Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Perfect Barbecue Dessert

There is one dessert that is perfect for barbecue:  banana pudding.  There are other good desserts for barbecue: pecan pie, blackberry or peach cobbler with ice cream, Coca-Cola cake, and the list goes on.  But banana pudding is the first choice.

No one knows the exact date of the origin of nanner puddin' as it is colloquially known.  Nabisco first started selling Nilla Wafers in 1901, and it is thought that banana pudding was developed shortly thereafter.  There is an early mention in a Kentucky cookbook from 1903.

Anyway, the pudding is now a standard in barbecue joints from Texas to South Carolina.  I regret that this pudding never made much of an impact in Illinois or Missouri, so I guess it's up to me to evangelize its creamy goodness.

Banana pudding is generally made by layering vanilla wafers, bananas, vanilla pudding, and a topping.  There are a couple of schools of thought on the topping.  Some prefer a classic meringue topping, while others worship in the house of whipped cream.  Cool Whip is not acceptable.  Again, repeat after me, "Cool Whip is not acceptable".  Personally, I am a devoted disciple of the whipped cream church of banana pudding.

We had some bananas left over from the biathlon yesterday that had already been cut in two, so they needed to be used quickly, so I decided to make the sacrifice and make banana pudding.  Here's the instructions.

Pick out 3-4 ripe bananas.  These should not be green, but neither should they be brown.  You also need vanilla wafers, vanilla pudding mix, milk, and whipping cream.

Take a 9-inch baking dish or pie pan and arrange vanilla wafers across the bottom and up the sides.  The dish should be nearly completely covered, although a few small gaps aren't a problem.  Slice the bananas thin and layer these over the cookies.  Again, try to cover thoroughly, but a few gaps are okay.

Now cook the pudding.  Note that I said cook.  Instant pudding simply does not work.  After you cook the pudding, pour it slowly over the bananas and vanilla wafers.  The hot pudding will soak into the cookies and extract flavor from the bananas in a way that can't be matched by cold, starchy instant pudding.  For a 9-inch dish, I use the big box of pudding, the one that uses three cups of milk. 

If you normally keep skim milk in your house, you may need to pick up some whole milk to make the pudding as skim milk does not contain enough fat to properly bond to the starch in the pudding.  In other words, if you use skim milk, you will get runny pudding.

If you have extra bananas, you might want to throw a few more slices on top of the pudding.  Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay on the surface of the pudding prior to placing it in the refrigerator to cool.  This prevents the formation of the dreaded "pudding skin".

After the pudding is completely chilled, remove the plastic wrap and cover the top with whipped cream. 

The perfect dessert for barbecue or anything else.


  1. Why not cool whip?

    I like banana pudding ok as long as it's made with vanilla pudding. :) Bananas are the only banana-flavored thing I like. Now, it wouldn't help with the leftover banana situation, but IMHO there's no better BBQ dessert than strawberry shortcake. With cool whip.

  2. Banana pudding IS made with vanilla pudding. And you like the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil topping? Doesn't sound appetizing.

  3. Oh. Should've read more carefully.

    Well, it doesn't sound as appetizing when you put it like that. :(