This is comfort, pure and simple. Smooth and creamy vanilla pudding, fresh sliced bananas, crisp little vanilla wafers, and a dollop of whipped cream. Perfection. When I was little, we used to put store-bought vanilla wafers into the warm pudding, letting them soften as the pudding chilled. But making the cute little cookies from scratch is easy, and I like the crunch they add served whole as a garnish, and, crushed into crumbs to sprinkle on top. This recipe makes four individual servings of the banana pudding—but 80 or more of the quarter-sized vanilla wafers. They’re great for dunking in coffee or tea—you’ll be happy to have them on hand.
For the Vanilla Wafers
(Recipe makes 80 quarter-sized wafers)
1 stick (1/4 cup) softened, unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
3 large eggs, separated ( You will use the whites of the eggs for the vanilla wafers, and save the yolks to make the vanilla pudding)
1 large egg, whole
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
For the Vanilla Pudding
(Recipe makes four servings) 2 ¾ cups whole milk ½ cup pure cane sugar Pinch of salt ¼ cup cornstarch 3 large egg yolks (Use those you reserved from making the vanilla wafers) 2 Tbsp ice-cold salted butter 2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 whole bananas, ½ sliced banana per person
1 cup whipped cream
Make cookies: Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 350 degrees. Set eggs on your clean kitchen work surface for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Separate the yolks from the egg whites into two small bowls. Set the bowl of egg whites aside. Cover bowl of yolks and refrigerate until you are ready to make the pudding. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the whisk attachment, whip the butter with the powdered sugar. You’ll have to scrape the sides of the bowl several times—it takes a while for the sugar to blend with the butter. Once sugar and butter mixture is very smooth, gradually add the egg whites, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Continue whisking until smooth again. Add the remaining whole egg; whisk to incorporate. Whisk in vanilla. Sift flour and salt into the mixer bowl and on low speed, whisk again until just combined. Dough will be quite soft. Spoon into a pastry piping bag or into a large plastic bag. Spread a baking sheet with parchment paper. If using a large plastic bag, snip off a tiny corner of the bag to create a piping opening. Dot nickle-sized drops of the batter (each “dot” will stand about ½ inch tall) onto the parchment, leaving at least an inch and a half between each to allow them to spread. It’s OK if there’s a little peak on the top of the raw cookies from the piping—it’ll smooth out as they flatten and bake. Bake in oven for 13 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Note: Any undetected bits of unwhipped butter or egg white in the batter will bubble up and mess up the cookie. It’s impossible to avoid having a few of these. Since the recipe makes so many cookies, I just chalk the ones that bubble up to loss.
Make Vanilla Pudding: In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 2 ½ cups of the milk with the sugar and salt until bubbles form around the edge of the pot. Continue heating, stirring to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Place the remaining ¼ cup of milk in a medium-sized bowl and add the cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Whisk the three reserved egg yolks into the milk-cornstarch mixture until smooth. Using a ¼ cup measure, dip and slowly pour some of the hot sugar-milk into the egg-cornstarch mixture, stirring to incorporate. Repeat with another ¼ cup of the hot milk. Now, pour all of the egg-cornstarch-milk mixture into the hot-milk pot and whisk constantly, cooking over medium-low heat until the pudding thickens well and begins to bubble up. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour pudding into a bowl; press a sheet of plastic wrap down into the pudding and refrigerate until cold—about three hours.
Assemble: Slice half of a banana into each of four glass bowls or parfait cups. Layer cold vanilla pudding over each. Top each pudding with a dollop of whipped cream. With a rolling pin, crush a handful of vanilla wafers into crumbs. Sprinkle cookie crumbs over each serving; garnish with a few vanilla wafers inserted into the top of each pudding. Serve immediately