For the vanilla cream:
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 quart whole milk
12 egg yolks
1/4 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 1/4 cups sugar
For the no nilla wafers:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-2 cups sweetened whipped cream
For the vanilla cream, place the cornstarch in a bowl. Add enough of the milk to completely dissolve it. Add the egg yolks to the cornstarch and whisk together. Place the vanilla bean and sugar in a heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pot. Add the remaining milk and bring to a boil. When the milk is boiling, reduce the heat slightly to prevent it from boiling over the sides of the pot. With a small ladle, whisk a small amount of the milk into the egg yolk mixture. Repeat this step until one-third of the milk is mixed into the eggs. Whisk this mixture into the remaining boiling milk and return it to a boil while you continue to whisk it. The mix will thicken quickly. Continue whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour the cream into a heat-proof dish. Press the plastic wrap onto the surface and place in the refrigerator to cool.
For the wafers, place 1 cup of the sugar and eggs in a stainless steel bowl and whisk together. Place the bowl over simmering water and whisk until the sugar dissolves and the eggs are warmer than your body temperature. Immediately pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip on high speed until the mixture forms mounds when you lift the beater out. Sift the flour over the eggs in several batches, folding it gently. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Using a piping bag with a straight tip, pipe the batter out into quarter-size cookies. Sprinkle liberally with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden to light brown.
To assemble, spread a small amount of the Vanilla Cream in a decorative trifle dish. Top with a layer of sliced fresh bananas and then a layer of cookies. Spread enough vanilla cream over this to create a smooth and level surface. Repeat these steps to fill the dish, ending with a layer of the cream. Wrap well and allow the pudding to sit for 6 to 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Before serving, decorate with the whipped cream, cookies, and banana slices.
Excerpted from Southern Country Cooking for the Loveless Café by Jane and Michael Stern with permission from Rutledge Hill Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. © 2005.