For those who are raised in the south, banana pudding is a staple dessert item. However, for this midwestern girl, banana pudding is something I had never even heard of until just a couple of years ago thanks to the wonderful world of food blogs. And when I did finally learn of it, I was surprised that it was not banana-flavored pudding, but rather vanilla pudding layered with sliced bananas and vanilla wafers. That little detail sort of turned me off to the concept for a while but then, just as with banana cream pie, I realized I could add banana flavoring. Apparently the classic version is also topped with meringue, but I’m not a huge fan so I swapped it out for freshly whipped cream. So basically what I ended up with was a parfait version of banana cream pie with vanilla wafers instead of crust. Fine by me, and more than fine by our guests. Of all the dessert items at the party, these were the favorite by far. It seems as though we midwesterners know a good thing when we taste it. This stuff is truly addictive. You have been warned!
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2½ cups milk
3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature, divided
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp. banana liqueur or 1 tbsp. banana extract (optional)
3-4 ripe bananas, sliced
Vanilla wafers (mini if you make parfaits)
For the topping:
¾ cup heavy cream
3-4 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks, then the milk. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens significantly. Remove from the heat. (Strain through a mesh sieve if you are at all concerned about having overcooked it to remove any lumps.) Whisk in the vanilla, remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, and banana liqueur or extract (if using).
Layer a serving dish or individual serving dishes with vanilla wafers and banana slices. Fill each dish with some of the pudding and continue layering with vanilla wafers and banana slices as desired until the serving dishes are mostly filled and the pudding has been used up. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill until well set, at least 2-3 hours.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and confectioners' sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Blend in the vanilla. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and pipe a dollop of cream onto each serving of pudding. Garnish with additional vanilla wafers if desired.