Monday, October 24, 2011

Pleading the Fifth (Day of Seven Days of Alton Brown): The Proof (of Deliciousness) is in the Pudding!

Hello again, let’s keep this ship afloat! This is the fifth day in a row of my very disciplined blogging of the Alton Brown series to commemorate my meeting of the very awesome, science in cooking guru Alton Brown.

As you recall from yesterday’s post, vanilla wafers are awesome, and they’d be making a feature in the next post, and I shall deliver. They might have been a little too awesome, since the first step of this application involved making an entirely new batch of wafers, since my mother was a little too giddy about the ones I didn’t tell her I was reserving for this awesome dessert: Banana pudding.

The extra effort to make them? Completely worth it.

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According to AB, there’s two schools of thought on banana pudding, refrigerated and baked (even though this can be refrigerated later.) The refrigerated variety hails from more northern climes with a whipped topping, the baked variety a solidly southern dish with a meringue on top.

After asking my mother’s opinion on the subject, she seemed inclined towards the baked version and I was not going to argue, mainly because the refrigerated version uses banana liqueur, and I really not buy such a thing for one dish. Maybe later though!
As always in this series, this application is adapted from Alton Brown’s Good Eats 3.

And so, the ingredients are assembled (clockwise from upper left):

  • all purpose flour, 1/3 cup
  • 1/4 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • half and half, two cups
  • A very healthy squeeze of lemon juice
  • three bananas
  • four eggs, to be separated
As with most Alton Brown applications, there’s quite a bit of hardware involved in this beyond the usual measuring cups, spoons and pans:
  • 1.5 qt glass mixing bowl (or anything oven safe in this size really)
  • Mixer
  • digital thermometer (actually optional, see below)

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First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then get to the prepping!  Actually you can probably preheat the oven after you’ve sliced up the bananas and measured out the dry ingredients and still be fine.

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Let me show you a trick to slice up bananas with minimal contact of your fingers onto the flesh. Make two incisions about a third of the way through on both ends of the banana.

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Hold the stem and peel off one section of the peel. And maybe another third of the peel so there’s just an inch of peel attached to the fruit.

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Hold one end of the peel and make slices through the banana as necessary (quarter inch in this case.) Aside from being a fun thing to do, the fact that the peel holds the banana in place and helps keep the slices from rolling off the cutting board onto the floor.

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Scrape the slices into a bowl.

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Cut off a side of lemon.

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And give it a healthy squeeze over the banana slices. Give it a toss with a spoon to make sure all the slices are coated if you like.

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And here are the wet ingredients. The whites are used for the meringue, the half and half and yolks for the pudding.
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Mise en place for the pudding.

The hardware is a 3 quart sauce pan, whisk, half teaspoon measure, digital thermometer and a whisk.

Already in the sauce pan are the dry dry ingredients for the pudding: flour, half cup of the sugar and salt.
And at the ready to the left we have the yolks, half and half, and vanilla.

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The yolks go in first, and whisked into the dry ingredients.

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Once incorporated, add the half and half and continue whisking very well.

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Once it seems well mixed you can plug in your thermometer and bring the mixture up to temperature. Actually, after doing this I don’t think the thermometer is necessary, you simply have to know what the consistency of pudding is.

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Anyway, you’re going to be there a while. Keep whisking and whisking until it reaches the temperature of about 172-180 degrees.

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Conveniently, this is exactly the temperature where the pudding becomes, well pudding. Once you’re confident it has become pudding, it is time to move on.

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Now add your half tsp of vanilla. It was at this point I realized that there isn’t any banana flavoring added to the pudding part of the application. Interesting, very interesting.

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Marvel briefly at the subtle color change.

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Now we can get to assembly! Get your wafers, banana slices and pudding in place. This is a good part to attempt to slap your whisk into the mixing bowl to attempt to save every bit of precious pudding. Though really fingers and a tongue will take care of that.

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Get your pudding placing tool at the ready. I’ve opted for a rice spoon.

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Smear a bit on the bottom.

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Line with wafers.

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Top with bananas.

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Top with a third of the pudding.

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Repeat with cookies and more banana slices.

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I think that’s actually enough, but I went for another layer, just because that’s the kind of guy I am. More layers. So you can go deeper.

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The key thing is to end with a layer of pudding. Now to the part that makes everything look like a big poofy cloud.

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See this? Don’t do this. I made a big booboo by putting the sugar into the whites. Apparently you add them after soft peaks are formed. Only the power of the Kitchenaid may be able to save me now.

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You should just add this first, a pinch of cream of tartar, then whip to soft peaks, then add the sugar, and then whip to stiff peaks.

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Nothing to do for me but try my best. Can the Kitchenaid save me from my bad direction reading?

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Looks like it can!

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Kitchenaid mixer, I love you so. Ok now that we have our meringue…

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…use it to top the pudding completely. No exposed pudding people!

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Take a moment to balance your mixing bowl pudding precariously on a plastic jar to admire it and take a photo. When you’re doing being a narcissistic cook, place the whole thing into the oven and bake for eight to ten minutes*.

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*Seven minutes was good enough for me.
Look at it! Just look at it! I haven’t been so impressed with how something turned out of the oven with a new dish in a long time. I mean wow.

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The real question, is does it taste any good though?

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I guess you’ll just have to trust me that this is some really damn Good Eats.

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And it will last a long time, because with all the cookies and pudding, a little bit will really satisfy your dessert desires. Well, I guess your mileage will vary. Stay tuned folks!

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