While my Honey Girl and I were on our way from Connemara to Dublin to see my Sweet Boy’s choir perform at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in April, the kind of trip that breezes past, carried by enthusiasm for the event to come, we desperately needed to stop. As we were driving through a nameless town, I spotted one of Georgina Campbell’s seal of approval stickers in the window of an otherwise unpromising coffee shop, and there was a parking spot directly in front. I swerved the car in and said, “I’ll order tea.” We had been on the lookout for banoffee pie all week, but it seemed it would be on the list of things missed and carried forward for our next visit. It wasn’t on a single menu. Until I sat down at a little table on this last day of our trip and, above me on a small chalkboard, spied the special of the day: Banoffee Pie. I ordered a piece and a pot of tea for myself and a hot chocolate for my Honey Girl. We dug in and silence soon followed. We were both thinking it: Where-have-you-been-all-my-life? You know, the kind of first bite that makes you shudder a little, makes you grab another bite quickly because you can’t quite believe how good it is? I found myself thinking about how far we Americans have strayed in the banana cream pie department. This was so much better: just to the edge of cloyingly sweet, but hanging on, and incredibly creamy. I was making it in my head by about bite four: a simple baked biscuit crust, probably crushed plain digestive biscuits mixed with butter and sugar, a layer of toffee cream, simple enough to make by boiling a can (or six) of sweetened condensed milk, a couple of bananas sliced over top, and a loft of barely sweetened whipped cream and grated dark chocolate. Yes, if taste memory serves me correctly, this is exactly it. It’s so easy to make that the cosmic math seems off.
The Lazy Man’s Banoffee Pie
Yield: one 9-inch pie, about eight servings
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 ¼ c. digestive biscuit crumbs from 1 14-ounce roll (or substitute graham cracker crumbs)
5 T. sugar
¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
10 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1 c. heavy cream
2 T. sugar
a piece of good dark chocolate
- To make the toffee cream, place the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan filled with water to cover the can completely and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat a bit to an even simmer. Simmer for three hours, checking the water level periodically and topping it up with additional hot water to cover. Remove the can(s) from the water to a clean kitchen towel on your counter and allow them to cool completely.
- To make the crust, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together the crumbs, sugar, nutmeg, and butter. Press the mixture evenly into a pie plate or other oven-safe baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
- To make the whipped cream, in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar until lofty and voluminous.
- To assemble the pie, smear a layer of toffee cream onto the crust, slice the bananas over the top, place a layer of whipped cream over the top, and use a vegetable peeler or grater to top the confection with dark chocolate shavings. Chill until serving time.
- For the sake of ease, I made the toffee cream the day before, as it requires long boiling and cooling times, and the pie the next day.
- It’s as easy to make many tins of the banoffee toffee cream as one. I made six. Simply place the cans in a larger pan.
- It’s important that the can(s) of sweetened condensed milk are completely submerged in boiling water. Have a peek at your boiling pot now and then.
- If you make extra cans of toffee cream, they will keep at room temperature in your pantry.
- To avoid browning, be certain that all of your banana slices are nestled neatly under the whipped cream.
- Keep the pie in the refrigerator until serving time. It is best to assemble the pie the same day you will serve it, and, even better, to assemble it close to serving time. The whipped cream may become a little sorry overnight, though it will certainly still be edible. If you wish to make the pie further in advance, assemble it to the toffee cream stage. Then shortly before serving, add the bananas and whipped cream and chocolate.