Before I discuss the wonders of Banoffee Pie, I would like to acknowledge and thank Joyce Cohen from the NYTimes for doing her research by googling me, finding this blog, and inspiring me to post entries once again. If you had not chosen to write about us in your column, I would not have had the motivation to start posting again.
My first encounter with Banoffee Pie also happened to be my first encounter at The Spotted Pig, which is one of the best, if not the best, "gastro-pub" in NYC. The Spotted Pig is a whole other story, which I will get to some other time. The point is, I was having dinner a few years ago at "The Pig" for the first time and was ordered by my friend, Cecilia to order the Banoffee Pie for dessert. So I did and yet another food obsession was born.
As with most of my food-related obsessions, it's not within walking distance to my apartment and can get expensive. The Banoffee Pie at The Spotted Pig is $9 a slice and is worth every penny, but with my eating behavior, $9 a slice can turn into a $90 a week habit! So after tasting the pie, which, I discovered the disappointing way, is a seasonal dessert item at Spotted Pig, I decided to deconstruct it and reconstruct it in my own kitchen. My version is not exactly the same as the one at SP, but it'll do in a pinch.
I ventured into Banoffee-land last fall, recipe-less, guided only by my memories of the Banoffee from the previous winter since it was unavailable when I went in the summer. (Although I have to admit, I didn't do a very thorough search, and I do believe there is an official SP recipe floating around out there in the ether. If anyone has it, can you post it in the comments section?) Version 1.0 had what we psychometricians call "face validity" or what regular folks call the "looks good on paper" effect. It LOOKED really awesome and it tasted good, but it didn't taste as good as the one from SP. It had a regular pastry shell (I used a recipe from Chris Kimball's "The Dessert Bible"), dulce de leche that i made by baking sweetened condensed milk in the oven at 300°F for four hours (big mistake) because I was too chicken to put a can of sweetened condensed milk on the stove, sliced bananas, whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. The whole thing was just a little too underdone: the pastry shell was too thick, the dulce de leche wasn't caramelized enough, and the bananas weren't quite ripe enough.
Being a little obsessive-compulsive about developing recipes, I decided not to waste any more of my taste buds eating V1.0, and made V2.0 that same week. This time, I made a graham crust instead of the pastry crust, caramel in lieu of the dulce de leche, riper bananas, whipped cream, piped, using a pastry bag with a fluted tip, and dark chocolate shavings. This version had not only face validity, but taste validity as well.
So for thanksgiving this year, I attempted V3.0, which is a hybrid of versions 1.0 and 2.0. V3.0 has a graham crust, like V2.0, but a dulce de leche like V1.0. I decided that I liked the texture and flavor of the graham crust over the pastry crust but the complex texture and flavor of the dulce de leche over the caramel. The dulce de leche was my biggest challenge for this version.
My friend Allison makes her dulce de leche the super scary way by cooking an UNOPENED can of sweetened condensed milk immersed in water on her stovetop for like 4 hours. She swears that it's perfectly safe, but because I am extremely accident prone and random unfortunate things tend to happen to me, I figured I'd play it safe by puncturing two holes on the top of the can and cooking the can partially submerged in a water bath (so water doesn't get into the can) on the stove-top for four hours. This method worked amazingly well. As you can see from the picture, the dulce de leche caramelized perfectly. In fact, it was so delicious, I was eating slices of honeycrisp apples dipped in dulce de leche while I was assembling the pie.
After layering sliced bananas (about 4 medium-sized bananas), I made a batch of whipped cream and used a pastry bag with a fluted tip to pipe the whipped cream onto the layered bananas. The final step of the Banoffee Pie assembly was to grate dark chocolate on top of the whipped cream using a microplane. Thanksgiving this years was even more delicious than in years past!