2tablespoons (24g)granulated sugarfor sweetening the whipped cream
6graham crackers*plus more to garnish
4bananasslightly ripe and peeled, each cut into 26 slices
28vanilla wafer cookiesplus more to garnish
Make the Vanilla Pudding
In a saucier (or similar pot with sloped sides), whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Gradually whisk a half-cup of the whole milk into the the dry ingredients. This will eliminate any chance of lumps forming.
Once you've developed a smooth paste, slowly whisk in the remaining milk to create a smooth liquid.
Place the pot on the stove over medium heat and bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer. Whisk constantly to avoid scorching the bottom of the thickened milk mixture. After about 10 minutes of cooking, the whisk should begin to leave behind ribbons in the custard. Simmer one minute longer and remove the milk mixture from the heat.
Ladle a cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks in a slow, steady stream: whisking constantly. Slowly stream the tempered eggs back into the hot milk mixture in the pot. This tempering of the eggs prevents them from scrambling when they're added to the hot milk.
Return the pot to the stove and, over low heat, bring the mixture up to steaming, while constantly whisking.After about 2-3 minutes of heating, the mixture will become very thick- it should resemble pudding. To test for the proper consistency: dip a rubber spatula into the custard. Run your forefinger down the middle of the custard on the spatula. The custard's edges should hold. A runny custard will not hold its edges and must cook a little longer. If you find it's too thick, you can thin by whisking in a tablespoon or two of milk.
Remove the pot from the stove and whisk in the vanilla bean paste and banana extract (if using).
Cool the Pudding Before Adding the Cream
Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap and press the greased side against the surface of the pudding. This will prevent a skin from forming on the surface of the pudding. Chill the pudding in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or until really cold. If you're in a rush, placing the pot in an ice bath will cool it down much quicker.
Towards the end of the chilling period, use an electric hand mixer to whip the heavy cream until ribbons begin to streak the surface. Add the sugar to the cream to sweeten it, and continue beating (on high) until stiff peaks form in the cream.
Scoop half of the whipped cream into the cold vanilla pudding. Fold the whipped cream into the pudding gently, to maintain the volume of the cream. The remaining whipped cream will be used to top the assembled homemade banana pudding later.
Assemble the Banana Pudding
Assemble the graham crackers in the bottom of a 9"x13" casserole dish in an even layer. Your dish may require more or less graham crackers, just use however many are needed to cover the bottom of the dish.Use an offset spatula to spread an even layer of the pastry cream (approx. 1- 1 1/2 cups) in an even layer over the crackers.
Layer 2 of the sliced bananas over the pastry cream: overlapping the slices slightly. Top the banana slices with another even layer of pastry cream- make sure to spread the layer evenly over the bananas to prevent them from browning too much as the dessert sits.
Arrange the vanilla wafers over the second layer of pastry cream in an even layer before topping with another layer of pastry cream.
Cover this layer of pastry cream with the remaining bananas. Finally, spread the last of the pastry cream over the bananas.
Carefully spread or pipe the reserved whipped cream over the top layer of pastry cream. Use the vanilla wafers and graham crackers to garnish the top of the banana pudding.
Store the homemade banana pudding in the refrigerator at all times. The banana pudding should be enjoyed within two days of making it. Return any leftovers to the fridge soon after serving. Be sure to keep it covered to avoid too much browning on the bananas.
*graham crackers can be replaced with more vanilla wafers, chess cookies, or gingersnaps.