Monday, November 30, 2009

RIP Kitchen-Aid

Sorry I plugged you into a wall with incorrect voltage and you blew a fuse that made all the lights go out in our apartment on Thanksgiving. I could smell you burning. My bad.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ban… off… ee?... I don’t… What is that…

Well if you don’t know, you should. Banoffee Pie is awesome. But hold onto your knickers whilst I explain; the recipe is beyond decadent.

Banoffee Pie is a traditional British pastry filled with a sticky toffee pudding and topped with rounds of sliced banana (hence the silly name) and freshly whipped cream. Some are made with a pastry crust; some with a cookie-crumb bottom. Some are drizzled with chocolate, some sprinkled with cocoa powder, and some with powdered coffee. All, however, are so wickedly rich and stick-to-your-teeth sweet that you might want to plan on hitting the gym after having a slice. Consider yourselves warned.

I made this delicious masterpiece for Thanksgiving after trying a slice at a local cafe… And yeah… I know... I made a traditional British dessert on an American holiday. My citizenship should be revoked for not posting a recipe for pumpkin pie instead.

But friends, I was planning on making pumpkin pie. And I was planning on telling you all about it. But alas, there is no canned pumpkin in London. I checked. And whole pumpkins (as in gourds that sprout up from the ground which require roasting and pureeing) weren’t available either. So I thought, when in Rome…

But before I give you the recipe, I’d like to talk a little about the toffee pudding filling. The first thing you should know is that in Latin America, the exact same filling is called Dulce de Leche. The second thing you should know is that there are A LOT of ways to make it. All, however, involve one key ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.

The most traditional way to make the toffee (and the most fun it seems), involves immersing entire sealed cans of sweetened condensed milk into a pot of boiling water and poaching for 2-3 hours. Like magic, the creamy milk within the can turns into a dark, rich toffee (or Dulce de Leche, depending on who you ask). British (and Latin American) cooks say this is the simplest method one can use.

There is one major problem with this method, however…. The cans occasionally EXPLODE. People say that if you keep the cans fully covered with water at all times, this wont happen. But because I still want to be friends with all of you after you try the recipe, I’m not going to recommend you do it this way.

There are other methods that involve pouring the condensed milk into a pan and baking in a water bath for 3 hours. There is also the Martha Stewart method of cooking the condensed milk on a double boiler and stirring every 15 minutes for FIVE HOURS. (Heck no!) Alton Brown also has a recipe that essentially produces sweetened condensed milk, then Dulce de Leche, by reducing 1 quart of milk and sugar to 1 cup of the sweet stuff.

I decided to go with another approach that seems to be somewhat on the rise, given that many cans have exploded in people’s kitchens, and given that it’s quite easy: sweetened condensed milk with dark brown sugar and butter boiled on the stovetop. Almost like making a caramel, only no candy thermometers or babysitting. Easy as pie, people. And no third degree burns.

English Banoffee Pie
Serves 8-10
Many Brits use a crumb bottom made of digestive biscuits. (Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? They’re actually just lightly sweetened cookies.) I decided to use my go-to pastry dough. Make haste by purchasing a frozen pie crust or a graham cracker crust instead.

½ recipe pastry dough from Almost American Apple Pie recipe, enough for a single crust pie
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup butter
3 large ripe bananas
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped semi-sweet chocolate

If using pastry dough, preheat oven to 400. Roll pastry dough into a 12-inch round and ease onto a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges leaving a 1-inch overhang and crimp decoratively. Place pie in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
Line pie shell with foil, and top with beans or baking weights. Bake for 10 minutes and remove foil and beans. Bake for 15-18 minutes longer, or until shell is golden. (If the bottom begins to puff up while in the oven, press it back down with a spoon.) Set aside to cool.

Make the toffee filling by combining the dark brown sugar and butter in a nonstick saucepan over low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. (It is important to use nonstick, as the mixture can brown along the edges and produce little brown bits in your toffee. It wont taste bad, but it also wont look as pretty.) Add the sweetened condensed milk to the mixture and raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils. The moment it begins to bubble, remove the pan from heat. Pour filling into prepared pie crust, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until whipped cream makes soft peaks. Slice 2 of the bananas into roughly 1/3-inch rounds and gently fold into the whipped cream. Top the toffee base with the whipped cream/banana mixture making sure to completely cover the pie. Slice the last banana over the whipped cream mixture.

In a heat-proof bowl, heat chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals over 50% power until melted, stirring at every break. Using a large spoon, drizzle over finished pie. Serve immediately.
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