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Thursday, February 28, 2013

banana caramel pudding with meringue topping.

It feels like eons since I last posted! I miss writing so much. I miss photographing desserts so much. I miss baking so so much. It scares the poo out of me when I let my mind wander into the future and see how this is how my life would be for the about the next two years- baking only once a week and jumping at the every chance I can chill out with a cake, yet to be riddled with guilt during those precious stolen moments. I'm being a drama queen here- I'm sure the situation won't be that bad because thank heavens, there is this wonderful period of time called holidays. It's funny how much I look forward to holidays now because not one month ago, I was close to begging for the holidays to end because I was bored out of my wits. Well, not anymore.

Sometime yesterday, I found a rare pocket of time in my crazy schedule. To commemorate that spectacular find, I decided to bake. And bake I did this banana pudding. I must have lost touch with making caramel because when I was caramelizing the sugar and it reached the perfect shade of amber, I took it off the heat and looked on desperately as the color darkened further and further. It took me a while to figure out that I should probably throw in some cream to stop the cooking. Like, duh. So my caramel progressed to a deep deep mahogany shade, way darker than I ever intended for it to be. As a result, the overall pudding had a rich caramel flavour while I would prefer for it to be lighter so that it would be less overpowering and sweeter too.

Maybe I should give you a rundown on the assembly of this dessert. Basically, you have pudding, banana, wafer, pudding, banana, wafer, pudding and then meringue. I did a round of pudding-banana-wafer less because my ramekins were reaching their height limit. The recipe said that you could experiment with other types of cookies apart from wafers so I tried using Ritz crackers for a salty contrast. I even spread a thin layer of peanut butter on one of the crackers just to see how well it would blend in. Of course it paired well with all the components in the dessert but it did make it taste really rich. Speaking of rich, I appreciated the meringue topping a lot more than just for its aesthetic appeal once I started eating because its lightness is a tremendously-welcomed change from all the heavy flavours.

You know what else would be really good with this pudding? Something coffee. And coconut.

Sigh. When will I get to post next I really have no idea. I miss this blog already.

Banana Caramel Pudding with Meringue Topping
adapted from Baked Explorations
makes 8 servings

For the caramel base:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup heavy cream

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on high heat, without stirring (but swirling the pan is okay), until the sugar has caramelized to a a rich caramel colour. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the cream. Stir until combined. Set aside.

For the banana pudding:
4 cups half-and-half, divided
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, beaten together
1/2 stick butter, cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 bananas, not green yet not quite ripe, sliced
30 vanilla wafer cookies (about 6 ounces), crushed into large chunks, or the equivalent of any other cookies

Whisk 1 cup of half-and-half, cornstarch and salt together until the cornstarch has dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the caramel base and place on medium-high heat. Whisk in the remaining 3 cups of half-and-half. Bring mixture to a boil while whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and whisk vigorously for 15 seconds to release excess heat.

Stream in the eggs, whisking quickly until incorporated. Put the pan back on heat and bring to a boil for 1 to 2 minutes until the custard is really thick. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Strain the custard into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating for at least 1 hour or up to a day.

For assembly: Prepare a large 1 1/2 quart souffle dish or 8 6-ounce ramekins. Layer the components this way- pudding, banana, wafer. Aim for 3 sets if you can.

For the meringue topping:
4 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until it soft peaks just begin to form. Add the sugar slowly while whisking constantly, until the egg whites reach stiff peaks.

Pile the meringue onto the pudding.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown. Cool for 30 to 40 minutes. You can serve it now or chill until completely cool it before eating.

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