Friday, June 27, 2008

Caterpillar Braid

When I was little my favorite thing to do when we went out for hamburgers was to take the paper wrapper off the straw in a small, accordioned lump, put it in the ashtray, and then drop a bit of soda on it. The wrapper would writhe and expand as it absorbed the soda, looking like a caterpillar. Obviously, now that I'm a grown up, I don't do this anymore. No one has ashtrays in restaurants nowadays.

Why do I bring this up, on the day of the Daring Baker Challenge post? Because that's exactly what my braid reminded me of while it was baking. Let me back up a bit and explain.

This was a daunting challenge as it uses Laminated Dough, a technique that makes thin layers of yeast dough separated by thin layers of butter. It sounds like a pain in the patoot, but perversely, I was excited to have a reason to try it.

The rolling and folding part was actually quite simple, although I'd hesitate to try it if my kitchen was quite warm. The butter behaves best if it's not all melty and squishy. With the roll and chill timetable, I just had to find a 3 hour block of time to be home and then the dough rests for either 5 hours or overnight. I opted for overnight as I had stuff to do.

I made a filling from fresh strawberries, that was essentially strawberry jam. Yummy.

My biggest stumbling block was when the directions say to roll the dough out to a 15 x 20" rectangle and then place that on a baking sheet. I don't own a sheet that big! I made the braid and sort of pushed the ends on the pan, hoping they'd stay put in the oven. In the oven the dough started rising and the ends were inching their way off the sheet towards certain doom. That's when I was reminded of the straw wrapper caterpillars. Fearing disaster, I quickly shoved another baking sheet under the first to try to contain the caterpillar braid.

It all worked out. The braid came out golden brown and none of it did a suicide leap to the oven floor. The directions say to let cool, but my eager pack of taste-testers cut in while still warm and, oh my, it's delicious! I was afraid the cardamom would be overpowering, but what I mainly tasted was the orange in the dough and the strawberry filling.

It wasn't until I'd taken pictures of my lovely, but large, braid that I reread the recipe and at the top, mentioned once and never referenced again, it said "Makes 2 braids." Well, how so? The recipe never said to halve the dough. It never mentioned anything like, "Repeat with remaining dough" or "Put braids in the oven" or "Rotate pans." That's what I get for following the recipe to the letter and never turning on my brain.

The whole caterpillar in the oven thing could be avoided if you halved the dough, rolled each half into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle, then baked on separate sheets. You could even try two different fillings.

Would I make this again? It's time consuming, but definitely yes. It's waaaaaay better than the nasty Danishes they sell in the grocery store. This braid was moist, flavorful, and delicious and any day would be brighter with this braid in it. Many thanks to our hosts, Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking for giving me the needed push to try this new technique and find a new favorite for Saturday mornings! Check out what the other Daring Bakers did with this challenge at the Daring Baker's Blogroll.

Danish Braid with Fresh Strawberry Filling
from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)

1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for 2 large braids


1 recipe Danish Dough (see above)
1 recipe of Fresh Strawberry filling, (see below) (or about 2 cups of strawberry jam)

For the egg wash:

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together a whole egg and an yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Fresh Strawberry Filling
(adapted from Baking with Julia)

2 cups sliced and crushed strawberries
1 cup sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Stir the strawberries and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl or a 2-quart glass measuring cup. Put the bowl in the microwave oven set to full power and cook for 10 minutes. Stir the mixture and cook for 5 to 8 minutes longer, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the filling is glossy. Stir in the lemon juice. Scrape the filling into a small container and cool to room temperature. Seal the container and chill. The filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, so you can make it well in advance of making the braid.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happily Wedded Bliss

Wow. It's hard to believe it's over. The wedding finally happened. My daughter is now happily married and honeymooning in Hawaii. And I'm at home, breathing slow, deep breaths, enjoying the calm and quiet, and digging out from the wedding detritus.

The wedding? It was wonderful. Our biggest fear was the weather, crucial to the success of an outdoor wedding. You'd think the end of June would be safe, but we've been having Junuary, the coldest June on record since 1894. Two weeks before the wedding we started checking 10 day forecasts. The day that we saw thundershowers predicted for her wedding date, Sarah went into her room and cried.

We had many people praying for the weather and the forecast gradually improved, to the point that we bravely told the rental company that we wouldn't have them bring the big tent to put over the chairs. The morning of the wedding it was cloudy and chilly, but we could work with that. Much better than actual showers. But when the wedding started the clouds parted and sun shone on the bride as she came down the stairs on her daddy's arm.

The ceremony was beautiful and went without a snag. Although he refused to wear his dress shoes at the last minute and wore his red crocs instead, Samuel, my 5 year old son, did a great job as ring bearer. The groom read out his vows and the bride cried. The bride read her vows and cried some more. The pastor pronounced them man and wife and everyone cheered.

Then the party started. We had a couple who dance competitively give a lesson in swing dancing as the chairs were cleared from the dance floor and food was brought out. Then people ate, chatted, danced, ate, mingled, and ate. I'll do a post another time about all the wonderful food we had.

The cake was cut, the bouquet was tossed, and then Sarah and Sam ran between the guests blowing bubbles to their getaway car, a Model A Ford.

It was an absolutely fabulous wedding, and I'm so tired! Slowly I'm trying to find the things that got cleared out of my kitchen and shoved into boxes to make way for the caterer.

No food to post today. I haven't had time to bake. Not many pics, either, as all of the wedding pics are raw, waiting for Sarah to edit them. More to come, when I catch up on sleep and my brain unscrambles. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lemon Delight

Until just a couple of years ago I'd never tried lemon curd. It was the name. Curd. It sounds like curdled. As in gone bad and chunky, something you pour down the drain, holding your nose as it glop-glops into the sink.

My first taste of the stuff was at a fancy, schmancy tea. I'd paid $14 for this tea and wasn't going to let a single morsel go untasted, name or not. My first bite of a scone dabbed with lemon curd and I saw the error of my ways. It was fabulous! Nothing moldy, rancid or undesirable about it. Except the name. So I renamed it - Lemon Delight.

The other day at Trader Joe's a jar of lemon delight caught my eye and then boldly jumped into my cart. Then in my kitchen it glanced meaningfully at a boxed white cake mix my 5 year old son had brought up from the pantry. (Yes, I keep some on hand, but don't tell. I'll never admit it!) I've been neglecting my baking lately because there's so much wedding prep to do. Plus I'm supposed to be cleaning up the kitchen, not making more messes.

Then the jar of lemon delight gently reminded me that part of cleaning is clearing out the fridge of stuff that needs to go. Like that carton of whipping cream. Hmmmm.

I made the cupcakes then dug divots out of the top when they were cooled. I drizzled lemon delight inside, and replaced the plugs, pressing down just a bit to force the lemon delight into the cake. I whipped up the cream (1 cuppish?) then folded in lemon delight and used that to frost the cupcakes. Because the mix made 24 cupcakes I quickly took many of them to neighbors and the ones left didn't linger for long. They were quite delectable.

If you want to try these, you can make your lemon delight and white cake from scratch, you can find plenty of recipes on the internet. And if you want to make it my way, I won't tell. Either way, share and enjoy.

This will be my last post till after the wedding. Too much to do! Hopefully I'll have two brain cells to rub together afterwards and can post some pics of the big day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My Brain?

My brain is officially MIA (missing in action). If anyone's seen a grey, squealchy thing, sulking in a corner and refusing to come out till the stress is over, please return it to me.

My son came home from college for a weekend to help us paint the deck. It's a 5 hour drive each way (although in his case it's probably more like 4). Such sacrifice is not to be sneezed at; it should have cookies made for it instead. When I offered fresh cookies to take back with him he was on that offer like a boy who hasn't had fresh cookies since the last time he was home.

He requested these cookies. No problem. I'd made them many times and they really are delicious. But he also wanted to catch an episode of a funny TV show he'd missed. No problem. We had it on the computer in the kitchen so together we watched and laughed as I baked. Then I pulled the first batch out of the oven. Problem. They were all flat and spread out.

My cookie baking experience told me that this was a case of not enough flour. But I'd made this recipe before and didn't have to add extra flour. I double checked the amount in the recipe and on my blog - same amount both places, just the amount I remembered carefully measuring out.

I sent my son home with a bag of cookies and apologies that they didn't turn out better. My mind still churning over why they didn't turn out, I set to cleaning up the kitchen. And I discovered the bowl with the carefully measured out flour, baking powder, and salt sitting behind the mixer. Aaaaahhhhhhh!

So, what's a girl to do with a batch of huge, flat, slightly greasy cookies that no one really wants to eat? The obvious answer, scrape them into the bin, is beyond me. I simply cannot throw away perfectly good perfectly adequate food.

I had recently made this luscious pudding from Nigella Express and the thought of the pudding arced and sparked with the conundrum of the crumb puddle cookies - Pie!

I crumbled up the cookies, pressed them into a pie pan, baked at 425 deg. for about 10 minutes, then let it cool completely. Then I made the pudding. When it was cool, I whipped about 2 cups of whipping cream and carefully folded in the pudding, then poured the mousse into the pie crust and chilled it.

Why do I not have pictures of the pie to show you? Well, we ate it all. Yes, every last gluten-free crumb. It was creamy, smooth, sweet, and delicious. The chocolate nuggets in the "pie crust" were a taste and texture surprise in every bite.

So, like a 19th century children's book, I close with a moral. At the first sign of failure in the kitchen, don't give up. The only sure sign of failure is a smoke alarm. Most other disasters can in some way be saved or given new life in another form. Oh, and don't watch distracting television shows while you're baking.

Fabulous Chocolate Pudding
- adapted from Nigella Express

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup cocoa ( Dutch will give a darker color, but regular is fine)
2 Tbsp boiling water
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped

1- Either in a saucepan or in the microwave, warm the milk and cream together.

2- In another saucepan mix the sugar and cornstarch. Sift in the cocoa. Add the 2 Tbsp of boiling water and whisk to a paste.

3- Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream, and then the vanilla extract.

4- Scrape down the sides of your pan and put it on the heat, cooking and whisking for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture thickens to about the consistency of mayonnaise.

5- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate. Pour the chocolate into 4 small cups or glasses, or if you're going to make a mousse with it, into a bowl.

6- Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate till cooled. To serve in the cups, bring to room temperature and garnish with a blob of cream. To make the mousse, fold the pudding gently into whipped cream.

As you can tell, the pie recipe is not one that you have to follow to the letter. If you want to play with it, have fun!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pate A Shoe Pastries

When my sister was in junior high she got on a jag of making eclairs. It was then that I discovered that I don't like pate a choux. I would lick the chocolate off the top (my favorite part), suck out the custard, then, to her dismay, throw away the body of the eclair. To me it tasted like egg-flavored cardboard and it's only purpose was to be a vehicle to carry the custard and chocolate to my lips.

Last summer I attended David Lebovitz's ice cream class. One of the items that he served us was tiny little cream puffs filled with roasted banana ice cream. I put aside my previous prejudice against the pastry, figuring that if David Lebovitz made it, it was obviously going to be good. I took one bite, letting the flavor linger on my tongue and realized something about my sister's cooking. Her pastry making was every bit as good as David's. The pastry still tasted like eggy cardboard. I guess I just am a freak of nature, not equipped with taste buds capable of appreciating pate a choux pastry.

Curiously, when I got a new cookbook, the recipe that called to me to be made first was the lemon cream puffs. I think it was the lovely picture with the cream puffs drizzled in cream, sprinkled with raspberries. And raspberries + lemon = an outstanding flavor combination. Plus, I've never made cream puffs.

So I tried them. The directions made quite large puffs. I was thinking they'd be dainty, but they were a bit on the portly side. The custard was not challenging. The cream was a dream, drenched with lemon flavor. Everyone loved them. Except me. I licked off the cream and sucked out the custard. The pastry tasted like....well, you know.

If you're a fan of cream puffs and lemon, you'll adore these. If you're like me, have fun making them, and graciously serve them to friends, but hold back some of that custard and cream in a bowl for yourself. Then eat it with angel food cake or shortbread. Whatever makes you happy. Because life is too short to eat things you don't enjoy.

Lemon Cream Puffs
- adapted from Savoring Desserts from Williams-Sonoma

Cream Puffs:

1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (5 oz/155 g) all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Filling and Topping:

2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) milk
2/3 cup (5 oz/155 g) sugar
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup (8 fl oz/ 250 ml) heavy cream

1- Preheat the oven to 400 deg. F. (200 deg. C) Butter 2 large baking sheet. Dust the baking sheets with flour and tap out the excess. Position the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds.

2- In a saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the butter, water, and salt until the butter melts and the mixture reaches a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.

3- Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly and turning the dough often, until the dough begins to leave a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes. (This ensures crisp puffs.) Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

4- Drop the dough by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, forming 6 mounds spaced about about 3 inches apart on each sheet. Pat the tops to give them a round shape.

5- Bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Turn off the oven and remove the puffs. With a small knife make a hole in the side of each puff to allow steam to escape. Return the puffs to the oven for 10 minutes to dry.

6- Using a serrated knife, cut the puffs part way through in half horizontally. Do not cut into 2 separate pieces. Open like a book and scoop out and discard the soft dough inside. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

7 - For the filling, stir together the milk and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the milk is steaming, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

8 - In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and flour until pale yellow. Slowly add the warm milk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Then cook for 1 minute, remove from the heat, and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Let cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill well.

9- In a chilled bowl, using chilled beaters, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until needed.

10- Just before serving, using about half of the custard in all, place a spoonful inside each cream puff. Arrange the puffs in a mound on a large serving platter. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the remaining lemon custard just until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mixture over the cream puffs. Scatter the berries over the top. Serve immediately.

Note: You can make the cream puffs ahead and freeze them for up to 2 weeks. After Step 6, place the cooled puffs in a plastic bag and place in a freezer. To crisp the frozen puffs, place them in a 350 deg. F/180 deg. C oven for 5 -10 minutes before proceeding.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'd Like to Thank Everyone

I feel somedays as though my life is lived among teetering piles of things to do. Projects to make, people to call, emails to answer, errands to run. Sometimes I just want to lock myself in my room with a glass of wine and a stupid movie. And sometimes I do. Those would be the days when you think, "Has Lynn fallen off the face of the earth? Is she ever going to post again?"

Well, the answers are no and and kind of. Kind of, as in this isn't a cute story post or a delicious recipe post. It's a housekeeping post. Some very kind bloggers have given me awards and I've been meaning to thank them publicly and pass on the awards. It's just that they keep getting lost in the to do piles. So here's a special post just for that purpose.

First, Sarah of Sweets by Sarah awarded me the Blogging with a Purpose award. Thank you so much, dear! I'm truly flattered that you had such kind things to say about my blog. I'm honored to receive the award and happy to pass it on to:

Mary the Breadchick of The Sourdough. She is such a wonderful resource for all things bready. Her blog is packed with information and recipes. Visit her site and get inspired to make bread.

Kevin of Closet Cooking. He says his meals used to be boring, but no longer! He posts his daily culinary explorations. Always inspiring, always tasty.


Happy Homebaker awarded me the Yummy Blog Award. This award is given to the blog with the most yummy recipes and photos. Aw, thanks! I'm so pleased when people enjoy my posts and are inspired by what I make.

The recipient of the award is supposed to list their favorite dessert ever eaten. That is just too tough. My favorite dessert is whichever one I'm eating at the moment.

I'd like to pass the award on to Recipe Girl, Peabody, And Then I Do the Dishes, Tartelette, and Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. Each of them has an amazing, droolworthy blog, each post a death knell for any diet.

Also, be sure to check out Peabody's newest blog, Northwest Noshings. Featuring restaurant reviews, recipes, bar and brew tips, she showcases what is happening in the Northwest food scene.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Anti-Diet Food

With the wedding fast approaching, I've been asked to cut back on butter, lighten up on the cream, and take it easy with the sugar. Everybody, including me, needs to fit into their nice clothes and try to look good for the pictures, so when the baking urge struck again, I turned to my trusty Cooking Light cookbook for baking ideas that were tasty yet wouldn't decimate a bride's diet.

What snagged my attention was the banana pudding. I may possibly be the last person on the planet who's never tried banana pudding. I don't remember ever having it as a child and I'd never attempted it as an adult. But this recipe, combines with the fact that I had a fat bunch of bananas sitting on the counter convinced me to give it a whirl.

Let me warn you. This is no diet dish. Oh, yes, the good folk at Cooking Light reduced fat, calories and cholesterol, but they made it deadly delicious. It begs to be snacked on. It calls seductively when you walk by. I could actually hear it from inside the fridge. It's so good that I've made it twice. The second time 4 of us polished it off in 2 days. Oh, what little piggies we are!

So, you are warned. Don't make this dish unless you have a large family, have company coming over, or have neighbors who are happy to take your leftovers off your hands. If it's just two of you, you'll regret it!

Can't Keep My Spoon Out Of It Banana Pudding
adapted from All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook


2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups 2% milk
1 (4-inch) vanilla bean, split lengthwise (1/2 a bean if you're using one of these beans)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten


4 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar

80 vanilla wafers (about 1 box)*
5 cups sliced banana (about 6 bananas)

1- Preheat oven to 325 deg. F.

2- Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1-1/4 cups sugar, and salt in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk mixture, and drop in the pod, too. Cook over medium heat 12 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly.

3- Place eggs in a large bowl; gradually add hot milk mixture, stirring constantly. Pour mixture in pan; cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Discard vanilla bean.

4- Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until egg whites are foamy. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.

5 - Arrange 33 vanilla wafers in bottom of a 3-quart round baking dish (I used an oven-safe large mixing bowl). Arrange half of banana over wafers. Pour half of custard over banana. Repeat with 33 vanilla wafers, banana, and custard. Top with meringue. Arrange remaining vanilla wafers around edge of meringue.

6- Bake at 325 deg. F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve pudding warm or chilled. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and store refrigerated. Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup).

*Note: you can buy a box of vanilla wafers, or it you'd like to add a peanut butter flavor to your pudding make your own wafers using this recipe.

In case that kind of thing matters to you, one serving has 289 calories, 5.1 g. fat, gets 16% of the calories from fat, has 6.1 g. protein, 33 mg cholesterol, and 94 mg calcium.