I really love banana pudding. But I don't always love the mushy, brown lumps of banana in pudding that's been around a while. One day I stumbled along an old recipe for banana pudding that involved boiling very ripe bananas in milk to impart the flavor and sugar, then straining it to remove the banana bits. I loved the result, but recently have been wanting something with a little more flavor. I love bananas with caramel sauce and decided to try adding that flavor to the pudding. Since it's not really banana pudding without Vanilla Wafers, I topped the dessert with a Vanilla Wafer "crumble". Enjoy! - lizb —lizb
Test Kitchen Notes
If you like smooth pudding and prefer no mushy bananas, Lizb's caramel banana version is the way to go. Subtle hints of banana, vanilla and caramel are infused into the pudding and then strained to create a silky texture. The vanilla wafer topping is sweet and crunchy with touch of cardamom. Simply yummy! —jvcooks
In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Cook until the sugar is melted and browned a little, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Peel and chop the bananas into 1/2 inch pieces and combine with 2 cups of the milk, the sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds into the milk mixture, add the pod in as well. Cook over medium-low heat until it starts to steam, then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard the bananas and vanilla bean pod.
Combine the eggs, cornstarch, and remaining half cup of milk in a bowl. Slowly add about 1/3 of the milk to the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Do the same with another 1/3 of the egg mixture. Add the egg and milk mixture back into the pan, stirring to incorporate.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and just starts to boil – about five minutes. Stir in the caramel mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook another five minutes.
Pour the pudding through a strainer into six ramekins (or about a one quart dish). Put plastic wrap directly on the pudding so it doesn't get a skin. Chill until cold, at least 30 minutes but up to a day. To serve, top with the crumble.
To make the crumble, preheat the oven to 325°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and set aside. Place the vanilla wafers in a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin. (I like this better than the food processor, since the pieces are less uniform).
Melt the butter -- I typically do this in the microwave rather than on the stove, but I have limited storage and few pots and pans. In a small bowl add the crushed wafers, the sugar, cardamom and salt. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Transfer to the baking sheet, and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool and sprinkle the topping on the pudding. It makes a lot, but I love a good crunchy coating.