Sometimes simple is best, and it doesn’t get more nostalgically simple than banana pudding. The truth is, you could make this with instant pudding and store bought whipped cream, but COME ON…make it from scratch once, and revel in the perfection of it. Cardamom, the key spice in Chai, is beautiful with banana, and mixed with simple eggy custard, crisp Nilla wafers, and burnt sugar – MWAH!. It’s like a cuddle in a cup.
Note: I made this recipe with store bought eggs with 1/3 cup cornstarch and it was PERFECT. I then made this with my friend, Carrie’s, fresh farm eggs (laid that day) and it made a custard brick. So, if you’re using sad store eggs, use 1/3 cup cornstarch. If your eggs are from the farmer’s market, 4 to 5 tablespoons should be good, and if you’re blessed with the freshest eggs, 3 to 4 tablespoons will probably be good.
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup white sugar
up to 1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and chopped roughly
INGREDIENTS (TO FINISH)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups banana thinly sliced
1 pack Nilla wafers (or other vanilla cookies you like)
toasted coconut, for garnish
First, infuse the milk with the split vanilla bean and cardamom by combining in a small pot over medium low heat. Once the milk starts to simmer, turn off the heat and let it steep for 30 minutes. Strain the milk and set aside.
Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in milk, then egg yolks. Turn heat back on to medium-high and whisk until custard thickens and simmers (but doesn’t boil!), about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cardamom and unsalted butter bit by bit. Transfer custard to large bowl over the ice bath; cool completely, whisking occasionally, about 1 hour. Fold in 2 cups of banana slices. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To make the custards, prepare the whipped cream. Whip the heavy cream until very thick, then add the sugar and vanilla, whisking until soft peaks form (it should be the same texture as the custard). To serve, layer the custard, whipped cream, sliced bananas, and Nilla wafers until the serving dishes are full. Garnish with toasted coconut. I like eating them right away when the Nilla wafers are still crisp.