Hand Me Downs or I must have been Adopted or Banana Pudding

8 Sep

I used to think there was only one way to make banana pudding:

Line bowl with vanilla wafer cookies

Make instant vanilla pudding

Slice bananas

Layer pudding, bananas, and cookies in the bowl

Top with Cool Whip.

Shocking, isn’t it? It’s not that my mom can’t bake. She just doesn’t. At least, not without a box. In her defense, she did have 4 children. Who has the strength to do anything, much less bake from scratch, when you have 4 hellions underfoot? Therefore, my knowledge of banana pudding did not extend beyond boxes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a box. I’ve been known to use them myself a time or two or three. Spend a buck on a box, stir in a couple of pantry staples, toss it into the oven, and call it dessert for tonight. When PMS cravings hit, there’s no time to waste so I fully give you permission to hit the box. My point is not that anyone should feel guilty about boxes. Sure, it would be nice if you recycle the box, but who am I to nag? This blog is (mostly) about food, so I’m happy to leave the save the earth stuff to someone else.

My point is that we should not forget there is another way. I’d say my great-grandmother never used a box, but I’d be lying like that ex-high school boyfriend of mine, yours, and everyone’s. A few years ago, my mother gingerly handed me a box containing my great-grandmother’s recipe book. With awe and appreciation, I opened the book, expecting to find a treasure trove of scratch recipes that could be handed down generation after generation. Instead, I burst forth with laughter when I saw this:

I guess my mother learned at the knee of her grandmother, after all.

My love of cooking and baking could not have possibly come from these people. Opening that book reminded me of the years I thought/hoped I was adopted. I had nothing in common with the people who called themselves my family. They’re mean, ugly, and stupid. Okay, I was like 13 when I thought that and I had the lack of a birth certificate to “prove” it. When I opened that book, it reminded me yet again how different I am from my family. A family reunion would not be complete with a bucket of the Colonel’s best and Waldorf salad. That’s the extent of their cooking. Mix and toss or drive through. To my great disappointment (at that time), my mother did eventually get a copy of my birth certificate, thus crushing my Lil Orphan Annie dreams forever. Therefore, I must conclude (after taking a good look at family pictures through the years) that my love of the kitchen arts must stem from the entire family’s love of eating. In particular, we’re rather fond of sugar. Thinking further, I started baking from scratch as a newlywed because I was bored. No license, no driver, no tv. Practically the only thing I had was a cookbook I stole from my mother.

So, I dabbled here, dabbled there, popped out a few kids, and kept on cookin’ every time I was bored. Which, again looking at pictures, was a lot. This boredom led to my discovery that not all banana pudding is from a box. I felt quite ashamed about it, actually. Did others know about this? Were they laughing behind my back? Was I only the one who made it with boxes? Oh, Alice Walker, you’ve got some things to account for! I cannot remember which book it’s in, but there’s a chapter where she wrote about her (now) ex-husband and something something something white people can’t make banana pudding something something something. Whaaattt? I’m white, I make banana pudding. Oh, Alice! How could you feel that way?

I read on and discovered that indeed, my “family recipe” for banana pudding is quite different. The chapter included her recipe so I decided to throw off my shame and learn to make it “the right way.” Or I decided to give it a shot to see if it could possibly be better than my recipe. Whichever. It was good. Pretty dang good. A bit soupy, but good. The soupy part could have been me, though. After all, I’m just hillbilly white chick with time on my hands.  🙂

In the years since that discovery, I have tried many banana pudding recipes and tweaked them until I came up with my own. At least, the latest version of my own. I’m always messing with recipes. I still occasionally make the ol’ family recipe, too. My kids like both versions, so I assume the sugar addiction continues for the next generation. Don’t blame me. It’s your great-great grandmother’s fault.

Scratch Banana Pudding Pie

Crust

½ c. coconut

½ c. flour

¼ c. butter, softened

¼ c. (scant) sugar

Mix with hands until crumbly and press into pie tin or 8 X 8 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Cool. Do NOT turn off oven.

 

Pudding

4 bananas

1 c. sugar

¼ c. flour

2 c. milk

3 egg yolks (reserve whites)

2 t. butter

2 t. vanilla

While crust is baking, combine 1 c. sugar with flour in a medium saucepan. Mix well, and then stir in half the milk. Beat egg yolks and whisk into sugar mixture. Add remaining milk and butter.

Place mixture over medium low heat and cook until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

While that’s cooking, slice the bananas and place a layer on the crust.

You want the pudding mixture to sheet off the back of the spoon when it’s cooked.

When it looks like that, it’s time to add the vanilla.

Stir that in and pour a layer of the pudding over the layer of bananas.

Add another layer of bananas and then another layer of pudding.

I know, it’s a lot of work so far. We’re nearing the end, I promise.

Meringue

3 egg whites (reserved from yolks)

¼ c. sugar

Chill mixing bowl and beater or whisk by placing in freezer. Glass or metal is preferred to prevent any grease residue from previous use preventing the egg whites from stiffening.

Using the chilled mixing bowl and beater or whisk, beat egg whites until foamy.

A bowl of ice water may be placed under the mixing bowl to speed whipping, if desired. Do not fill bowl too full with ice water or it will be difficult to beat the meringue.

Once the whites are foamy, gradually add ¼ c. sugar and continue to beat until stiff. Using the beater or a spoon, insert into meringue and lift straight up. If the meringue forms a peak and the tip of the peak does not bend/flop over, it’s at stiff peak.

Spread meringue over filling making sure meringue is all the way to the edges to prevent weeping.

Bake in 350 degree oven until meringue is lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes.

Clang the dinner bell, dessert is ready!

ETA: I’ve always had trouble with weeping and meringue. I made this again tonight but tried something a little different. Instead of mounding the meringue in the center and spreading it to the edges, try plopping meringue around the edges first and then fill in the center. Meringue is kinda tricky to smoosh around. As I’m moving it, I’m pulling on the pudding underneath and getting my spatula messy with the meringue/pudding combo. By covering the edges first, I don’t pick up the pudding and it’s easier to get that seal around the edge. Try it and let me know if it works for you, too. Mmm, Pie!

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