your photographic efforts at capturing the grocery store banana bunch! It's hard to look at something fresh that you've seen a thousand times but your 'nana pic is lovely!

Homesick Texan said...

Christina--You're very welcome--enjoy!

Julie--Yes! You'd love Phoenix Ranch Market. I could have spent hours in there. And pudding for breakfast is a sweet, soft way to start the day!

Olivia--Yes! Very tasty!

Nabeela--Thanks for the link to the recipe--I can't wait to try these.

Scribbit--I don't think you have to be a banana fan to enjoy banana pudding.

Vanessa--Aw shucks, thank you!

Melissa said...

Oh thank you! I made the pudding with one variation you may want to try: I melted a tablespoon of butter into a saute pan (and omitted the butter at the end), heated it til it was bubbly, sliced all of the bananas atop it, and sprinkled another few tablespoons of brown sugar on top. Turned it all and then left it on the heat untouched until the sugar carmelized and the bananas browned. Then I pushed them around with a spatula and left them awhile longer. Then I mixed them into the pudding. Mmmmmmmmm.
Thank you!

Katia said...

Hi!

I love your blog! And this pudding...now, that's what comfort food is all about. I'll have to try this--maybe tonight! :)
Thanks for sharing.

Brittany said...

I made this recipe for my friend's birthday party, and am still getting rave reviews about it days afterwards. Because I was short on time, I substituted store-bought chocolate chip cookies for the chocolate cookies - but no one seemed to mind! Thanks so much for a fun twist on traditional banana pudding!

txredneck said...

I love your blog. I am a newly transplanted Texan down on the Jersey Shore. It's been a difficult adjustment, but your holiday gift guide saved my better-half's neck. he got me a case of Dublin Dr. Pepper. (my favorite drink for my birthday last week)

And now that I have found this recipe I can't wait to make it!

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in North Carolina and lived on banana pudding! I have never ever considered making any other way except for the "typical" way, but yours sounds so yummy I must give it a try! I do, however, feel compelled to put meringue on top as I cannot imagine any banana pudding without it.

Thanks for such a great site!

Mimi2six said...

I love nanner pudding, I add meringue to mine. If I can't add meringue, I like Cool Whip, and this Texas girl agrees that it's great for breakfast! I'll have to try your chocolate variation, it sounds yummy!

Laurie said...

I made this for my British In-laws who were over the moon with it,..I made a double batch thinking I would take some home after....I must have been crazy to think there would be any left! Being a Texan and raised on nilla pudding with Jell-o instant french vanilla pudding mix with bananas and nilla wafers layered between, but this is by far better!!!!! Although I really miss the nilla wafers, the chocolate cinnamon biscuits went fantastically in this dessert.

Thank you so much for this site... being in the UK I miss real Texan food!

Jean said...

Southern Comfort Food. I'm wondering if meringue on top was my Mom's finishing touch. Ours was made with Jello Cook 'n Serve Vanilla Pudding, bananas sliced 1/4" thick and 2/3's of a box of vanilla wafers, top with meringue and brown lightly under the broiler.

This kind of puts me into thinking it's a Texas take on an English Trifle.

Paul said...

This is a wonderful recipe; I've always wanted to make banana pudding from scratch. I was wondering though - since I'm lactose intolerant - would it be ok to use soy milk instead of regular milk for this? I'd eat it either way and suffer since I love banana pudding anyway, but if I could make it lactose free that'd be wonderful.

Paul

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Paul--You know, I don't have much experience with substituting soy milk for regular milk, so I don't know how it would work. If you try it, let me know how it goes as it's probably a technique that would appeal to some of my readers such as yourself, you can't drink cow milk. Thanks!

miriamgardener said...

I love your blog! I'm also a Texan in NYC, and always try to cook something Mex, I'm from the border so I always want more Mex than Tex-Mex. But anywho, I enjoy your recipes since I didn't grow up eating American food, hence the recipes are not in the family--just yet!
I'm dying to make the banana pudding, and what better excuse than the Holidays! yay!
thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Thanks for all of your great dishes! We plan our meals using your blog!
Thanks!
Tina

Jessica said...

I absolutely love banana pudding! Made this for mini banana cream pies a few days ago, and my family thought they were great. Thank you for this recipe!

Patti said...

Wow! Banana pudding has such a special place in my heart and memories. The best was at my mother-in-law's table, warm, nilla wafers still crunchy. For something different, she would make chocolate pudding with the nilla wafers. God, I miss her.

Audrey McCann said...

Just the perfect desert to go with my grill off for this weekend.. I'm a transplant from Chicago.. But been in Austin, TX since I was 3 (27 yrs) so I claim a little bit of both! I have to say I'm shocked at the lack of knowledge of banana pudding.. Thought it was an American staple.. Guess not.. But like many others I've always been the "jello cook and serve" kind of girl... I love to cook from scratch so will definitely be doing this recipe.. And the roasted banana is just brilliant! I'm debating on whether I want to do a cool whip topping.. They have a peanut butter one now I believe.. So I may just do that.. Banana pudding, chocolate I'm the cookie, and peanut butter whip... *salivating*

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