I will always have a soft spot in my heart for pudding, in large part because it brings me right back to my grandma’s house, where as a child I stood on a step stool so I could reach the pot and help stir, stir, stir as the sweet scent of the thickening mixture wafted upward.
Looking back, I see how that aromatherapy, along with the anticipation of waiting for the warm mixture to set in the refrigerator in the little glass ramekins she had poured it into, only added to the pleasure of eating it in the end.
These single-serving cups of maple-kissed pudding, layered with sliced banana and topped with a crunch of graham cracker crumbles, transport me to that comforting place — and in a better-for-you way to boot. The recipe doesn’t veer far from Grandma’s, except that rather than refined sugar I use a modest amount of maple syrup, which adds a lovely layer of flavor. She generally used whole milk like I do here, instead of cream, so the pudding has some richness yet is still relatively light. If you are especially concerned about saturated fat, you could substitute low-fat milk to a good, but somewhat less creamy, result. Keep the egg yolk though, which contributes body and color.
One thing Grandma definitely had down was the perfect portioning. Building each serving with layers of thinly sliced banana into small ramekins or cups is not only visually appealing, it means you get just the right amount for a satisfying, healthful snack or dessert.
Banana pudding cups
You’ll need four 6-ounce ramekins or cups. The puddings need to set up in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and up to 3 days.
1½ cups cold whole milk
2 tablespoons plus 1 ¼ teaspoons cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large ripe, firm banana, peeled
⅓ cup coarsely crushed whole-grain graham crackers
Combine the milk, cornstarch and salt in a heavy-bottomed, medium pot, whisking until the cornstarch has dissolved. Place over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, whisking often, to form a loose paste.
Place the egg yolk in a medium bowl; whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture until well blended, then pour all the tempered egg mixture into the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, for 2 minutes, until thickened further.
Remove from the heat; whisk in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Thinly slice the banana.
Distribute about a third of the pudding among the ramekins or cups, then place a few banana slices over each. Top that with more of the pudding, then add another layer of banana. Spoon the remaining pudding over the layer of fruit.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 3 days. Scatter graham cracker crumbs over the top of each portion just before serving.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 190 calories, 4 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 150 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 24 gram sugar