Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pretending-to-be-Southern Banana Pudding

In my increasing quest to become more southern, I've been playing around with some of the local cuisine. Some of my attempts have been proving more successful than others. This one, "Not yo' mama's banana pudding," was a find, let me tell you, from Paula Deen, the national face of televised southern cooking.  I've made a few tweaks, and added some decidedly non-Southern garnishes.

Banana pudding is something of an institution here in North Carolina: the perfect conclusion to a meal of barbecue pork and hush puppies. Although there is precious little "cooking" involved in this recipe, the results are pretty amazing. The texture is a light lighter and more fulfilling than a run-of-the-mill from the box pudding, and the flavor is a lot deeper, too. My native southern friends were impressed (one even said it was better than Grandma's, and that, my friends, it a compliment I will proudly accept).

Paula's recipe has you make all these separate combinations of ingredients, then add them together at the end, but I have always just made it in a Kitchenaid stand mixer, adding one ingredient at a time, and it's turned out great for me.

Now, when you defenders of Southern cuisine look down at the list and become irate at instant pudding mix (vanilla, nonetheless), even the suggestion of nuts and chocolate, or the lack of any kind of heat source, just remind yourself of the prep time: 10 minutes, tops.  I know that Grandma probably spent hours over the stove, slowly simmering the pudding to banana perfection, but I have quickly whipped this up as a last-minute dessert enough times to know that sacrificing a little authenticity is definitely worth the payback in awesomeness and easiness.  

Pretending-to-be-Southern Banana Pudding

  • 1 8-0z package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 5-oz box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 1 12-oz container whipped cream
  • 2-3 cups vanilla wafers or other-similar cookie (chessman, butter cookies, graham crackers, etc.)
  • several sliced bananas
 Optional garnishes:
  • About 1/2 cup toasted almond slices
  • Chocolate shavings (I use a vegetable peeler on the side of chocolate bar)
With a hand-mixer or stand-mixer, blend together the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until smooth and homogenized. Add the pudding mix and the milk, and continue to blend until smooth. Carefully fold in the whipped cream, and layer with the cookies and sliced bananas. The pudding will firm up as it cools.  Just before serving, top with fresh banana slices, cookies, and nuts and/or chocolate (if desired).

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