It was when I decided to use a little alcohol on the vanilla wafers and a dusting of cocoa powder on the top, as with tiramisù, that I started calling this dressed-up banana pudding "Bananamisu." A lot of people top their banana pudding with meringue, but I prefer whipped cream. Wish I didn't. Meringue would be a "healthier" choice.
And, sure, you can use boxed pudding mix, but homemade custard is so much better. And it allows me to cut back a little on the sweetness. After all, the custard is layered with sweet cookies and sweet ripe bananas, how sweet does it need to be? Just sweet enough!
If you have a nice heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, you can make the custard right in the pan. But if you're new to custard, making it the double-boiler way will help you avoid curdling the eggs. Either way, it takes a bit of time; so I just pull my kitchen stool up to the stove and settle in for some serious stirring. If you didn't grow up in the banana pudding tradition, maybe you want to start one now?
Bananamisu Banana Pudding
(Makes one 7-inch round, 6 to 8 servings)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 packed cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8-ounce box Country Choice Organic Vanilla Wafers
2 or 3 tablespoons dark rum, optional
3 medium (about 1 1/2 pounds) ripe bananas
Juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder, optional
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 In top of double-boiler, whisk together sugar, flour and salt. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in egg yolks until thoroughly combined. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened (which might take 10 to 15 minutes; should register 160 degrees Fahrenheit on instant-read thermometer). Remove from heat. Whisk in butter and vanilla.
2 Spray 7-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Cover bottom of pan with vanilla wafers (21 of my brand). Sprinkle rum over wafers. Peel bananas and cut 1/2 of them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, squeeze on a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning (I usually forget this step, and it doesn't really matter unless you're making the pudding 24 hours ahead) and layer over the wafers. Cover with 1/2 of the pudding, making sure bananas are completely covered by pudding. Repeat. Drop the pan on a towel-cushioned counter a couple of times to settle the layers. Sift cocoa powder evenly over top. Cover with a paper towel and a piece of foil, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 24 hours. (The paper towel keeps condensation from forming and dripping onto the cocoa powder.)
3 To serve, run a knife around edge and release pan sides. Slice into 6 or 8 wedges. Just before serving, whip cream with sugar and vanilla. Pipe a rosette of whipped cream onto each wedge. Garnish with vanilla wafer crumbs and shaved chocolate, if desired.