Some of us like banana pudding. Some of us buy speckled-almost-black-ready-for-the-compost-heap bananas. On purpose. Just because we love banana pudding.
Though some of our test puddings didn’t set and others were too homely for words, the flavor of every one of them was more than good enough to overlook those small failings. We’ve never been happier to test and eat a sample recipe multiple times.
Just when I was sure I’d never be able to make this properly I discovered a top-dog secret (maybe it isn’t even a top-dog secret to most of you). Cornstarch hates (hates!) to be heated too long and stirred a lot. Once the thing hits the heat, you only need a minute or two to get it to thicken. Once it cools it totally thickens up. I had it slightly confused with other forms of pudding, like, oh say, custards where you stir till the cows come home.
A little vintage Argo helped straighten me out.
A long time ago when Francis Lam was still Food Ed.I.Tor at Salon he wrote this article here about fancy banana pudding. I was intrigued with the banana caramel part since anything caramel sounds good to me and I like bananas. I tried to make the banana caramel back then. I only vaguely remember having to replace the saucepan and telling the fire department that it wasn’t really an emergency.
I waited a long time to try it again. It took a few failures (but only one saucepan and no fire department) to nail it down, but the key is right in his article – about not being chicken. Let the stuff cook and catch it at the right moment. On my stove, that means catching it right before it becomes a carbon experiment and the smoke alarm goes off. But it works. And it takes extraordinary will power to set the banana caramel sauce aside for the pudding and not just slurp it up right away.
Just a few words of wisdom. Make sure the sugar mixture gets brown and starts to stink like it is about to burn. Don’t stir at all. Really. And make sure the banana puree is ready to go because heated sugar waits for no one. Don’t stir the pudding like crazy or for too long, because it will turn into a hot milkshake. But even banana milkshakes have purpose. A couple of different recipes coming up will need that milkshake.
But for now just make some coconut caramel banana pudding. Go. I’ll be right here when you get back.
|Coconut Caramel Banana Pudding|| |
- 100 grams white sugar (about ½ cup)
- 100 grams water (about ½ cup)
- 2 medium very ripe bananas, pureed to a smooth mush (no lumps)
- 815 grams So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk (about 3.5 cups)
- 6 heaping tablespoons GF cornstarch, sifted
- 3 large egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 75 grams sugar (about ⅓ cup)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- optional: 1 teaspoon dark Rum
- most of the banana caramel (set some aside for topping on the finished pudding)
- optional: whipped cream and small GF ginger or vanilla cookies for serving
- Puree those very ripe bananas in a food processor or blender until liquid. I had a few small chunks left and it didn't bother us, but if you want it totally smooth keep pulsing the food processor. Pour into a small pitcher (like a glass measuring cup) and keep it nearby because when you need to mix it with the caramel, there is no waiting. Have it ready to go.
- In a small saucepan with deep sides (do not use a shallow saucepan!) weigh in both the sugar and water. Don't stir, and be sure to drop each ingredient directly into the bottom of the pan and not down the sides. Place on medium heat and leave it alone. It will begin to bubble and all the sugar will eventually dissolve. Resist the urge to help it and stir. Let it do its own thing. You may swirl the pan once it is doing a nice boil just to check the color on the bottom but don't slosh the stuff up the sides. The only thing to remember is that it is best left alone totally to cook, but stay close and keep an eye on it. Keep peeking at the color and somewhere around 10 minutes it should start to turn golden and then mahogany. When it gets to a nice shade of caramel brown (don't be chicken - let it get there) it'll start to stink like it is a nanosecond from becoming a carbon experiment. It is but it won't. Give it a few more seconds and then when you can't stand it anymore and the stuff looks like it might just be too brown, quickly remove it from the heat and pour in the banana puree (which is right there ready, right?). Using a good silicone spatula, stir like crazy because it will bubble up and look like a science project gone crazy. It'll settle down but if you waited long enough for the sugar/water to turn to caramel, it will be almost like a puffy cotton-candy mixture as it settles, it will have a nice medium brown color and it should smell like divine banana caramel sauce. Let that sit right in the saucepan on the counter to cool down while you make the pudding. Set aside about a teaspoon per serving for topping on the pudding right before serving.
- If, by chance, the caramel seems to be turning into a giant lump when you add the banana puree, put it back on low heat and keep stirring until it softens and turns to a thick liquid again. It can be saved. Most of the time.
- Weigh the Coconut Milk into a large saucepan. Remove 100 grams and place that in a small bowl. Heat the remaining Coconut Milk in the saucepan over medium low heat while you prepare the rest of the pudding pieces parts. Sift the cornstarch into the 100 grams of cold Coconut Milk in the little bowl and whisk like crazy to incorporate. Let it sit for a minute and stir again to make sure every pesky lump is whisked into the mixture. Next, in another very small bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Add the salt and sugar to the egg yolks and whisk to incorporate to a smooth paste. Add that to the cold Coconut Milk/cornstarch mixture and whisk till smooth. Add in the cooled (remaining) banana caramel sauce stuff and whisk till smooth. When the heated Coconut Milk is at a nice simmer, pour in the cold Coconut Milk/starch/egg/sugar mixture whisking as you pour it in so it doesn't just scramble. Change to a silicone spatula and stir while it simmers for just one to two minutes. Really. That's all. It should be thick but it won't stay that way if it a) gets heated for too long and b) is stirred for too long. Less is more with this stuff. Add in the vanilla and optional rum if using (again - don't stir too much). Pour in a container or little serving cups and cover with plastic wrap directly onto the pudding to avoid that skin (or leave it off if you like the skin). But cover the container at least! Refrigerate overnight for best flavor development. It will thicken up as it cools.
- Serve topped with a dollop of banana caramel, a dash of whipped cream and a tiny GF ginger or vanilla cookie.