Banana cream pie meets banana pudding in these sweet and creamy bars made of vanilla wafer cookies, vanilla custard, whipped cream and bananas.
This recipe started with a craving for something creamy and banana-y (let’s pretend that’s a real word). I went back and forth between a traditional banana pudding and banana cream pie. They are both very similar, so I took some elements of each and turned them into smooth and creamy banana pudding bars. The bars start with a vanilla wafer cookie crust which is topped with creamy vanilla custard and layered with sliced bananas. The bars are then finished with freshly whipped cream and garnished with more bananas and crushed wafer cookies.
Unlike pie or cake, bars are a more casual form of dessert. You don’t need to be celebrating a special occasion or hosting a dinner party to whip up a batch of bars. It’s a Monday and you have some bananas on your countertop – well, that’s reason enough. Just do it.
Creamy Banana Pudding Bars
- 3/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Vanilla wafer crust:
- 1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs from about 40-50 cookies
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup heavy cream very cold
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3-4 bananas sliced
- additional crushed vanilla wafers
Make the vanilla custard:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and milk to a simmer, whisking several times. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks until combined. Once the milk is simmering, slowly add about a cup of the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly (this will help bring up the temperature of the eggs without scrambling them). Once the cup of milk is incorporated, slowly pour the entire egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking while you pour. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, and boil for about 3-5 minutes, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in vanilla extract and butter.
- Pour the custard into a large bowl. If you're worried about lumps, you can set a mesh sieve over the bowl and pour the mixture through the sieve, using a rubber spatula to lightly press the custard through. Allow the custard to cool slightly at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Then cover and refrigerate for several hours, until chilled completely. The custard will thicken as it chills.
Make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with foil, leaving a couple inches of overhang on two sides. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, melted butter and salt. Once thoroughly combined, press the crumbs into the bottom and half an inch up the sides of your prepared pan. I use the back of a measuring cup to help evenly press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely.
- Beat 1 cup heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- Spoon* half of the vanilla custard into the prepared crust and add 2 sliced bananas on top of the custard. Spoon the remaining custard on top of that. Top with whipped cream and garnish with additional sliced bananas and crushed vanilla wafer cookies.
- Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
*If your custard thickened too much in the fridge, you can whisk in a splash of milk to thin it out slightly. Whisk vigorously to help it maintain it's creaminess. Don't thin it out too much, as you want the bars to hold their shape.
These bars are best if they've had about an hour to set up in the fridge after assembly. Since bananas tend to brown once exposed, you might want to hold off on the sliced banana topping until you are ready to serve them.