My family and I traveled to Ireland in 2005, and the tiny town of Ennis, in Shannon, had the most incredible meal at an Italian – yes, Italian in Ireland – restaurant. After the meal our host (my 5th grade teacher and my mom’s friend, Ms. Sutherlin) suggested we order Banoffee Pie.
Banoffee Pie (or Banoffi pie) was created in the late 1960s by Ian Dowding, a British chef. I’ve linked to his website below, but it seems everyone in Britain has their own variation on the dessert. Whatever recipe you use, one thing is clear: it’s a mixture of bananas, toffee (or, as we’d say in San Diego, dulce de leche), and whipped cream flavored with a little coffee. It sounds seriously weird but it works. It’s creamy and sweet but surprisingly not cloying or heavy. It’s INCREDIBLY easy to make. And while it may not be the most beautiful pie in the contest, it’s darn tasty!
Today I had the occasion to try out a recipe for Banoffee pie. You see, my friend Carrie has a tradition, for the last several years, of hosting a Pie-Off at her home. Like a Bake Off, competitors’ creations are judged for taste, creativity, and looks, with awards handed out according to a very scientific voting system! 🙂 It’s kind of competitive, but mostly, it’s about friends getting together and sharing food. We were invited this year for the first time, and I knew I had to bring it. Hubby and I had actually each planned on making a pie, but ran completely out of time to do a ton of baking, so it was lucky that this recipe had very little baking time! I’d never made this recipe before, and of course I made a tweak or two to the original, but it turned out quite nicely for a first attempt!
The only thing that gets tricky, time-wise, is making the toffee – it’s not like you can just whip it up in two minutes – but you can probably purchase a tin of ready-made dulce de leche and cut out the toffee making entirely if you’re in a real hurry. Either way, prep is minimal, taste is awesome, and it’s a keeper of a recipe!
Oh, and if you’re wondering, I “won” 2nd in the Taste category, behind a nut-and-raisin pie passed down from another guest’s grandma, so I consider that a victory!
Banoffee Pie (adapted from Ian Dowding)
- 1 pie crust. I used a Pillsbury crust because my own luck with pastry making is terrible, but Chef Dowding has “the” recipe on his site. Most of the recipes I’ve seen – and the first pie I ate – had crusts made from British digestive biscuits (which are like graham crackers without the brown sugar). I’d actually intended to make mine from digestives too but didn’t have a chance to get to a store that carries them. You can find them at Cost Plus and subsitute them in your favorite graham cracker crust recipe.
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
- 3-4 large ripe (not overripe!) bananas. They should have almost no brown spots, so that they don’t look brown and gross when you cut into the pie.
- 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp instant coffee (I used Starbucks VIA Columbian, and it lent the perfect hint of coffee without being overpowering or bitter, but you can use whatever you have or can find inexpensively, as long as it’s not flavored)
The day before: This is the EASIEST way to make the toffee; there are several very effective ones but this is a no-brainer for me: Remove the label from the can of condensed milk. Place it in the bottom of a crock pot and fill the crock pot with enough water to cover the can entirely, with a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water above the top of the can. Turn the crockpot on low and walk away. Let the crockpot cook for 6-8 hours and then turn it off and leave it for another 3+ hours or until cool to the touch. You want to make sure that the can isn’t hot enough to explode when it hits cool air, so just leave it until you’re sure.
Assembly of the pie: Bake and cool your crust completely. Open the can of toffee and smooth it over the bottom of the crust.
I told you this was easy!
Now place your bananas in a single layer on the toffee. Sort of push them in so the carmely goodness oozes around them. You will get messy, and the top of the bananas won’t look too pretty. Oh well.
I should note here that the original recipe called for 5-6 bananas. I don’t know if they just have smaller bananas in the UK, or if the chef squashed them together differently or had multiple layers of fruit, but I only really needed 3. As you can see, it’s not an exact science.
With a stand or hand mixer, whip together the cream, powdered sugar, coffee crystals, and vanilla until the cream is thick. I make whipped cream on a relatively regular basis (several times a year) so I know the texture I like is somewhere not quite to the stiff peaks stage. But if you don’t, you’ll need to experiment. Just be careful not to whip too much, or you’ll get sweetened curds and whey. Which might be a treat for Miss Muffett but won’t be very tasty on your pie. Smooth your cream onto your bananas and make the top as pretty as you can.
And just because, here’s a photo of the Pie-Off table. All NINE pies (and no repeats!). Mmmmm… That was some good eating!
I think the best part of tonight – I mean, aside from the utter decadent deliciousness – was the company. We’d never met any of the other guests, and most of them were strangers to each other too. But when you get together a good group of people, eating and talking and being just slightly competitive, it works. At least with good hosts! Thanks Carrie for the invite – can’t wait for next year!