When a Southerner wants banana pudding, this is the recipe they're expecting – the one that was printed on the Nabisco Nilla Wafers box for years. It's even better if you can find your grandma's yellow Pyrex bowl from the set of nested bowls popular in the 1950s or 60s. That was the standard banana pudding bowl (and used occassionally for popcorn, too).
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided (use Nabisco brand – not generic store brand)
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional vanilla waters and banana slices, for garnish
Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract.
Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.
Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.* Cool slightly and refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
My Southern grandmother, who made banana pudding for nearly every celebration, changed the original recipe slightly. Once she'd spooned on the merignue, she baked her banana pudding, placing the bowl on the lower rack of the oven, at 425°F for 5 minutes, or just long enough for the merigue to begin to color.
I'm certain she doubled the pudding recipe, as well – she just layered bananas, wafers and pudding until the Pyrex bowl was nearly full, and then topped it with the merigue. She never decorated the top of the pudding with cookies or bananas – she thought that was "tacky." She relied on the graceful swoops and peaks of the merigue for her signature.