Banana Pudding Trashcan
Friday, November 16, 2007
Need I say more? No, but I will. I couldn't help but notice how artfully the peels, egg shells and such had landed in my trashcan today as I made banana pudding. This was the first task of the day so there was nothing else in the garbage, thus an unsullied pallette. I'm afraid that this sort of entry will be the result of my bringing a camera to work.
Banana Pudding used to be an occasional item on my dessert menu, but demand has made it permanent. People complement this recipe all the time, but interestingly it's the meringue that prompts the most questions. I found this technique in Julia Child's The Way To Cook (Alfred Knopf 1989). I swirl a little apple cider vinegar and a pinch or two of salt around in the bowl, then pour it out in the sink. Whatever remains in the bowl is the right amount. I don't remember who told me to use equal amounts of sugar and egg whites, but this ratio produces excellent results. I add a little cream of tartar when I begin to beat the egg whites. (I've always wondered about this stuff. Who first saw it in the bottom of a wine barrel and decided that it might stablize meringue? Should we be eating something that can also be used to take the tarnish off of aluminum pots and pans?). The egg whites should be at room temperature or warmer. If I have time I set the mixing bowl in a pan of warm water for a few minutes. I begin with the mixer on low, adding the cream of tartar first, then feeding in the sugar in a slow stream. I gradually increase the mixer to its highest speed and beat until the meringue is very stiff and glossy. I add vanilla extract at the very last since it seems to collapse the meringue a bit.
If I am going to present the pudding at the table, I spread the meringue on top, sprinkle it with sugar and bake it at 350 degrees for a half an hour or so until it is nicely browned. At work, where the pudding is served in individual portions, I bake the meringues separately in pie pans. This method has several advantages. First of all the meringue is better if it has not been refrigerated, whereas the custard must be kept cool. Secondly, rewarming a custard that may not be used up for several days risks spoilage, so it is safer cool it quickly and to keep it cold. Restaurants always seem to have gallons of extra egg whites, so it isn't any trouble to make some up whenever we need it, and because there is such an excess we can put ridiculous amounts on top of each bowl as we serve it. I love to see peoples faces when it is set before them.
posted by Bill Smith at 5:40 PM