The pudding really needs some time in the fridge to set. It tastes better, too. Make it the day before you need it, it’s worth it. Then once the banana pudding is assembled, you can enjoy it straight away, but we like it after storing in the fridge for a few more hours so the bananas give off some flavor and the cookies get some give to them.
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch sea salt
1 inch of a vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 to 6 ripe bananas, sliced
About 40 small chocolate chip cookies or vanilla wafers
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Whisk cornstarch and a 1/2 cup of the milk together until smooth then whisk in the egg yolks.
Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of milk, sugar and the salt to a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and with the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan. Drop the pod in as well. Bring to a boil over medium heat then immediately turn the heat down to low.
While continuously whisking, slowly stream in about half of the hot vanilla infused milk to the egg yolk mixture. (This brings the temperature of the eggs up slightly, helping to prevent scrambling them.)
Switch from whisking the egg mixture to whisking the remaining vanilla infused milk in the saucepan. While continuously whisking, slowly pour the now hot egg mixture in a steady stream into the saucepan. Continue to cook, while whisking, until the pudding comes to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 1 minute.
Remove from the heat, remove the vanilla pod then pour into a bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to assemble, whip the cream until soft peaks.
Make individual banana puddings or assemble in a 2-quart dish or bowl. Spread a layer of chilled vanilla pudding in the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of whipped cream, a layer of banana slices and a layer of cookies. Repeat with about half of the leftover pudding, more whipped cream, banana slices and cookies. Spread the remaining pudding on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few more hours so the bananas give off some flavor and the cookies get some give to them. Serve with more whipped cream, sliced bananas and cookies on top.