[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
No, no, not that banana pudding. Rather than a layered dessert of vanilla pudding with sliced bananas and vanilla wafers, this is a banana-flavored pudding. It has all the fruit and custard flavor we love in a scoop of banana ice cream reimagined in a warm and cozy format for a comforting winter dessert.
Why It Works
- A long, slow steep infuses milk with maximum banana flavor, without use of a purée, for a flavorful but silky smooth custard.
- Holding custard at a boil denatures a starch-dissolving enzyme found in egg yolks, keeping the custard creamy and thick.
- Cloves amplify the natural flavor of banana without adding an overtly spicy note of their own.
- 28 ounces milk, any percentage will do (about 3 1/2 cups; 790g)
- 16 ounces peeled, ripe banana from about 5 medium bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups; 455g)
- 1 empty vanilla bean pod, left over from another project, optional
- 7 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 1 cup; 195g)
- 1 1/4 ounces cornstarch (about 1/3 cup; 35g)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1/8 teaspoon (.5g) ground cloves
- 5 ounces egg yolk (from about 10 large eggs; 140g)
- 1/4 ounce vanilla extract (1 1/2 teaspoons; 7g)
Infuse the Milk: Combine milk, sliced banana, and empty vanilla bean pod (if using) in 3-quart stainless steel saucier and bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring from time to time with flexible spatula to prevent scorching along bottom. When dairy comes to simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let stand until cooled to room temperature, about 4 hours. Proceed to next step or refrigerate up to 24 hours to extract stronger banana flavor. The exact timing will depend on both personal preference and convenience.
Make the Custard: Return banana milk to simmer over medium heat, stirring as before; then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into medium bowl. Press gently on banana pulp to release liquid, but don’t allow pulp to pass through sieve. The pulp can be refrigerated to use in muffins, pancakes, or smoothies, but it will not benefit the custard. If using vanilla pod, scrape out the flavorful milk inside each half with flexible spatula before discarding.
Using same 3-quart saucier as before (no need to wash), whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cloves together until well combined, followed by egg yolks. Whisk in infused milk. Return to stovetop and warm over medium-low heat, whisking gently until custard is steaming hot, about 5 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and continue cooking until custard thickens, about 5 minutes longer. When it begins to bubble, set timer and continue whisking for 90 seconds. This step is important to neutralize starch-dissolving protein found in egg yolks. Off-heat, stir in vanilla extract and season to taste with additional vanilla, salt, or cloves, as needed. If desired, strain custard through same sieve as before (again, no need to wash) to remove bits of chalazae that may remain or any accidentally curdled custard.
Portion warm custard into parfait dishes and serve immediately, plain or topped with toasted nuts, cocoa nibs, fresh fruit, unsweetened whipped cream, or whatever toppings you desire.
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