Endurance Dessert-Making

11.22.2006 | 11:48 am

I don’t know how to cook many things. If, for example, you were to ask me to make Chicken Cordon Bleu, I wouldn’t know what ingredients to buy. I wouldn’t even know which part of the chicken to use.

That said, I am famous for making the few things I know how to make extremely well. Better than anyone else in the whole world, in fact.

Here are the things I am the very best in the world at making:

  1. Mashed potatoes. Yes, I know a lot of you also think you make the best mashed potatoes in the world. Which might be true if I didn’t have an actual certificate stating that I make the best mashed potatoes in the world.
  2. The best cake in the world: Actually, I’m no better at making this than anyone else. This cake is superlative in its own right.
  3. Chili: I have an honest-to-goodness, bona-fide secret ingredient I use in my chili. Nobody has ever identified it, but everyone agrees that my chili is better than everyone else’s. Oh, also I sometimes make fry bread to go with the chili. I have received several marriage proposals based solely on my fry bread and chili.
  4. Hamburgers: There is nothing secret or fancy about the way I make hamburgers. I just use top-quality beef, add more worcestershire sauce than most people think you should (hint: you’ve used enough when it actually changes the color of the burger), knead, and grill over charcoal. The reason my burgers are the best in the world, evidently, is because I am apparently the last person in the world to grill with charcoal. I’ll tell you what, though: when gas-grillers eat my burgers, they see (however briefly) the error of their ways.
  5. Kitchen Sink Quiche: I call it “Kitchen Sink Quiche” because I put so much stuff into it, there’s hardly any room for the eggs: cheese, peppers, bacon, grilled chicken, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado, and anything else that strikes my fancy in the produce aisle. And yes, I’ve heard the “real men don’t eat quiche” line. To which I respond, “By all means, feel free to not to have any.” But everyone tries a bite, and then they apologize. Kitchen Sink Quiche is best with Cholula hot sauce.
  6. Banana Cream Parfait: This is the most difficult thing I make, and it’s the subject of my post today: endurance dessert-making.

Endurance Dessert Making
I make the Banana Cream Parfait exactly twice per year: for Thanksgiving, and for Christmas. And while a good reason to make it so rarely would be because it’s fattening beyond belief, the real reason is because it’s an incredibly laborious process. Ie, it’s a pain in the butt.

But it’s so worth it.

I’m now going to share with you my recipe for making the Banana Cream Parfait, but I think it’s worth making a few observations first:

  1. You will have to stand at the stove, stirring continuously, for a full hour.
  2. Even after spending all this time stirring, you are not done with the dessert. In fact, you need to count on spending about two hours to make this dessert. And I don’t mean two hours 90 minutes of which you’re letting something bake in the oven. I mean two hours of constant work.
  3. Because this is so much work to make, the recipe is big. Big enough to make some for yourself, for your family, and for your neighbors.
  4. Once you have made this for your friends and family, be prepared for them to demand you make it again. You will then need to — as I have — declare that it is an annual tradition, and that you will make it for them again next year.
  5. I expect that I have now frightened most of you away from making this dessert. That’s OK.
  6. Don’t you dare make substitutions to this recipe. When I say “whole milk,” I mean it. When I say “Butter,” I mean it. And if you think you can just substitute pudding from a mix for the cream filling, you and I no longer have anything to talk about, and I never want to see your face again.

I feel quite strongly about my Banana Cream Parfait.

Let’s begin.

2.5 cup sugar
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
3 quarts whole milk
16 egg yolks, beaten
8 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup vanilla

12 bananas
1 quart whipping cream
2 boxes Nilla Wafers

The Long, Arduous Process
First of all, you need to plan on spending an hour up front making the filling, and then another hour 2-3 hours later actually assembling the parfait. And then the parfait is not going to be ready to eat for another 3 hours. And it’s going to be at its best about 24 hours after you make it. So plan ahead.

Let’s start with the filling.

In a big ol’ saucepan — I use my pressure cooker pan — mix your sugar, cornstarch, and salt together. Slowly stir in the first few cups of milk, until you’re certain there are no lumps of cornstarch. You can then pour in the rest of the milk, stirring as you go.

Now, get ready to stand for a while, because you need to stir this mixture continuously over medium heat until it comes to a boil. And that’s going to be about 15-20 minutes. Or more. During this time, here’s what you should not do:

  1. Stop stirring for a minute, because what could go wrong? Here’s what could go wrong: the bottom of the pan will get scalded milk all over it, and you’ll wind up with gross chewy burned flecks of milk in your parfait.
  2. Turn up the heat, to speed up the process. If you go above medium heat, your mixture will indeed boil sooner. And the result will be a nice sweet, grainy, thin gruel that never sets up, instead of the smoothest, most perfect cream filling that has ever been created. This is an endurance race, Bub. If you try to treat it like a sprint, you’ll be sorry.

Once the mixture has thickened and come to a boil, keep stirring for another minute, then remove from the heat and keep stirring another minute longer (even though it’s off the heat, the milk can still stick to the bottom of the pan).

OK, time to add the egg yolks. If at all possible, have a second person available to help you with this part, because this is tricky.

Your egg yolks should be in a mixing bowl big enough to hold at least half the milk mixture. S-l-o-w-l-y pour a little of the milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks, while briskly whipping those egg yolks. The idea here is to do this slowly and a little bit at a time, so you don’t wind up cooking those egg yolks all at once. ‘Cuz really, who wants scrambled eggs in their cream filling?

Once you’ve slowly stirred in a couple cups of the milk mixture, you can speed up just a bit. Keep pouring the milk mixture into the egg mixture (stirring the whole time) until you’ve mixed half of it in.

And now, you’ve got to reverse the flow. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the milk mixture in the saucepan. It should now be a lovely yellow color.

And hey, guess what! You’re finished!

Just kidding. You’re not even close.

Put the saucepan back on medium heat, and keep stirring, ’til it comes to a boil again. And yes, it’s going to be another 15 minutes or so. Once you’ve got a boil, stir for another minute, and then take the saucepan off the heat.

Now you’re ready to add the butter and vanilla. Toss them in (but not from a great height, because you might discover that boiling hot pudding splashed on your face, well, stings. Not that I’d personally know anything about that).

Stir the butter and vanilla in until the butter is melted and both are blended in.

Dip a spoon in so you can taste what you’ve made. Blow on the filling until you feel a little bit ridiculous, then blow on it some more, because you would be amazed at how hot this stuff is, and how much heat it retains.

When you do finally taste it, your eyes should roll back into your head and you should involuntarily let out a low moan. If you don’t, you didn’t make it right.

Now let this filling cool down for a couple hours.

Layer Upon Layer
Once the cream filling has cooled down enough that you can sneak a spoonful without burning your mouth at all, you’re ready to start assembling the parfait.

There’ll be a skin on the filling by now. Peel it off and eat it. It’s delicious.

Whip the whipping cream to nice soft peaks. I find that adding a little sugar makes the whipped cream hold its shape a little better.

Now, in as many large, deep bowls as it takes, do the following:

  1. Spread a layer of filling.
  2. Put down a layer of Nilla Wafers.
  3. Spread a layer of whipped cream.
  4. Put down a layer of banana slices.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until the bowl is full. The last layer should always be whipped cream. And be sure the last layer is not bananas, because they’ll look all brown and gross if they’re exposed to the air for long.

You may wonder if the order of the layers is important. It is. I’ve thought it through. Don’t mess with it.

Before Serving
You should refrigerate this dessert for at least a couple hours before serving it; it’d definitely best cold.

And — if you can manage to wait — this is one dessert that actually gets better as it sits in the fridge with the flavors blending. It’s at its very best 24 hours after you finish making it.

And, finally, prepare yourself for some rather embarassing displays of affection. The Banana Cream Parfait tends to bring that sort of behavior out.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Comment by Uncadan8 | 11.22.2006 | 12:13 pm

    I am very tempted to make this for Christmas, maybe even bring it in to work. There is a certain single female I would like to impress. Sounds delicious!

  2. Comment by Diego Noronha | 11.22.2006 | 12:47 pm

    I’m so going to try this for Christmas since Thanksgiving is in October in Canada.

    Thanks for the recipe:)
    My family rather likes bananas and well it would be nice to impress them for once.

  3. Comment by fatty | 11.22.2006 | 12:52 pm

    I just finished making a batch this morning. It’s now cool enough that I’m about to go into the final “make the parfait” stage.

    I have gained three pounds in the past twenty minutes.

  4. Comment by Badder | 11.22.2006 | 1:47 pm

    I’m always amazed at the lengths you will go to gain weight. Perhaps you need to invest in a pedal power cooking range to help offset some of those calories and fat content. It could at least do all that stirring.

    16 EGG YOLKS. I felt my arteries hardening just reading it.

  5. Comment by fatty | 11.22.2006 | 1:53 pm

    Yeah, 16 yolks is a lot, but bear in mind that this dessert will serve 24-30. That’s less than 1 yolk each.

    Unless, of course, you have more than one helping. Which you would.

  6. Comment by jeff | 11.22.2006 | 2:29 pm

    I thought your chocolate lava cake stuff should have been on the list. What was that stuff called again? Suklaa roska?

  7. Comment by sans auto | 11.22.2006 | 3:05 pm

    Two hours to make it? You’re right, I’m not going to try. I guess I’m more about quantity than quality. Here’s the ultimate recipe: boil 1 bag uncle ben’s rice according to the directions. Open 1 can of corn and 1 can of tuna. Empty water out of pot, open bag and dump rice in pot. Add corn and tuna. Serves 1.
    It’s the perfect combination of carbs, fat and protein, it’s got good fats and some fiber. It doesn’t taste that great, but it got me through many years of college. and the best part— When you’re done, you have two dishes, the pot and the fork (my wife says that you are suppose to wash the can opener, but I never do).
    Don’t get me wrong Fatty, if you were to invite me over for a piece of pie I wouldn’t turn you down. Let’s just say we don’t have people lined up at our door waiting for the sweets we produce.

  8. Comment by KatieA | 11.22.2006 | 3:08 pm

    I challenge your “Best Chilli” title Fatty. My Dad has you down, and no, I’m not letting anyone in on HIS secret ingredient yet. But the best part is, all the herbs / flavourings, are from his own garden – no store bought stuff.

    And, I see now why thou art the “Fat” Cyclist. And seriously mate, that’s a lot of effort to go to for dessert. JUST dessert.

  9. Comment by Lins - Australia | 11.22.2006 | 8:05 pm

    I’m thinking about the giant pavlova you could make with the 16 egg whites.

  10. Comment by Rocky | 11.22.2006 | 9:20 pm

    I will be happy to to latch on to your laborious confectionary delicacies. It pays to have Thanksgiving with Fatty.

  11. Comment by TT London | 11.23.2006 | 4:18 am

    This sounds great…but can anyone tell me what the Brit version of nilla wafers are?
    If you want to avoid the skin formation during the cooling stage (which you obviously don’t want to do as I’m guessing that eating the skin gives you the required calorie boost to complete this marathon endevour + washing up) cover the surface of the cream with cling wrap
    Happy Thanksgiving to you all over the pond

  12. Comment by The Cosh | 11.23.2006 | 4:40 am

    Chocolate is the secret ingredient in your chilli.

  13. Comment by tayfuryagci | 11.23.2006 | 5:01 am

    Parfait sounds very very good but I have to say something: That quiche sounds as good as banana-mayonnaise sandwiches!

  14. Comment by Uncadan8 | 11.23.2006 | 7:10 am

    Yes, Cosh, but is it dark chocolate, semi-sweet, Hershey’s, or some exotic import? I actually use brown sugar in mine. It helps balance out the fire-breathing dragons that I throw in.

  15. Comment by Dad2BJM | 11.23.2006 | 11:09 pm

    Okay Fatty you can have the title for Mashed Potatoes, and I’ll even you the dessert title (though I have some nifty recipes in my arsenol – English Trifle anyone??). I, however, can not stand by and let you even begin to think you own the title for Fry bread. I have actually been employed for the last year and the director of my division thought my last name was Baker as everyone refers to me as Mark the Baker. I make the worlds fluffiest, lightest and best tasting dinner rolls. I also use the same dough for Fry Bread and cinnamon rolls and monkey bread, so by default I also make the world’s best of those items as well. The next time you are in AZ or I am in UT, I am prepared to prove it.

  16. Comment by theLurker | 11.24.2006 | 12:41 am

    It’s not _dessert_ it’s _pudding_. Mutter, mutter, grumble, chunter. Hah! _And_ it’s not _proper_ pudding unless it’s got custard with it. Mumble, grumble, mutter.

  17. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.24.2006 | 8:55 am

    Hey, at least it has bananas in it, so it’s kind of healthy, right? Actually, its almost a banana per serving, so just think of it as having fruit for desert.

  18. Comment by bikemike | 11.24.2006 | 2:16 pm

    have you ever made the banana pudding with the recipe on the nilla vanilla wafer box? muy delicioso and not nearly the hassle. you like to brag about the hassle you go through for food just to justify the weight you put on don’t you?
    it’s amazing how the “ride to eat” instead of “eat to ride” philosophy takes over our persona.
    hope everybody’s turkey day was great. even our foreign friends.

  19. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.24.2006 | 6:23 pm

    who you callin’ ferrin?

  20. Comment by LoPhat | 11.26.2006 | 11:49 am

    And people wonder how you put on weight…

    BTW, you are not the last holdout on charcoal. In fact, I’ve never owned a gas grill, unless you count my gas ignition Weber Performa, which you shouldn’t, because it’s not a gas grill.

    Gas grills are nice. They get you out into the great outdoors, and you don’t have to clean up when you’re done (though I do notice gas grill owners spend a lot of time cleaning their grills…).

    But they aren’t any different than cooking inside the house.

    Charcoal grills, on the other hand, are fundamentally different beasts. They cook at much higher temperatures than gas grills can ever hope to achieve, and yet manage a moister heat than gas grills.

    Hamburgers are simple. High grade ground beef from the butcher. A few mesquite chips on the coals. And that’s all you need.

    Just did my 7th or 8th turkey on the weber. Start the coals, put a pan in the middle, turkey in the middle. Add some fruitwood chips (cherry or apple both work nicely). Add a few coals and more chips every 45 minutes or so. Cook until the remote-reading thermometer says 165 degrees. Etc.

    Weber. Nothing else comes close.

  21. Comment by Jimmy | 11.26.2006 | 8:56 pm

    This sounds like a good way to kill everyone at work with cholesterol.

    The biggest problem that I have is that in Australia, bananas are about $12 AUD a kilo.

    And what are Nilla Wafers? Or is any plain biscuit going to do the job?


  22. Comment by tayfuryagci | 11.27.2006 | 12:29 am

    these are nilla wafers: http://www.nabiscoworld.com/Brands/brandlist.aspx?SiteId=1&CatalogType=1&BrandKey=nilla&BrandLink=/nilla/&BrandId=76&PageNo=1 they look odd.

  23. Comment by Boz | 11.27.2006 | 8:03 am

    My mashed potatoes ruled the th feast at the in-laws – the new Yukon rose potatoes are da bomb – try-um. BTW, adding chocolate to chili makes it a mole, not chili. You have been warned.

  24. Comment by DP Cowboy | 11.27.2006 | 9:35 am

    Here’s a brief synopsis of Thursday…
    I made it (the parfait) for Thanksgiving…took the whole morning and then some. My gal Sal was eager for me to vacate the kitchen, but I refused to let go of the stirring task, which you said was really important. I am glad I stirred a lot. It was certainly the highlight of the meal..but there was competition.
    The princess made an orange bundt cake and some other layer cake with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting…the whole meal was a gorge-a-thon. The turkey weighed 27 pounds…and we only had 12 people. There were three great salads, asparagus with a choice of homemade hollandaise or this warm raspberry sauce. Cornbread stuffing…twice mashed potatoes…two kinds of cranberry sauce (the one with the browned walnuts and celery was incredible.
    I ate until it hurt, and then had to suffer through three hours of chit chat and board games. Midway through that torture session, I volunteered to do all the dishes, which took an hour. That gave me time to adequately hide the parfait, so silver lining and all that rot.
    When I was done, The fam-damily were still hanging around. More mindless chit-chat.
    Finally, I went out, strapped on a light, and rode around the south 40 on the mountain bike for a half hour.
    I think ‘her’ family thinks I am anti-social.
    I just had turkey casserole for breakfast (it’s Monday), and it is raining and cold (42 degrees)…time to pay for the last four days of taste bud sin and ride my bike on the road.
    Thanks for the recipe…I look forward to more.

  25. Comment by Contessa | 11.27.2006 | 12:52 pm

    The chili sounds great. Fry bread is a Native American staple and I get it every chance I get. Never made it myself though.

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