January is over. I’ve put away all my Christmas decorations, reorganized my recipes, and now I’m ready to finish up my little cookbook that I am making for the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library with recipes from Dolly Parton as well as some of my old favorites.
The Imagination Library is going very well in Ohio. Since we set up the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library in August of 2019, we’ve gone from 94,000 (13 percent) participation to 263,510 kids enrolled, with every child in every county under 5 years old eligible to sign up! Every child receives a free book in the mail addressed to him or her every single month. This has been very important to so many families especially during this pandemic when libraries were not open everywhere. I’m excited about our progress and I can’t wait to get back on the road to help boost this even more.
Of course as I make the cookbook, I have to try every recipe and make sure it works for me. I usually try them several times and share them with my kids, just to make sure they pass the test. When I made Brenda’s Quick Chocolate Pudding into a pie a couple of weeks ago, I sent the finished pie to my daughter’s house for tasting. It was Tad’s second birthday, so she used it as his birthday cake. The kids loved it so much that his sister Jean, who will be 11 in a couple of weeks, already announced to me that she would like one for her birthday too!
So this week I am making Dolly Parton’s Favorite Banana Pudding. Dolly told the story that growing up, her family loved banana pudding. It was a good dessert to fill up those 12 children, using mostly milk and eggs that they had on the farm. One of their neighbors, who owned a store, would let Dolly’s mother know when the bananas at the local grocery were getting a little soft, so the price would be reduced. That’s when her mama would buy the bananas and make the pudding. This is her mother’s recipe, given to Dolly by her sister Willadeene.
When I grew up my brothers and sisters always loved banana pudding too. There were not as many kids in my family — we had six — but my mom was very thrifty too. I remember that when bananas were on sale — when they got to 10-cents a pound — that’s when my mom would buy them. And she would buy mounds of them! Then we got our favorite dessert — banana pudding made with vanilla wafers!
Dolly’s mama’s recipe is just a little different than mine. She makes it with white flour instead of cornstarch. She uses the egg yolks in the pudding and then she beats the egg whites for a meringue on top. That is certainly a thriftier alternative to putting whipped cream on top (since you already have the whites), but delicious!
I remember the hardest part of mom making the recipe when I was a kid was waiting for it to cool so we could eat it! I bet it was the same at her house!
Mother’s Banana Pudding
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla (divided)
1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers
5 to 6 bananas, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly beat the egg yolks. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and the flour in a medium pot. Gradually stir in the milk, followed by the egg yolks and salt. Cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove the pot from the heat and add the butter and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly. Arrange half the wafers on the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Top with half of banana slices. Spoon half of the pudding mixture over the bananas. Repeat with remaining wafers, bananas, and pudding.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until they form stiff peaks. Spread with a rubber spatula over the pudding, sealing the edges. Bake until the topping is light golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Serve chilled
Fran’s note: When I make this now, I double the recipe for the pudding part because my kids love pudding so much!
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.