Ah, banana pudding...The Wife fondly recalls this dessert as a constant in her family's refrigerator every week, a copious amount in a big glass bowl, always topped with clouds of singed meringue. Everyone ate it straight out of the container like wild wolves with magical spoon-holding abilities. You can make this whole deal from scratch, but it won't be as good. Rarely do we advocate throwing together a few store-bought ingredients as a recipe for dessert success, but she has cracked the code of banana pudding and wants to share it with you.
She uses Dr. Oetker's vanilla pudding mix in a box and prefers 2% milk, not skim. Wait 'til it cools to put the pudding together -- you can hurry it along with an ice bath under another bowl. Plain old classic, but not reduced-fat, Nabisco Nilla Wafers work best, of course, so arrange them on the bottom and sides of your bowl or pan. Organic bananas sliced into rounds are mandatory, too, at the bottom, and then just pour the cooled vanilla pudding over it all.
Please don't even think about using whipped cream on top. Instead, here is our hard-fought, always-fluffy meringue recipe:
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/8 cup raw or powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Put packages of frozen fruit or vegetables all around your stand mixer's bowl to keep it as cold as possible. Pour in all ingredients and mix on high for 1-2 minutes in order to whip in lots of air. Once hard peaks form -- they should stand up on their own when you pull the whisk up -- spread this on top of chilled pudding. Using the back of a spoon, pull peaks up from the smooth meringue. Place meringue-topped pudding under a broiler for just a few seconds.
Tips: Watery meringue happens when cold meringue is added to warm pudding, so be sure they are close to the same temp.! Also, make it all ahead. It is so much better after a day in the fridge.