The title is a mouthful: a delicious, caloric mouthful. Inspired by a delicious and caloric, if somewhat stressful, week of cakes and puddings at our house. An actual storm is sitting out in the Gulf, on our doorstep, and making vague threats, while the figurative storm of finding your bearings in a new environment is battering us around quite handily. Under the circumstances, why not fatten our bodies and spirits for the fight, right? Cakes and Ale is a fine battle strategy, I say. Anyhoo, on with the post. . .
When I was young, my mother used to sing a song that would make us giggle and make us hungry at the same time: “Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy, make your eyes light up and your tummy say ‘howdy.'” Silly. I’ve never had Apple Pan Dowdy, but I can imagine the cobbler-like creation with no problem. Shoofly Pie is harder to conjure. Obviously sweet and sticky– a fly magnet (yuck!)– but the closest thing I can picture is a chess pie, and I don’t think that’s exactly right. Which brings me to stretchy ice cream. What, you’ll ask, is that? A Floridian taffy-ice cream hybrid? An over-cooked custard that makes a chewy ice cream? No and no. I’m thinking of Turkish Dondurma– an ice cream made with wild orchid extracts and salep ( a milky Turkish drink containing orchids).
Dondurma doesn’t taste of orchids, it comes in many flavors. My favorite was banana.
I only discovered dondurma toward the end of our life in Turkey, which is a shame because it is silky and delicious . . . and stretchy. That doesn’t really affect the taste, but it makes for a great parlor trick. Dondurma is often served in a dramatic way, dished out with a paddle and wrapped around your cone, only to be pulled back at the last moment. The Turks love a laugh and good food, so why not marry the two?
I’ve been thinking about Dondurma lately. August in Florida will bring out all of your ice cream fantasies, believe me. But this week, I’m remembering Banana Dondurma while making a traditional Banana Pudding for my children. A REAL Banana Pudding– no instant pudding and cool whip. Ugh. A silky homemade custard is the only way to go, people.
My mother made this Banana Pudding for us growing up, and I’m pretty sure that her mother made it too. I’m printing the recipe at the end of this post. It’s simple and satisfying, and I like it best when it’s still a tad warm (but I know people who only like it cold, so this is clearly a matter of personal taste).
Like all recipes for BP, this one layers Vanilla Wafers, banana slices, and pudding. Like all the best recipes for BP, this one features a homemade pudding of milk/cream, eggs, and sugar– with a splash of vanilla tossed in after the pudding thickens. Believe me, you’ll be licking the mixing spoon after making this one. (And, as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I could use this pudding, with banana and wafer bits thrown in to churn up a really delicious–though certainly un-stretchy– ice cream. I’m going to try this soon and get back to you.)
Banana Pudding is a staple of the American South, a time-tested comfort food, welcome around any pot luck or picnic table. Why is it Southern? I have no idea. It goes well with bourbon? (There are worse theories.) If you want a primer on the treat and its history, I’d suggest you read the article posted on the SeriousEats website– an interesting and remarkably in-depth read. If you’re here for the yummy, not the history, feel free to skip the article, fast forward to my recipe, and judge for yourself.
But not before you consider Banoffee Pie. It deserves a mention in a travel and culture blog, because what Banana Pudding is to the American South, Banoffee Pie seems to be to Brits. A perfect comfort food, a sweet banana dessert that pops up everywhere.
“Banoffee” you say? Yes– bananas, cream, and toffee. BAN. OFFEE.
Although it’s a British staple, it’s not one of those long-standing English recipes that dates back to the middle ages (think mincemeat pie). No– bananas weren’t easy to come by before modern times. Still, you find it in so many homes, on so many menus, and in endless incarnations these days. Nigella Lawson has a great looking Banoffee Cheesecake recipe, as well a Chocolate Banoffee recipe. There are Banoffee sundaes and cupcakes and pastries. If you can think up a twist to banoffee pie, it’s out there.
I have nibbled at Banoffee creations, but haven’t perfected my own version, so I’ll encourage you to find your own recipe. If you already have the perfect recipe, feel free to share it with me!
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I’ll leave you with my pudding recipe and a final thought on comfort food. On how we eat. I love sugar, and I love rich puddings, and I love sharing these things with family. But it’s not just the yumminess, and it’s not just the hospitality, it is the comfort that gets me this week– the ritual of sharing this favorite family recipe. Hemingway spoke of Paris as a moveable feast–a joy and light and influence, a wealth of experiences–that stays with you wherever you go. Whether or not we have Paris, we all have a storehouse of moveable feasts.
This week, Banana Pudding is my moveable feast. The world is spinning a bit fast for me, the Gulf is churning a bit violently, but I have my pudding (a tad warm yet) and I have my children with their spoons at the ready . . . and I find that I have a feast of friends around this table — I have my grandmother’s cooking, my mother’s singing, my Turkish ice cream man, and my British bakery, and I sit in the company of these fine things and dig in to my bowl, and I know, with a quiet conviction, that the world will be right soon enough.
*Ba’s BANANA PUDDING
- For the custard: 1/2 cup sugar, 3 Tablespoons flour, dash of salt, 1 whole egg, 3 egg yolks (save the whites), 2 cups of milk.
- Cook this in a medium saucepan over a low heat until it thickens. Then take it off the stove and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Layer vanilla wafers and banana slices; pour some custard over the top; then repeat these layers.
- For meringue topping: beat the 3 egg whites, gradually adding up to 1/4 cup of sugar (and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, if you wish). Bake this until browned (at 400 degrees, or using the broiler).