1 Put the water in a small cup. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let the mixture soften for at least 5 minutes.
2 Put the cornstarch in a 1-quart microwave-safe glass measuring cup. Slowly whisk in V4 cup of milk until smooth. Add the egg yolks, sugar, and salt, and whisk until well blended. Add the remaining 11/4 cups of milk and whisk again until blended.
3 Cover the cup with plastic wrap, turning back a fold over the pouring spout. Microwave the pudding on High (100 percent) power for 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth.
4 Cover the cup again, turning back a fold over the pouring spout, and microwave on High (100 percent) power for 2 to 5 minutes, whisking every 60 seconds, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble around the edges. Whisk until smooth.
5 Cover the measuring cup again, turning back a fold over the pouring spout. Microwave on High (100 percent) power for 30 seconds to 1 V2 minutes, until the mixture comes to a full boil. Note that the pudding will be very thick at first; after it boils its consistency will thin a little.
6 Stir the softened gelatin into the hot mixture, making sure it dissolves completely.
7 Strain the pudding through a fine-meshed sieve into a noncorrosive metal 2V2-quart bowl. Push the pudding through the sieve with a rubber spatula.
5 Set the bowl over a larger bowl containing ice and ice water for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pudding is cold and starts to thicken. Remove the bowl from the larger bowl of ice water. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
9 Chill a 2 V2-quart bowl. Whip the cream in the bowl using a hand-held electric mixer or a wire whisk until soft peaks start to form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cream into the cooled pudding.
10 Toss the cubed pound cake with the rum or orange juice in a 1-quart bowl. Gently fold the diced banana and moistened pound cake into the pudding.
ii Spoon the pudding into eight 6-ounce dessert glasses or custard cups or
into a 1 V2-quart bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until completely chilled and set. Just before serving, garnish the pudding with whipped cream and sliced bananas, if desired.
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