With a refusal to use the boxed wafers full of artificial flavors, Loveless Cafe Pastry Chef Alisa Huntsman makes her own wafers from scratch and amps up the vanilla in the pudding with the addition of real vanilla bean. The combination is nothing short of magical!
Banana Pudding with Homemade Wafers
Vanilla Cream (Pudding)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 quart whole milk
12 egg yolks
1/4 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 to 2 cups sweetened whipped cream
4 to 6 ripe bananas
For the vanilla cream, place the cornstarch in a bowl. Add enough of the milk to completely dissolve it. Add the egg yolks to the cornstarch and whisk together. Place the vanilla bean and sugar in a heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pot. Add the remaining milk and bring it to a boil. When the milk is boiling, reduce the heat slightly to prevent it from boiling over the sides of the pot. With a small ladle, whisk a small amount of the milk mixture into the egg yolk mix. Repeat this step until one-third of the milk is mixed into the eggs. Whisk this mixture into the remaining boiling milk and return it to a boil while you continue to whisk it. The mix will thicken quickly. Continue whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour the cream into a heat-proof dish. Press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and place in the refrigerator to cool.
For the wafers, place 1 cup of the sugar and eggs in a stainless steel bowl and whisk together. Place the bowl over simmer water and whisk until the sugar dissolves and the eggs are slightly warmer than your body temperature (do not overheat). Immediately pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip on high speed until the mixture forms mounds when you lift the beater out. Sift the flour over the eggs in several batches, folding it in gently. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Using a piping bag with a straight tip, pipe the batter out into quarter-size cookies. Sprinkle liberally with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes or until completely golden to light brown.
To assemble, spread a small amount of the Vanilla Cream in a decorative trifle dish. Top with a layer of sliced fresh bananas and then a layer of cookies. Spread enough vanilla cream over this to create a smooth and level surface. Repeat these steps to fill the dish, ending with a layer of the cream. Wrap well and allow the pudding to sit 6 to 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Before serving, decorate with the whipped cream, cookies and banana slices.
Adapted from the cookbook Southern Country Cooking from the Loveless Cafe by Jane & Michael Stern