My mom would make her banana pudding for any special occasion in our house. The smell of the homemade pudding was intoxicating, and I'll never forget the first bite of that creamy goodness! The extra time that's required to make pudding from scratch is worth every second compared to the box mix.
Technique tip: Constantly stir your pastry cream so you don't cook the eggs! In my opinion, banana pudding is always best the next day. If you have time, and the self-control (I hardly ever do!) to let this sit over-night before serving, it's worth it! Top with bananas just before serving so they don't turn brown.
Swap option: Make this a dairy-free dessert by making the pastry cream with coconut or almond milk and using a dairy free whipped topping. If you're out of bananas, or if the bananas are too ripe, use any fresh berries you have on hand. I've even used frozen fruit and it comes out great. You just cook down 2 cups frozen fruit and add a 1/4 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken. Let it cool then pour over the cookies. Speaking of cookies, if you don't have vanilla wafers, you can use any other packaged cookies you have on hand. At this point, it is far from banana pudding but still incredibly delicious.
For the pastry cream:1.
In a medium sauce pot, bring milk, half of the sugar and salt just to a simmer.2.
In a bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch until thick and pale yellow. Take the simmering milk from the stove and, very carefully and slowly, whisk into the eggs. You should pour in a slow, steady stream while whisking constantly to temper the milk into the eggs and prevent the eggs from cooking from the addition of hot liquid.3.
Once all of the milk is incorporated, return mixture to the stove. Whisk constantly over medium heat until thickened.4.
Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Mix in the butter and vanilla. Stir until combined.5.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, to prevent a skin from forming and let cool completely. To speed up cooling, pour custard onto a plastic-lined sheet tray to expand the surface area, top with another sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can also put the bottom of the bowl of custard in a bowl of ice.
For the whipped cream:
Using a cooled mixing bowl, add in the cold heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium-high with the whisk attachment (or by hand) until medium/stiff peaks are reached. Take caution to not over-whip the cream!
Add a layer of vanilla wafers to the bottom of a baking dish. Top with sliced bananas. Pour the cooled custard over the bananas. The custard shouldn't be completely cooled. The warmth of the custard slightly cooks the bananas which makes it taste extra delicious.2.
Cover with plastic wrap and pop this in the fridge until the top of the custard is cool.3.
Top with whipped cream and sliced bananas just before serving. Crush some vanilla wafers over the top of the whipped cream for an elevated appearance.