Thursday, May 3, 2018

Easiest Banana Cream Pudding Cups

Banana Pudding is an icon in Southern American cuisine.  Ironically enough, it was dubbed a Southern "thang" mainly because of an association with cooks of the south and references made by fans along the Southern Belt.  The fact that the major ports were located in the lower southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi, contributed to the localization of the dish, but there were also ports  in New York and Boston.    
The humble beginnings of banana pudding contained no wafers or cookies, until around 1921.  Some of the more sophisticated renderings of this dessert contained slices of rich pound cake and dainty lady fingers.   The now familiar version surfaced in the north, Illinois to be exact, and the recipes we know today, stemmed from an adaptation to the recipe first introduced by a home cook, by the name of  Laura Kerley, then embraced by Nabisco and printed on the box, as a way to sell their vanilla wafers.  A Star is Born.
Other companies began to cash in on its popularity with instant pudding, allowing the creamy goodness to be easily right at our fingertips,  J-E-L-L-O, YEAH!  These puddings, with homemade custard as well as instant, were made all across the country.   
 The ever popular banana made its debut in the Americas in 1876 at a Centennial fair in Pennsylvania as part of it's exotic fruits exhibit.  It was discovered by Jean Francois Poujot, a Jamaican, in 1836, who cultivated the magnificent fruit into what we know today.  This is the little sister to the 'cooking' type, also known as plantain!
The featured recipe is a no fuss favorite, introduced to my family on Easter, as a shortcut dessert item to lessen my cooking load.  I added a banana pudding to my menu, rather late in the game and hadn't factored in the possible 'Nilla' shortage, as a result of it being the morning of our dinner and last minute as heck!  
After tediously searching for the wafers and roaming the isles like a nomad for several minutes too long, I consulted with an employee, stocking in the dairy department.  He joined in the hunt for the elusive wafers as passionately as I, finally locating them beside the graham crackers.  For the life of me, I could not find that place, where I had been before, (just not recently) for the same wafers, on many occasions....maybe it was the stress! 
The shelf was almost barren, containing no store brand, no Nabisco, some miniature version and some by Murray's.  I felt the price of those were a bit too steep and I could not immediately recall the quality. The wafers would soften and take on the flavors of the custard and bananas, as the dish set and married, so I didn't feel that expensive meant better.  
 As I held the box in my hand, pondering the purchase, my eyes roved the shelves and surrounding options.  My wheels started to turn and ideas for variations bespoke new kitchen adventures and recipes, and for us, a 🌟 was born, again!  Vanilla Sandwich Cookies, you ROCK!
1 pkg. Vanilla sandwich cookies, about 14 oz., half smashed into rough crumbles, half left whole
2 boxes banana cream instant pudding mix
4 c. 2% milk
3 ripe bananas, not soft, but semi-firm
1 8 oz. container  whipped topping
15- 8 oz. serving cups
Crumble the cookies in a sandwich sized resealable bag.
Prepare the pudding according to instructions.
Slice the bananas into the pudding and stir with rubber spatula.
Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Place a whole cookie in the bottom of each cup.
Spoon about 4 oz. of pudding mixture into cup.
Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of crumbles.
Twist cookie apart and put one side or the other in the center of pudding.
 Chill, covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve, preferably 2 to 4 hours in advance.
Makes about 15 individual servings.

This version is family style, featuring Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal for embellishment on top.  The flavors were there, but the cereal, albeit great in ice cold milk, did not withstand the time needed for the rest of the dish to set. Garnish with CTC just before serving for a fantastic and cinnamony spark of delight!

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