A few weeks ago my husband and I spent an extra long wonderful weekend in Tennessee. I had never been to the south before (other than Florida) and I was really excited for fried catfish and all things BBQ! What I did not anticipate falling in love with was a little something called banana pudding. Friends, I had NO idea about this southern treasure, however, now that I have experienced it, I doubt will ever be the same.
My first experience with this pudding from the gods was at a little place called Bobby Qs in Cookeville, TN. Bobby Qs is known for their “Tennessee Tiramisu” (a.k.a. banana pudding) and after polishing off an entire serving without help from my husband, I understand why. It was creamy, caramelly, sweet and smooth. There were wafers strewn throughout providing an occasional and satisfying crunch. It was heavenly.
Next was at the French Broad River Dude ranch. Not only was this place amazing but the banana pudding served family style was to die for.
Throughout the weekend I continued to sample several more variations of banana pudding—including banana pudding ice cream from Mike’s Ice Cream Fountain in Nashville, TN. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff! All of my “research” turned up a few interesting points:
- the actual pudding in banana pudding should not be banana- flavored—it should be vanilla-flavored
- “authentic” banana pudding is made with Nilla Wafers
- there is a great debate over whether the best topping is whipped cream or baked meringue
Honestly, I did not find a banana pudding I did not like. I made a vow to bring this tradition north, hence this banana pudding tart!
I volunteered to bring a dessert to a dinner party last week and I really wanted to make banana pudding. However, though it has almost everything else going for it, banana pudding isn’t exactly a pretty dessert. I settled on a banana pudding tart instead. This tart is an interesting spin on traditional banana pudding and I think it was a nice way to introduce northerners to this old-fashioned southern tradition.
Banana Pudding Tart:
- 2 cups Nilla wafers, crushed into fine crumbs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all crust ingredients and stir with a fork until mixture is moist, like wet sand. Pour into a 9- or 10-inch tart pan and press into an even layer, going up the sides of the tart.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until crust is just starting to brown at the edges. Cool completely.
- 3 medium, ripe bananas, sliced diagonally
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups light cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a saucepan bring the butter, milk, and light cream to a boil. While this mixture is cooking, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a bowl and whip using a whisk.
When the cream/ milk/butter mixture reaches the boiling point, whisk in the egg mixture and cook to boiling. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent it from burning. As it begins to thicken, clumps may form. Use a whisk to smooth it out. Boil for 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to press the pastry cream through a strainer into a bowl. Whisk in vanilla extract. Cover the surface with plastic wrap touching the pudding. (This prevents a film from forming.) Chill overnight if possible, or for at least a few hours.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
Boil all ingredients 2-5 minutes or until sugar has dissolved completely. Cool to room temperature.
Be sure both crust and pudding are completely cool. Spread 1-2 cups of filling into tart shell. Arrange sliced bananas in a single layer on top of the pudding and press gently into pudding. Drizzle caramel glaze over the top. Let set in fridge for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. (I made the mistake of not letting the caramel cool and when I squirted it from the bottle the drizzles turned into puddles!)