March 16, 2010

A St. Patricks Day Treat

Back when Will, Briton and I lived in Dublin, we were lucky enough to have an incredible bakery in the little village within the city where our flat was located. Well, lucky and unlucky. Because it was so good. And so handy, it was hard not to go every day for a fresh baguette, a gingerbread man, a hand sized Pavlova stuffed with dense cream and blueberries. It didn’t take us long to become regulars. The woman who ran the shop knew that Briton liked to choose his gingerbread man based on the color of his candy buttons and she always wrapped it in it’s own little waxed paper bag, bringing it around the counter to him, even on the busiest days. She good-naturedly explained what the different desserts were to me whenever I asked, and she introduced us to Banoffee Pie.

Will actually discovered them. He came home from work one day describing a pie they had had for a birthday. Sweet, carmely, with cream and a weird crust, good weird. It sounded wonderful, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what he had eaten. A few weeks later he spotted it at our bakery, miniature versions the size of a saucer. We brought one home and devoured it. In fact, I don’t think we even shared any with Briton.

When I quizzed my friends about this miraculous dessert one piped up and claimed it was a delicacy from the North, which didn’t really surprise me since she, a Belfast girl, generally claimed any treat as being a native of “The Narth”. But whether it’s a true Irish dessert, a product of Belfast or, as a recently read, a tradition of the American South, it’s good, and even better, it’s simple.

I will give you one word of warning (well two, you are going to get addicted, I’m just telling ya) DO NOT use the sweetened condensed milk that has a pop tab. I tried an old camping stick it in the coals trick and it exploded, fortunately not harming anyone (there were some singed sweater) but I still have nightmares about it. Use the old kind of can and make sure the water stays topped OVER the edge of the can. But don’t let this scare you, it’s worth the weird cooing method.

Banoffee Pie

2 cans of Sweetened condensed milk

1 large package of Digestive Biscuits (you could use graham crackers in a pinch, but I wouldn’t:

3/4 stick of butter, melted

Heavy cream

3-4 ripe bananas

You want to start this in the morning to give yourself plenty of time for the caramel to cook and cool. Put the cans of milk into a large pot and cover them with water. I don’t like the cans to touch, but that’s just me. Pop them into the oven and bake them at 300 degrees for four hours, keeping an eye on the water level to make sure it doesn’t boil off. Remove the cans from the water and allow them to cool for a bit. Open one can to check the doneness. If it’s too light ( you want it the color of a Kraft caramel candy) put the other can back in for another hour. Cool and set aside.

About two hours before serving, whiz 3/4 of the package of biscuits in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Spread some of the remaining biscuits with a teeny bit of butter and a slice of cheddar (trust me!) for a snack while you are whizzing away. Pour in the melted butter and mix until you have a somewhat moldable texture. Press this into a pie or tart pan using the bottom of a glass. You want it firmly packed with a nice thick wall on the sides.

Pour the caramel into the crust (mixing first if you had to cook it longer to get a consistent color and flavor) and shake slightly to achieve a smooth surface. Pop this in the fridge until just before you want to serve. If you want you can prepare up to this point several days in advance and freeze the crust until you are ready. Some bakeries in Dublin sell just the shell and caramel so you can add the amount of bananas and cream that you like.

When you are ready, slice the bananas in 1/4-inch slices and heap onto the top of the pie. Whip the cream, unsweetened, and mound on top of the bananas.

This is deadly sweet, although the unsweetened cream helps but I bet you will find yourself groaning that you can’t possibly eat one more bit while at the same time piling more onto your plate. I only make it once a year just for that reason. Plus calories from Banoffee Pie don’t count on St. Patrick’s Day, I’m sure of it.

Oh and PS - No photos of the pie with the banana and cream on top because, well, it was just too tempting to wait, even for a photo break :) Happy St. Pat's everyone!