We raised the yum factor of classic banana pudding by adding slices of homemade banana bread to the mix. The ingredients are layered in a cookie-lined bowl, then unmolded onto a platter for a photo-worthy presentation.
a large glass bowl that is 10 inches wide at the top, 5 1/2 inches wide at the bottom and 4 inches tall
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
Cream the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Mash the bananas in a small bowl (you should have about 1 cup), add to the mixing bowl and beat until just combined. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and 1 tablespoon of the milk and beat until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert the bread onto the rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
Add the pudding mix to a large bowl and whisk in the heavy cream. Whip until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (It's fine if there are still a few granules in the mix; they will dissolve once set.)
Slice the banana bread into 18 slices, each about 1/3 inch thick. Set aside.
Line a large glass bowl (10 inches wide at the top, 5 1/2 inches wide at the bottom and 4 inches tall) with plastic wrap, leaving at least 1 inch of overhang on all sides. Quickly submerge 1 vanilla wafer cookie into the remaining 1 cup milk, then place the cookie rounded-side up in the bottom of the prepared glass bowl. Continue to dip the cookies and line the bowl until you reach the very top of the bowl, using 55 to 60 cookies total. The cookies should not go over the edge of the bowl, so trim them if necessary.
Scoop 2 cups of the pudding over the cookies in the bowl, then use the back of a large wooden spoon to gently spread the pudding in one layer over all the cookies, making sure to go all the way to the top of the bowl. Spoon 1 cup of the pudding into the bottom of the bowl and spread it out into a flat layer. Top the pudding with some banana bread slices until mostly covered (you may need to cut up some of the pieces in order for them to fit properly). Top with 1/2 cup of the pudding and spread evenly to cover the bread. Repeat with another layer of banana bread, followed by 3/4 cup of the pudding. Repeat one more time, with another layer of banana bread and the remaining pudding (you will have more bread left).
Dip about 35 more cookies into the milk and lay in a flat layer over the top of the pudding. Top with the remaining banana bread slices. Fold over the plastic wrap to cover the bowl. Refrigerate until completely chilled and the cookies have softened, at least 6 hours and up to overnight.
When ready to serve, carefully invert the bowl onto a large serving platter or cutting board, then use the plastic wrap lining to ease the bombe out of the bowl. Cut into wedges and drizzle with caramel sauce before serving.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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