04 July 2013

Banana pudding, a Southern standard

The name "banana pudding" has a very specific meaning in the U.S. South, where I'm from. It's a pudding in the British sense of the term — a dessert. It's almost a "trifle" in British terms. Yet the ingredients include, of course bananas, which are tropical.

Meringue atop layers of pastry cream, cookies, and bananas: banana pudding

And they also include American "vanilla wafers"  — cookies (Br. "biscuits") that are available everywhere in the U.S. In France, the equivalent culturally might be the « petit beurre ». It's a little butter cookie. You could also compare American vanilla wafers to the French « langue de chat ». (Here in Saint-Aignan, Walt made a batch of vanilla wafers from an American recipe the day before so that we could make banana pudding on Sunday.)

Pastry cream: flour, milk/cream, sugar, and egg yolks

And finally, there are two French ingredients. One even keeps its French name in English: meringue, which is beaten and cooked egg white. The other is a kind of flour-based custard called « crème patissière » in France — pastry cream. It had never dawned on me until I made banana pudding last Sunday that the custard in it is crème patissière.

Home-made vanilla wafers

As Walt pointed out, banana pudding of the kind I describe is even better the second day than the first. We realized that when we ate some more on Monday — I had made two dishes of it.

Here, I'll post the recipe. This the American recipe, so you need to know that a cup is 8 fluid ounces. Actually, the British fluid ounce is slightly smaller than the American fluid ounce, but not significantly so.

Banana Pudding

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup flour
dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 dozen vanilla wafers (or similar cookies)
5 bananas, sliced
Heat oven to 350°F (180ºC).

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water 10 to 12 min. or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Reserve 12 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard onto bottom of 1-1/2-qt. baking dish. Cover with layers of 1/3 each of the remaining wafers, bananas and remaining custard. Repeat layers 2 times.

Beat egg whites on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over custard, sealing well to edge of dish.

Bake 15 to 20 min. or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Top with reserved wafers just before serving.
I've been thinking about how U.S. and British measures are always slightly different. Gallons come in U.S. and "Imperial" (Btitish) sizes. So do fluid ounces and pints. I wonder if all that didn't come about in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when people started publishing recipes and cook(ery) books. The U.S. and British peoples were enemies during that time, and they fought at least two wars (Independence and 1812). I guess Americans decided to go their own way...


  1. They were the same until about 1825 when the UK changed the fl oz, pint etc to the imperial size!

  2. I've never thought of banana pudding done up like a pie! Sounds like something interesting to try! Merci pour l'idée. You've browned the meringue perfectly! Of course!

  3. You have just given me an idea for a party I am having for some of my Canadian friends and family on Saturday. I try to share Southern and Texan recipes with them from time to time. I think dessert will be banana pudding! I have not had the real thing in a long time.

  4. Thanks, Knattyknitter, for that information.

    Margaret, if you use the recipe I posted and look at my photos, you'll notice some inconsistencies. I didn't save any cookies out for decoration, and I didn't spread the meringue out all the way out to the sides of the baking dishes. Oh well. By the way, when you bake the pudding, you really have to keep an eye on the oven, because the pudding can brown or even burn very fast, it seems to me.

  5. That recipe looks a lot like the yummy one Alton Brown makes.

  6. Now that is my kind of pudding!
    Very like a trifle, except for the meringue, which we wouldn't put on an everyday English trifle, only on posh trifles.
    And all trifles always seem even better the next day, to me anyway.
    I feel compelled to try your recipe!

  7. That banana pudding sure looks good.
    Thanks Ken for posting food photos and making my day. All Walt gave us today was a photo of washed up dishes after a lovely pizza meal!!! What cheek!!

  8. Forget about apple pie and hot dogs. This is real American food.

  9. Wow! Also, Quelle coincidence!, as last night, on America's Test Kitchen (Cook's Country-- their magazine is Cook's Illustrated) cooking show, they were showing how to make Banana Pudding! The premise of this show, you know, is to test a variety of methods and equipment, to come up with what they feel is the best method. For their version, they actually roasted the bananas whole, still in the peel, and then used them after letting them cool a bit.

    Looks fabulous! Happy 4th of July!


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