As far as shareable desserts go, banana pudding is a classic for a reason. The layered dessert makes for a stunning sweet centerpiece, and it’s the perfect complement to spicy barbecue. NYC- and Las Vegas-based Virgil’s Real Barbecue restaurants serve up a Southern-style banana pudding that’s rich, creamy, and not too sweet, with layers of custard, banana slices, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream. Each layer is crafted with care, and they were kind enough to share their recipe.
For chef Glenn Rolnick, director of culinary operations at Virgil’s Real Barbecue, a great banana pudding has pure flavors like ripe banana and a rich brown caramel. “Many banana puddings you see are too white, which means the caramel part (where bananas and sugar are cooked together) didn’t cook long enough.” When making banana pudding, make sure to use very ripe bananas to make the banana caramel (for the most flavor) and firmer bananas for slicing and layering (for a neat look). Rolnick recommends spraying vanilla wafers with simple syrup to soften them so they aren’t too crunchy.
If you’re looking to break up the recipe, Rolnick notes that the caramel and pastry cream can be made a few days ahead, however you shouldn’t fold in the whipped cream or assemble the banana pudding more than one day ahead of serving. “The banana pudding will firm up nicely, but the sliced bananas will start to brown after 24 hours,” he said. Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and eaten within a few days.
Recipe for Virgil’s Banana Pudding
Yields 10 servings
For the banana caramel:
2 pounds bananas, peeled
6 1/4 oz white sugar
1 oz light corn syrup
1 Tbsp banana liqueur
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 1/2 oz heavy cream
Puree the bananas and 3 1/4 cups of white sugar in a food processor.
Place the bananas, corn syrup, remaining sugar, banana liqueur, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves.
Add in the heavy cream and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a storage container. Refrigerate the mixture uncovered.
For the pastry cream:
9 oz milk
2 1/4 oz white sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in a double boiler over medium heat. Whisk the mixture continuously, until it has fully thickened.
Transfer to a storage container and place in the refrigerator.
For the banana pudding:
10 oz heavy cream
3 oz banana caramel (see above)
8 oz pastry cream (see above)
2 oz white sugar
1/2 oz banana liqueur
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz vanilla wafers
12 oz bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
Crumbled vanilla wafers, for garnish
Remove the banana caramel from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
Whip the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. To test, hold the whisk up to see if the cream forms a solid hook. If it doesn’t, continue whipping.
In a separate bowl, mix the banana caramel, pastry cream, sugar, banana liqueur, and vanilla extract. Fold the heavy cream into this mixture using a rubber spatula.
In a serving bowl, add 1/3 of the pudding mixture, and layer half of the vanilla wafers on top. Add another 1/3 of the pudding mixture and layer the sliced bananas on top. Layer the remaining vanilla wafers on top of the bananas. Lastly, add the remaining pudding mixture.
Refrigerate the banana pudding for a few hours prior to serving. When ready to serve, top with additional whipped cream and some crumbled vanilla wafers.