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Michael Voltaggio’s Banana Bread Pudding

Save room for dessert! Chef Michael Voltaggio’s riff on the famous banana pudding from Wilber’s Barbecue & Restaurant in Goldsboro, North Carolina, combines vanilla wafers and bread cubes with a creamy banana custard. Then the rich pudding is baked until golden brown and topped with vanilla wafer ice cream. This is down-home comfort food at its finest.

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. crustless white pullman loaf, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 oz. vanilla wafers, roughly broken by hand
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 4 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Vanilla wafer ice cream for serving (see related recipe at left)

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until dried, about 15 minutes; watch carefully so they don’t brown. Let cool to room temperature. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and add the vanilla wafers. Set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Place the bananas on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until the peels are blackened, the juices ooze out and the bananas are very soft, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream until it just simmers.

Scoop the banana flesh into a blender. Pour any juices from the baking sheet into the blender and blend until a smooth puree forms. Gently whisk the puree into the warm cream. Slowly whisk about half of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, then whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture. Pour the custard over the bread cubes and vanilla wafers. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the bread cubes are very soft, about 1 hour. Not all of the custard will be absorbed.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Pour the bread pudding mixture into an 8-inch nonstick square pan and place the pan in a 9-by-13-inch nonstick pan. Fill the larger pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the square pan. Cover the larger pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until the top of the bread pudding is golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Remove both pans from the oven, remove the square pan from the water bath and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla wafer ice cream. Serves 9.

Recipe by Chef Michael Voltaggio, inspired by Wilber’s Barbecue & Restaurant, Goldsboro, NC.