DamGood Indeed: Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

I wanted to make some sort of dessert for Mardi Gras, but I just couldn't motivate myself to make a king cake. Yeasted breads aren't really my thing to begin with, but I've also never found king cake to be all that appealing. I decided it was time to consult DamGoodSweet, a cookbook of New Orleans-inspired desserts that has been sitting unused on my shelf since I bought it a couple of years ago. It's authored by David Guas, who formerly served as executive pastry chef at the D.C. restaurants Arcadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and the recently-closed TenPenh.

I decided to try Guas' recipe for Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble. I have always loved banana pudding -- after all, what's not to like? I love pudding, bananas, and Nilla Wafers. The banana pudding I'm used to is comprised of vanilla pudding with sliced bananas, whole vanilla wafers, and whipped cream. The DamGoodSweet version is banana pudding with sliced bananas and a crumble made from toasted crumbled vanilla wafers and cinnamon.

You make the pudding from egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, banana liqueur or banana flavoring (I used Dekuyper créme de banana), vanilla, and butter. While I normally put all cooked custards through a sieve, the pudding came out perfectly smooth and I didn't need to strain it. After chilling, the pudding was nicely firm, but still very creamy after stirring.

The crumble that tops the pudding is made from a mixture of crushed vanilla wafers, sugar, cinnamon, and butter; you bake it in the oven so that the wafer bits come out toasted and golden. To serve the pudding, I put some sliced bananas in the bottom of cups (I used small 5 ounce cups, as I was taking these to work and wanted to keep the serving sizes manageable), and topped them with pudding, into which I had folded some extra chopped banana. Right before serving, I spooned on the vanilla wafer crumble.

I love this pudding. This dish delivers a lot more flavor than a typical banana pudding made with vanilla pudding and plain vanilla wafers; the banana flavor in the pudding itself, and the toasted wafers and cinnamon in the crumble make this version special. Plus, the crumble stays nice and crunchy, especially if you sprinkle it on right before serving. I would say that the pudding overall is a bit on the sweet side (I don't see a need for whipped cream here), but I didn't mind. Tom commented that this dessert is a bit simple. I don't disagree; it is only pudding, after all -- but it is definitely the best banana pudding I've ever had!

Recipe: "Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble," from DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style, by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel.