I've never made a banana dessert before, not counting breads and muffins of course. I'm typically drawn to chocolate anything before fruity numbers. Side-note: lets be clear friends, breads and muffins are snacks, most definitely not desserts. The only exception is a chocolate chocolate muffin, i.e. Costco's GIANT Double Chocolate Chip Muffins. 12 pack. Buy it and thank me later.
I digress. A few years ago, I went to NYC's famous Magnolia Bakery to sample their cupcakes. Apparently, I should have gotten their banana pudding too- people go cray for it. Since I won't be back to Mag's bakery anytime soon and banana's peak season is now (who knew?), I gave their recipe a go. It comes from their new cookbook, but I used the same recipe from this lovely blog, which has ridiculously delicious looking pictures of the dessert. Also, home girl took it up a notch by adding a salted caramel topper <fist-bump> which pairs perfectly with the pudding. Well played.
Few things to note:
1. PLAN AHEAD when you're going to make this! It's a really straight-forward recipe, mostly fast except for the portions when you have to let it sit in the fridge for several hours. The easiest solution for me was to make the caramel and first part of the pudding recipe the night before, plop it in the fridge and finish it up in the AM, planning the serve it that evening.
2. The caramel does not need to be refrigerated - it thickens at room temperature.
3. This caramel recipe will make much more than you need for the pudding... but you will not be upset about it. Trust me, you'll find use for it.
Va bene? Va bene.
Ingredients – Pudding
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1½ cups cold water
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers
4 cups sliced ripe bananas
Ingredients – Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, warmed
3 tsp fleur de sel (Pro Tip: I only used 2 tsp which was plenty salty)
Directions – Pudding
1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat sweetened condensed milk and water for about a minute. Add the pudding mix and beat for about two more minutes.
2. Transfer to a smaller bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. In a large bowl on medium speed, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the pudding mixture until combined.
4. In a large bowl, layer wafers, bananas, and pudding. (Pro Tip: I started off with a small scoop of the pudding at the bottom.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 8 hours before serving.
Directions – Caramel
1. Combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. This is the only time you can stir the sugar. If you stir it while it's cooking, it turns to rock candy. Place the saucepan over medium to low heat until the sugars start to dissolve, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sugar starts to caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes (Pro Tip: this took me more like 9 mins). Do not stir while this is happening. You've got to watch the pot, because it goes from caramel to burnt really quickly. And be careful, the mixture is extremely hot!
2. Turn off the heat and stand back to avoid splattering. Slowly add the cream. Don't panic - the cream will bubble violently, and the caramel will solidify. Just give it more time to liquefy again-trust me!
3. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Pro Tip: if your caramel is too liquidity (mine was 5/6 times I've made this), simmer over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes. It's not a bad idea to do this regardless for 5 mins, just to be safe.
4. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits. Stir in salt. Pro Tip: I transferred mine to a container after 2 hrs, it was cool enough.