Yes We Have No Banana Pudding Transcript



    [AB is shopping from the aisles, spots a display of "Ol' Yella Vanilla Wafers," stops, and grabs a box] Old Yellow Vanilla Wafers. You know, I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to make this amazing banana pudding with these things. When I went away to college, I asked her for the recipe, and she said I'd have to wait until she dropped ... It's right here on the back of the box. That tricky old girl. Well, I'll tell you what. I'm going to whip up some of that pudding today.

The Kitchen

Later that same day...

    [AB is tasting the pudding he made]. Mmm. Mmm. Hmm. Tastes like, tastes like "okay," I guess. The problem is, I'm not really in the mood for "okay, I guess." I'm in the mood for take-one-bite-and-be-transported-back-to-my-childhood-, only-not-really-my-childhood-, but-some-romantic-notion-of-what-my-childhood-might-have-been–if-I-had-grown-up-in-a-storybook. And this ain't it. No, I got a feeling that if we're going to produce a banana pudding that truly takes us where I want to go, we're going to have to build it from scratch. And that's just fine with me, because after all, this is ...

[Good Eats theme]

The Kitchen

    Now let's be clear about one thing. When Americans say "banana pudding," we're not just talking about a bowl of creamy, yellow goo, but rather a bowl of creamy, yellow goo, layered with sliced ripe bananas and vanilla-flavored wafers. It is, in fact, a curiously comforting construct with an old-world pedigree.

Time Machine

    [AB steps into a closet, containing a time machine, presses a BACK button] Don't worry, we're not going far, say, Christmas 1893. Why? Because when it comes to dessert, it's tough to beat the Victorians.

Victorian Party,
Christmas, 1893

GUESTS: Victorian party guests

    [AB surveys a dessert table] Behold, the primal swamp of sweets from which our banana pudding crawled. Ah, first, we have the fool: puréed fruit folded into whipped cream, popular since the 16th century. Syllabub, a very old froth of sorts composed of sweet wine and cream.
    Then we have the tipsy cake. Slightly stale sponge cake or stack thereof. You just hollow it out and poor in the booze—sherry, brandy, that sort of thing. Notice, ringed with egg custard and finished with almonds. Now you carve that cake into the shape of a hedgehog, put some jam in front of it, and you've got hedgehog cake.
    Now the trifle is the evolutionary next step, where stale cake, saturated with spirits, is cubed and stratified with custard, fruits, jams, and topped off with whipped cream. Although modern cooks struggle through hours of preparation to perform one today, original trifles were, well, just about leftovers. They were like dessert casseroles. Oh, and please note, the glass trifle bowl, which shows off the striations. That, my friends, is the grandfather of our pudding. And yet, there are still no bananas.

Time Machine

    [steps back into the time machine, and presses the "FORWARD" button] That's because bananas were strictly an American phenomenon at first. Even there, they didn't enter the dessert picture until shipments from the Caribbean started showing up at the port of New Orleans around 1900.

New Orleans, 1900

    [stepping out of the machine, at around 1900] They became so plentiful that folks just didn't know what to do with them, so they followed the English model and made them into a trifle: booze-soaked cake, custard, sliced bananas. Might as well pick up a few while we're here, hmm?
    Now while pondering what type of banana to employ for pudding, I would love to tell you to go with some special model, like apple bananas or red bananas. But the truth is, the good old Cavendish is the right banana for the job. Ripeness, however, does matter. You want to go with slightly underripe specimens, okay? No big, brown bruises. Just a kiss of green at either end. You're going to need three mediums for each pudding.

Time Machine

    [steps back into the time machine, and presses "FORWARD" again] Now oddly enough, these fruits of a large herbaceous flower are not the definitive ingredient in today's edible experiment. Nope, that would be ...

The Kitchen

... [stepping out of the time machine, and back in the present] That's right, it's the wafers.
    [at the table] When I was a kid, this box [of vanilla wafers] actually listed vanilla in the ingredients, but they had to take it off a few years ago when they replaced the vanilla, which comes from a pod, with a chemical derivative called vanillin, which is harvested from wood pulp, as in, wood.
    Other cost-cutting alterations have been made since the good old days when Dad and I used to sit in the kitchen, dunking these into chocolate frosting and tossing back cold shots of cow juice. They are, in fact, smaller, drier, blander and, well, I think we better just start from scratch.

    [at the oven] Mission Vanilla Wafer gets underway with a 350 degree oven, one rack upper third, one rack bottom third.

350 Degrees

    [at the dining table] Like so many other classic cookies, our vanilla wafers will be prepared via the "creaming" method, which means that there are three distinct teams of software. And here we have the sugar/fat team. Those always go together. We have four ounces, or we'll use four ounces of unsalted butter, one large chicken egg, and 3.5 ounces by weight of sugar. And you get extra points if you use vanilla sugar. You can learn about that at
    Now we move to the wet team. Not a big team, but critical. One tablespoon of milk, whole, not skim, and four teaspoons of real vanilla extract, single strength, if you please. Our last team, of course, the dry team. And for that we will require seven ounces, again, by weight, of all-purpose flour, three-quarters of a teaspoon of baking powder, and one-half teaspoon of kosher salt.

    Now that we have all of our software amassed, we can move into the creaming stage. For that, we will require, of course, a creaming device like this mixer. So the butter goes in. Room temperature, please. It always has to be room temperature for the creaming process, or else you're just going to waste time. And the sugar will go in. Now medium speed for two minutes, and you're going to have to stop halfway through and scrape down the bowl, I guarantee. 4 Ounce Unsalted Butter,
    Room Temperature
3.5 Ounce Vanilla Sugar

    While that is working, let's go ahead and sift the dry goods. Now you might ask, why? Well, I'll tell you. Because if you aerate all this powder, you are going to have a much easier time working this into the batter. And the paper plate? I like that, because it's a lot easier to deliver these goods into that mixer without making a huge mess.

    Now when the creaming is done, you'll know, because you'll have a nice, homogenized, light-yellow appearance. At that time, and only at that time, you can add your egg. Now we're basically making an emulsion here, and emulsions take time. So let this work, I'd say, for about another 30 seconds, or until the egg has essentially disappeared. 1 Large Egg
    At that point, you can turn down the speed and go for the wet works, which we have here. Those go in, also nice and slow. And let them work until you basically don't see a lot of moisture still moving around in the bottom of the bowl. 1 Tbs. Whole Milk +
4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
    Then, and only then, it will be time to move for your dry goods. And you'll see this is where the paper plate really comes into its own. Just bend it like this, like you're eating a hot dog, and slowly tap it in. And if stuff starts, you know, crawling up the side of the bowl, just scrape it down with a spatula. Take your time. 7 Ounces All-Purpose Flour +
¾ tsp. Baking Powder +
½ tsp. Kosher Salt

    [at the refrigerator] A 10-minute chill will make the dough infinitely easier to work with.

Bananas are by far the most popular fruit in the United States.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing
             Ulysses S. Grant
             Robert E. Lee

    And now is the time on Good Eats when we scoop. Start by lining two half-sheet pans with parchment paper and then scoop on the goods. Now I'm using a one-teaspoon disher here. It's the easiest device to deliver this very sticky dough, and I usually start in the corners to kind of hold things down. And then basically build yourself a grid, 5 by 7 pieces, so that you've got 35 cookies. Then just use the heel of your hand to slightly mash them down.
    [at the oven] Now in my oven, golden-brown and delicious is exactly 18 minutes away. But in your oven, it may take 15 to 20, depending. Oh, and remember to rotate the pans halfway through the process for evenness' sake.
    Now when the cookies are done, just slide the parchments onto cooling racks and keep your mitts off them for half an hour.

THING: [tries to reach for a cookie]
[slaps him away] No! They're for the pudding!
T: [reaches again, and succeeds]

    It's generally held that trifle-like banana puddingsthat is, specimens assembled from a cooked-then-chilled custard and topped with whipped creamare favored by those living in the northern United States.

ULYSSES S. GRANT: A fact which testifies to the strong British influence and our hardy, hard-working cuisine.
ROBERT E. LEE: While in the south, where hospitality is a way of life, we prefer our 'nana puddin' topped with a light meringue, baked and served warm.
AB: Which of course reflects strong French influence.
REL: Ah, well, do remember that bananas first came to the south, through New Orleans and the great port of Charleston.
AB: Oh! Oh! Which experienced a vast influx of French Huguenots during the 17th century.
USG: Well, then, explain to me why it is that the factory which makes these wafers, and which has been based for a long time in New York City ...
AB & REL: New York City?
USG: Ah, yes. ... continues to print on the box a recipe for baked banana pudding with meringue.
REL: Well, I believe I can answer that question.
USG: Well, do.
REL: Well, you see, Sir, the majority of the cookies of which you speak are sold in the south, where they must pander to our considerable and, dare I say, superior culinary constitutions.
USG: [laughs] Well, perhaps I should just have my close, personal friend, William Tecumseh Sherman, come down there, and teach you boys a thing or two about the name of the word superiority!
REL: Well, bring him down ...
USG: Oh, yeah, I will.
REL: ... and we'll be glad to serve him a heaping helping of southern hospitality.
USG: Oh, I got your hospitality right here ...
AB: No, come on.
USG: ... you rebellious jackanape. Put 'em up. Come on, let's go.
REL: I'll teach you a thing or two about fisticuffs, you red-nosed rum barrel.
USG: Rum barrel? Oh, that's it, Lee. I've had it with your snipes. Come on.
AB: You guys got to ...
USG: Well, come back here. Where you going? [the argument never comes to blows, but adjourns off-camera]

    Sorry about that, food fans. But folks can get kind of passionate about their pudding. Me? I think there's room on the table for baked and refrigerator versions.
    Let us consider now the software. Both versions of our pudding will require dairy, sugar, eggs, and starch, as well as identical amounts of vanilla wafers, bananas, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt. The odd men out, a little bit of butter and banana liqueur, which we will be using in our cold version. And since that one takes a little bit longer to assemble, it's a good place to start.
    Although most stirred custards are cooked in a double boiler in order to protect the fragile egg proteins from over coagulation, i.e. scrambling, we don't need no stinking protection. Well, we do, but we shall find it elsewhere.

    [at the stovetop] So combine three quarters of a cup of sugar, three tablespoons of cornstarch, and one dose of the salt, a quarter teaspoon, in your saucier. ¾ Cup Sugar
3 Tbs. Cornstarch
¼ tsp. Kosher Salt
Now when combined, work in two eggs and one egg yolk, whisking for 30 seconds. Now most custards eschew the use of egg whites, but I think they make for a lighter final product, at least in the refrigerated version. 2 Whole Eggs +
1 Egg Yolk
    Now follow the eggs with two cups of whole milk and whisk aggressively for another 30 seconds. 2 Cups Whole Milk

    Then and only then, you can bring on the heat, medium-low. We want to slowly bring this mixture to 172 to 180 degrees. That is the sweet spot where the starches swell to their optimum, um, swellage, and the egg proteins coagulate to the point where they will, well, be firm but not hard once refrigerated. Now a lot of popular recipes call for simply cooking this until "thick". That's not good enough. 172 to 180, if you please.

    Okay, 178. That's good enough for me. So kill the heat, and then introduce the one ingredient on the parts list that is truly unique to this application, butter. Three tablespoons cut into six pieces. Whisk them in one at a time. Slowly melting some of the fat into the mix will lubricate the gel that we've created with that starch, making it more spreadable. And it'll also provide a lovely sheen, and, of course, butter tastes good. There. 3 Tbs. Unsalted Butter,
    Last, but by no means least, the half teaspoon of vanilla extract. Which being mostly alcohol, boils at a relatively low temperature. So I typically hold it back until the custard is cooled a few degrees. ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract

    Now this next part is important. As the custard continues to cool, it's going to form a skin because of the starch. To prevent that, we have to eliminate surface evaporation. So take yourself a 16 1/2" x 12 1/2" piece of parchment. Fold over one side. Then use a ruler and remove the excess piece thusly. [makes a square out of it] Then just start folding the triangle over on itself four or five times until you've got something that looks like this. Measure five inches from the pointy end, and snip off the remains thusly. And look! You've made yourself a 10-inch parchment disk. which you can apply directly to the surface of the custard.
    [at the refrigerator] Refrigerate your custard until it drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. In my refrigerator, that'll take about two hours.

The first printed recipe for pastry cream dates back to
"Le Patissier Francois", published in France in 1690.

The Kitchen

    Now the wafers in refrigerator-based banana puddings often suffer a dearth of moisture. But we can fix that by borrowing a note from the trifle. This is a bottle of banana liqueur. This is four ounces of said liqueur being slowly poured onto 45 of our homemade vanilla wafers. Let these soak for ten minutes. Not only will you have a serious increase in flavor, but your moisture problems, they are history. 4 Ounces Banana Liqueur
45 Homemade Vanilla Wafers
    All right, with that done we turn our attention to the three bananas. Alright, peel and slice these into quarter-inch rounds, and then toss with the lemon juice. The acid here will smash the enzyme that teams up with oxygen and phenyls to cause browning. 3 Bananas, Peeled & Sliced ¼
    Inch Rounds
1 Tbs. Freshly Squeezed
    Lemon Juice
    Now the last thing we have to build is our topping, whipped cream. So one cup of very cold whipping cream goes into the mixer bowl, along with two tablespoons of plain old sugar. Now very slowly put the spurs to that so you don't just sling everything all over the kitchen. And in a couple of minutes, you will have stiff peaks that look exactly like this. And believe me, we'll want to use every bit of this. 1 Cup Heavy Whipping
2 Tbs. Sugar

    All right, now we build. You can, of course, use a trifle dish like this. It's pretty. But if you're like me, you'll just go with a plain old bowl in the 1.5 quart range.
    Now start with just a small layer of pudding right in the bottom to just kind of hold things. That's going to be your foundation. No more than maybe a third of a cup down there. Then start layering on the wafers. And don't overlap them too much. Follow that with some bananas, more pudding, and keep building until you have three layers of bananas, three layers of cookies, four layers of pudding all day, and, of course, the whipped cream up on top.
    [at the refrigerator] Half an hour of chilling should give the custard and cookies time to cozily coalesce. In the meantime, we turn due south for pudding number two.
    Of course, it's kind of warm in the south, so we'll crank our hot box to 400 degrees, standard bake mode. Next, separate four eggs. Now we're going to cook with the yolks right away, but we're going to be whipping the whites later, so I like to sequester each white as I go to make sure I don't get any yolk in it, and then you can add them back into the whole. That'll keep everybody happy.

    Combine one-half cup of sugar, a third of a cup of all-purpose flour, and the very same quarter teaspoon of kosher salt as before in the very same saucier. ½ Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ tsp. Kosher Salt
    Now when combined, whisk in the yolks. Since there's not as much moisture in them as before, the mixture's going to get pretty tight. You're going to have to use some elbow grease, as they used to say. 4 Egg Yolks
    Now we're going to add our dairy. In this case, two cups of half-and-half. Now this is pretty stiff, so loosen it up first by just adding, say, half a cup. Otherwise, you're going to slosh everything all over the kitchen. There. Now you can add the rest. Okay, since it contains two to three times more fat than whole milk, half-and-half will give us a smooth, silky texture in this version of the pudding. Now continue to whisk now over medium-low heat until you hit that magical realm of 172 to 180 degrees. 2 Cups Half & Half

    Now you might be asking, "why use flour instead of cornstarch?" Well, cornstarch is all starch, which means, well, approximately 25% amylose and 75% amylopectin molecules. This combination is especially potent when a light texture is desired in a product that will be served cold. Flour, on the other hand, is only mostly starch, around 70%, the rest being protein, milk sugars, and malted wheat, which is added for the benefit of yeast. And although we're not going to be using yeast here, we, can certainly, profit from the fact that that flavor marries well with bananas, of all things. And I always prefer flour as a thickener when the mixture is to be served warm.

    All right, we finally reach 177. Good. So I'm going to kill the heat and add the vanilla extract. Just a half teaspoon. I'll just eyeball it. There. And now we build just as before, starting with a little bit of the pudding mixture, the custard, as a base. Then start with the cookies, and notice I'm not overlapping them. We need room for the pudding to kind of glue things together. Follow that with bananas, and keep on building. ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract

    Since the custard is still hot, the bananas will essentially cook, lending both moisture and sweetness to the whole. That is how we got away with less sugar and skipped the liqueur soak all together. Next up, the meringue.

Bananas in space? Banana pudding was served aboard Apollo 12.

The Kitchen

    Time to meringue. So our four reserved egg whites go into the work bowl of the mixer, along with a pinch of cream of tartar. That's an acid. It will actually help to denature some of the egg white proteins allowing them to whip easier.
    Now start this on medium speed, just until it's frothy, then boost it to high, and slowly sprinkle in two tablespoons of sugar. Keep beating until you've got good, stiff peaks. Nice and smooth, like that. Any more than that and it'll be really, really tough to spread.
4 Egg Whiles
1 Pinch Cream of Tartar

2 Tbs. Sugar

    Now when applying to the pudding, just dump everything right in the middle, and smooth it all the way to the edges until you've got a good seal. Don't worry what it looks like.
[at the oven] Bake for 10 minutes at 400, or until the top of the meringue is nice and brown.
    Be sure to let this cool down for at least 15 to 20 minutes before you attempt to devour. And now, the moment of truth. [tastes both] They are both amazingly delicious. They are both completely luscious. And yet, they are undeniably different puddings. It's kind of like, I don't know, dating sisters, only a whole lot safer, I imagine.


GUEST: Stock Boy

    [AB is dresse as a stock boy, and is adding AB BRAND VANILLA WAFERS to the shelves] Whether you were raised on southern baked versions or trifle-esque refrigerator models, any banana pudding is possible, as long as you build upon a foundation of real vanilla wafers.

STOCK BOY: Hey, new guy! Those don't go there!
AB: Um, well, you know, Jerry told me to get these up stat.
SB: You mean Jim.
AB: Did I say "Jerry"? Jim, yeah. I meant Jim.
SB: Jim's deli. He's got no authority over here, okay? I do.

    Okay, folks, you'll have to excuse me. I think I've got a little management situation to work out. See you next time on Good Eats.

SB: [picks up a box and sees the ruse]
AB: Put the box back. Thank you.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 12/06/2010