I was in a small pub in Chipping Camden the evening before a week long hike through the English countryside. I was tired, having spent the better part of that day trying to get from London to this little village at the start of the trailhead. I had convinced myself that a hike along the Cotswold Way would be a great thing, a wonderful solo adventure with everything I needed for the week in a small daypack. The Plan was to hike between several small towns, enjoy the scenery and my own company, stopping each evening at small bed & breakfasts and pubs. But first, I had to get to the damn trailhead. It had been a challenge but after two trains, a bus and many curious looks I found myself deposited, slightly disoriented, smack dab in the middle of what looked like a movie set of a typical country village. I had hoped to start hiking that afternoon but as with most best laid plans, it didn’t quite work out that way. It was rainy, a little chilly and I stumbled upon what was to be the first of many picturesque pubs in the middle of somewhere. Hiking would have to wait until tomorrow. A few pints of ale and a hearty shepherd’s pie did much to improve my mood. Feeling warm and fuzzy and not quite ready to venture out into the rain, I ordered a dram of something burning and perused the dessert list. The usual suspects: sticky toffee pudding, some kind of custard, an apple cake. And Banoffee Pie. Banoffee? What the hell was that?
I consider myself rather well informed when it comes to food, desserts in particular, and this one threw me for a loop. “What, may I ask, is Banoffee Pie?” I inquired. “Oh! You’ll like that,” said the ruddy cheeked owner. “It’s a custard pie with bananas and toffee. Banana-toffee. Banoffee.” Enough said. You had me at toffee. Turns out, it’s a lovely combination and one I enjoyed several times that week, at various country pubs and tea rooms across the English countryside. Some were better than others but I devoured them all and the idea stuck with me.
While researching traditional Irish desserts last month, this one kept popping up in my searches. I never had it while in Ireland and in fact, credit for its invention is given to the Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex, England. Regardless, I think it’s delicious and decided to do my own version where the toffee layer is a chocolate toffee layer. Bananas and caramel is good but bananas, caramel and chocolate is better. Traditionally, the original recipe is toffee and a coffee flavored whipped cream but I added in a layer of pastry cream flavored with a good shot of American bourbon and skipped the coffee flavoring entirely. There was enough going on.
The most time consuming, and simplest, part is making the toffee. The original Hungry Monk recipe calls for boiling the unopened can of condensed milk for 3 hours. This makes me nervous and though the Twitterverse assured me otherwise, I’m much more comfortable baking the condensed milk in a water bath because I can walk away and let it be. No need to babysit a boiling pot. The result is magic – dark golden brown caramel with little effort. Now then if you didn’t want to go to all this trouble, and it really isn’t that much effort, you could do a cheater version like I did in my chocolate alfajores which involves buying a can of dulce de leche and adding chocolate and bourbon. Up to you but I do recommend trying this at least once … it’s pretty cool.
Rather than a pie, I went with a tart because I personally prefer the dimensions and ingredient distribution of a tart. Pies are a pain the rear and if you take it somewhere or give it as a gift, there’s always the dirty pie tin to deal with. Not so with a tart. Please do keep in mind that like my Whatchamacallit Brownies a few posts back, this is not a difficult recipe but there are a lot of steps so it will take some time. You can spread the steps out over a few days or bang through it all at once. Your call but be sure to read the recipe all the way through first so you know what to expect. Regardless of how you get there, I think you’ll very much like the results.
on this blog one year ago: blogger breakfast with David Lebovitz (aka how to make a complete ass of yourself in front of someone you admire)
on this blog two years ago: Pretzel Rolls (my most popular post ever), Oatmeal Jam Bars
STRESSCAKE BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: CHEERIO! How can caramel, bananas and chocolate not be delicious? Bonus booze factor! There’s bourbon in this one! Or whiskey. Or now that I think about it, dark rum would be magnificent too. Use what you have and/or like. If I had gotten my act together in time, this would have been great for St. Patrick’s Day. File it away for next year. Big crowd pleaser. BIG.
CHOCOLATE BANOFFEE TART
for the tart dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ½ Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, in ½” pieces
1 Tablespoon cold water
1 egg yolk
for the chocolate toffee layer:
one 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons bourbon
for the bourbon cream layer:
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup sugar, divided
pinch of kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 Tablespoon bourbon
2 large bananas, peeled and thinly sliced, about 1/8” thick
for the whipped cream topping:
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- For the tart dough: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.
- Add the cold butter cubes and toss to coat.
- Using your thumb and first two fingers, rub the butter and flour until the mixture is the size of small peas.
- In a small bowl, combine the yolk and the cold water.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the yolk/water mixture and begin to combine.
- Gently knead the mixture together making sure to work in all the dry bits of flour.
- Pat into a flat round disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least ½ hour. Will keep in the fridge for 2 days or frozen up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
- Roll the tart dough: On a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll – from the center out – to an 11” circle.
- Roll dough up on rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9” tart pan with removable bottom.
- Carefully ease the dough into the fluted edges and pinch or roll off excess. Reinforce the sides with excess dough where needed.
- Chill or freeze 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
- Bake: Fully blind bake the shell right out of the freezer for 20-25 minutes. If the dough is frozen there is no need for pie weights and such.
- Allow tart shell to fully cool before filling – about 30 minutes on a wire rack.
- For the chocolate toffee: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a shallow baking dish, stir in the salt and cover tightly with foil.
- Place the filled baking dish in a larger baking or roasting pan and fill with hot water until it reached halfway up the sides of the filled baking dish.
- Bake for 1¼ – 1½ hours, adding more water to the outside pan as needed. The toffee is ready when it is nicely browned and caramelized; remove from the oven.
- While the toffee is still warm, stir in the chocolate, butter and bourbon until smooth and combined.
- Let cool, out of the water, on a wire rack.
- For the bourbon cream: Heat half-and-half, salt and half the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, cornstarch and the remaining half of the sugar in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined, pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
- When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk the hot mixture into the yolks to slowly temper. Do not dump in all at once or you risk cooking or scrambling the yolks.
- Return mixture to saucepan, return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on the surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.
- Off heat, whisk in butter and bourbon. Let cool slightly, whisking occasionally to release the heat. Toffee can be made several days ahead, store in the refrigerator. Warm slightly before using over a double boiler or in the microwave at 50% power for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- To assemble – for the toffee layer: If needed, warm the chocolate toffee slightly to make it smooth and pourable. Fill the baked tart shell only halfway and smooth the surface. Don’t overfill – there will be leftovers – you need room for the bananas and the custard. Store any leftover toffee in the refrigerator (it’s great over ice cream.)
- For the banana layer: top the toffee layer in the baked tart shell with a nice even layer of sliced bananas. Note: do this immediately before covering with the bourbon cream. You don’t want those bananas hanging out and turning brown while you make the cream.
- For the bourbon cream layer: Top banana layer with the slightly cooled bourbon cream, filling only to the top of the crust. Do not overfill – you may have a little leftover. Snack for the cook.
- Press plastic wrap directly against the surface of the bourbon cream to prevent a skin from forming and chill the tart until cool and set – at least one hour.
- For the whipped cream topping: in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar to soft peaks.
- Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the tart.
- The tart is best served the day it’s made but will still be tasty the following day or so.