Banana pudding is one of those desserts that's got many variations, but there's one hard rule: no browning bananas in the pudding. Creamy, yellowish white, fluffy custard that's tainted with dark brown spots can make even the best tasting pudding look unappetizing. To avoid this, try these steps to keep your banana pudding looking as good as it tastes.
Despite the aesthetic turnoff, dark, brown bananas in pudding do not make it unsafe to eat. The brown color you see is a result of an enzymatic reaction between the banana and oxygen. When sliced banana encounters oxygen it creates melanin, a natural pigment, that creates the brown hue.The longer the air exposure, the more brown your bananas will get.
After slicing the bananas coat them completely with the custard-- essentially covering them up. The pudding coat will act as a barrier between the bananas and the air, slowing down the enzyme action. If you are preparing a layered banana pudding, place the bananas on top of the wafers and cover with a layer of pudding. Repeat the process for each layer, ensuring that the top layer is pudding, leaving the bananas unexposed.
The best way to prevent banana browning is to prepare the dessert immediately before eating. Otherwise, the pudding may require refrigeration, and the cool temperature actually speeds up the rate of browning. If you can't avoid refrigeration, then toss the sliced bananas in a few tablespoons of lemon juice before adding them to the pudding, as this will help prevent browning.
Ripe and Ready
Resist the urge to prepare your banana pudding with unripe bananas in hopes of prolonging browning. The bananas should be ripe but not over-ripe. Ripe bananas are soft but not mushy with brown speckles on the peel. If your bananas are ripe but you are not yet ready to make the pudding, prepare the banana and lemon juice mash, place it in an airtight container and freeze until ready for use.