This is definitely a cookie lover's version. Serve right away if you like crispy cookies, or chill over night for softer texture. Delicious served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. If you omit the meringue, You won't need to bake the pudding. This recipe launched a career for Christy Jordan. Christy's first post was the recipe for her favorite made from scratch banana pudding. This vanilla wafer-filled dessert is even better the next day. Her cook book is Southern Plate
Prepare Pudding: Preheat oven to 325* if you are going to make the meringue.
Arrange one-third of vanilla wafers in a medium-size ovenproof bowl (about 2 quart size) Cover with one-third of banana slices. Repeat layers twice with remaining vanilla wafers and bananas.
Whisk together milk and next 4 ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat,whisking constantly, 15 minutes or until pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Pour over vanilla wafers and bananas in bowl.
Prepare Meringue: Beat egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pudding, sealing to edge of bowl.
Bake at 325* for 15 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately, or let cool completely (about 30 minutes) and cover and chill 1 hour before serving.
TIP::::1/2 cup no-calorie sweetener may be substituted. It was tested with Splenda No-calorie Granulated Sweetener. ( DO NOT SUBSTITUTE SWEETENER IN MERINGUE.)