Do you remember that part in “Steel Magnolias” when Shelby (Julia Roberts) says, “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special”?
That’s how I feel about dessert.
After spending this week trying healthier options, I can honestly say I’d rather have a spoonful of Banana Pudding than a metric ton of Quinoa Fruit Pudding.
Banana Pudding doesn’t get much respect, but it is the tiramisu of the South. Both are made with cookies, custard and a strong flavor element. Both are made by layering those components.
And yet, you never see a recipe like “Not Yo Mama’s Tiramisu.”
I guess Banana Pudding is just more vulnerable to trashiness. You can find an instant and/or processed form of every ingredient, except the bananas. And I’m sure scientists are cloistered underground working furiously on “Banana in a Can” right now.
But every once in a while, you come across a new Banana Pudding recipe that uses real ingredients and gives the old recipe a twist. Take the Lee Brothers’ recipe for Banana Pudding Parfaits. Layers of banana puree, vanilla custard, crushed gingersnaps and rum-flavored whipped cream.
Gingersnaps! Sure, you could still use vanilla wafers, but the crunch and zing of the snaps are worth a try.
I also like that you store the components separately in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them. No mushy cookies, no discolored banana slices, no leaky layers. Every parfait is cold and fresh and portion-controlled. You can’t just reach into the fridge, grab a casserole dish full of pudding, and mindlessly eat it for breakfast. Or lunch.
Oh, and if banana puree isn’t your thing, you could add freshly chopped bananas as you need them for each parfait or substitute them with something completely different. Maybe pineapple and toasted coconut for a piña colada-inspired pudding. Mango. Orange segments.
Just no quinoa.
Banana Pudding Parfaits
Adapted from Matt Lee and Ted Lee’s “The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern”
- 2 pounds ripe bananas (about 5 large bananas), peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Rum-Flavored Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar*
- 2 tablespoons premium-quality dark rum, like Mount Gay or Myers’s
- 3/4 cup crushed gingersnaps (approximately 8 cookies)*
- For the Banana Layer: Using a food processor, combine all of the ingredients in the banana layer, and pulse until the mixture is a smooth puree. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the puree, and set it aside in the fridge. (It will keep for 24 hours.)
- For the Custard Layer: Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to steam.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and cornstarch. Whisking constantly, pour the warm milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring slowly until the custard is thick and making large bubbles, about 4 minutes.
- Transfer the custard to a bowl; let it cool to room temperature.
- Refrigerate the custard, covered, until it is well chilled, about 30 minutes. (This would be a good time to slip your mixing bowl into the freezer to prepare for making the whipped cream.)
- To Serve: When you are ready to serve the dessert, whip the cream with the sugar and rum until it forms stiff peaks. Layer the custard, banana puree and cookie crumbles in parfait glasses until the glasses are two-thirds full. Finish with a generous dollop of whipped cream.
*Gluten-Free Tip: Be sure to use GF confectioner’s sugar and gingersnaps.