As kids, my brothers and I used to fight over the last of this addictive pudding, and my kids love it now as much as I did then. The brûléed meringue on the top makes for an impressive presentation. My dad, “Big Papa,” serves this dessert weekly when he cooks for his church congregation.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) box vanilla wafer cookies
  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced ¼ inch thick

Method

Make the Pudding

Combine the half-and-half and granulated sugar in a stainless-steel bowl or the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Whisk in the flour and salt until they combined, about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Place the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually add half of the hot cream mixture while stirring constantly to temper the eggs. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining hot cream and place back over the simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of a thin pudding, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Make the Meringue

Beat the egg whites in a bowl with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until the whites form stiff peaks. Preheat the broiler.

To assemble the pudding, cover the bottom of a 2-quart glass baking dish with vanilla wafers. Top with half the banana slices and half the cooled pudding. Make a second layer, ending with the pudding. With a spatula, spread the meringue over the entire banana pudding, forming attractive peaks. Slide the dish under the broiler until the meringue is golden brown on top, 2 to 3 minutes.

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