A few weeks ago we were invited for drinks and light dinner at a friend’s house. The kind of friend who doesn’t want you to bring anything. Now, as a chef, it is very hard to show up empty handed or holding a bottle of wine. But if I do bring something, I always also try not to over-do it, as it’s not my show after all. So of course – dessert is always the classic choice.
After a short interrogation I discovered their favorite sweet ending for a meal was Banana Pudding. Great choice for the cold nights of NYC. Having made a couple of puddings, I’ve decided to try a recipe that’s a little different this time. Unlike my usual cream-based puddings, I thought of trying to apply some short cuts and use Condensed Milk. The thickness of the condensed milk provides with that richness you want to feel in puddings, and if you use pre-mixed vanilla mixture, well – you’ve just cut half the work!
Let’s talk condensed milk.
Condensed Milk. Nestles under “other dairy” section. Not the sexiest sounding category.
Sold as a canned product which does not require refrigeration, It’s usually found somewhere on the baking shelves, right next to Wondra and almond extract (and if you ever shopped for it, you know you have to really look – it’s usually higher/lower than eye-level: marketers have better-selling items to put within your natural reach).
It’s one of those things that you don’t necessarily have in your pantry; some cultures use it more than others, for traditional recipes like the Mexican ‘La Lechera’ cake or the Brazilian candy ‘brigadairo’; it’s also used as a short-cut in pies and pudding recipes, acting as a great thickener-sweetener, a combined quality that is rarely found in many ingredients. Basically, it’s a great way to get away with some steps in baking/cooking procedures; using it will save you a couple of hours of waiting for milk to reduce to a thick, sticky, heavenly consistency which is necessary for certain dishes.
Like many commodities, these products aren’t really being promoted in any kind of ATL advertising; I don’t recall any commercial for these items, actually. But as mentioned, most people look online for inspiration anyway, so let’s check the brands websites, shall we?
Eagle Brand – who is manufacturing only Condensed/Evaporated milk products – is doing a great job in giving some creative ideas as to how to use their products in various recipes. Nestle’s brand Carnations, on the other hand, means well – but directs you to a broken link (hey Nestle guys, I’m sure you have some good stuff in there, please look into it!). Nestle have another brand, La lechera , and here they have a whole website dedicated to product-use ideas that features both brands (and many more). Nestle is also doing a great job connecting the website to all of its social outlets: Pinterest, Facebook and Tweeter. The only thing with this site, is that it involves many different products and their own recipes, so if you happened to buy this one product – condensed milk, and want to know what you can do with it, it doesn’t let you sort by product but by other navigation options. Under the brand page itself, because there are more products rather than only sweetened condensed milk, some recipes may seem like they utilize it but actually call for other products of the brand, like milk powder or evaporated milk (do not mistake it for sweetened condensed milk!)
So, generally, I was pleased with what I found around the culinary marketing of this product. Now, without further a due, my Banana Pudding recipe for you all to try. I tried a different plating option, which I think is nice and interesting. In this recipe I caramelized half of the banana, and left the other part whole, to support the plating. This gives an additional texture and flavor source to the dish, and invites you to “play” with your food a little, just for fun.
NYC-Winter Glazed-Banana Pudding
From the Pantry
¼ cup maple syrup
1 container (14 oz) condensed milk
1 package instant vanilla pudding
2.5 cups milk
1 pint (4.73ml) container heavy cream
½ package Vanilla wafers/cookies (I made it myself..)
The bananas from before (see below).
Make the pudding:
- Take one banana. Mash it up well, preferably in a food processor, to a paste.
- Mix the instant pudding with the milk and condensed milk. Add the mashed banana. Set aside to firm up, about 20-30 minutes in the fridge (or outside on the fire escape if it’s 7 degrees out and you have no room in your tiny little apartment).
- Whip the heavy cream until firm peaks appear, but be careful not to overwhip it – it will become butter and there’s no turning back from there… (What are firm peaks? When the whipped cream holds its form and don not budge when you test it. Use any utensil like a spoon or a fork. Just take a little bit out of the bowl to see if it holds).
- Gently incorporate the whipped cream into the pudding mix. Start with 1/3 of the batter. When incorporated, add the rest.
Glaze the bananas:
- Take the rest of your 4 bananas. Peel half way. Cut each half way down to nice discs.
- Heat a non-stick pan. Add the maple. When it starts to bubble a little, add the bananas in batches. Flip bananas when it turns nice and golden.
- Set aside to cool.
- Put some of the pudding in a piping bag. If you don’t have any, you can use a spoon.
- Arrange one banana, peel and all, on a plate. Working from the banana side to the top, use your spoon or piping bag to pour some pudding, about 1 tablespoon. Add one glazed banana disc. Continue until you get to the banana top – about 3-5 banana discs.
- Put some vanilla cookies on the plate. You can put some pudding underneath it to give it some moisture.
- Dig in, and don’t forget to take a bite out of the raw banana – it’s the texture mix that makes this so much fun!