This recipe story moves from Chicago to England to California and back again : ) It started back when I was doing Lost Recipes Found as a Chicago Tribune column. A woman wrote in to say she’d heard you could boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk to make some kind of dessert, and could I find it? Imagining exploding tins of hot milk, I tossed that request into the “not likely” bin and moved on. Until this…
A while back, I was interested to see a dessert called Banoffee Pie listed on the website for a Midwestern hotel. Curious, I clicked on the recipe and was surprised to discover that the “toffee” in the pie was made by boiling an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk (!) Digging a little deeper, I learned that Banoffee (or Banoffi) Pie–a dessert featuring a classic pie crust topped with a thick schmear of sweetened-condensed milk toffee, bananas and coffee-laced whipped cream, was immensely popular in England. But wait–there’s more. Turns out the restaurant where Banoffee started—The Hungry Monk at Jevington in Sussex, had closed. I tracked down Ian Dowding, the original head chef who created the pie and is still chef-ing, now specializing in recreating historic British menus for BBC programs. Chatting with Ian, I learned that Banoffee actually evolved from a famous American pie—the Coffee Toffee, from long-gone California cafe chain, Blum’s.
Giving a bit more pie-story, Dowding said he’d been working at a small cafe in Berkshire, England, for a chef named Russell who used to feature Blum’s pie as a “secret-recipe” special. “But,” said Dowding, “the toffee recipe was finicky and seldom came out.” So when Dowding moved on to the Hungry Monk he pretty much left the Coffee Toffee behind. Then one day, in a conversation with his sister, Dowding learned that boiling cans of condensed milk produced a soft toffee. In that Eureka moment, Dowding realized he’d found a foolproof way to make the toffee layer of the Blum’s pie that had given him so much trouble. The addition of bananas perfected/updated the recipe, which he now called Banoffee.
In the years since, Dowding has riffed a lot on the Banoffee theme, making a hot, individual serving version with Tia Maria ice cream, a chocolate Banoffee, and, a caramel apple version. We like the original, but served as individual tarts, so adapted the recipe in that direction. You’re welcome!
- 5, individual-serving tart pans with removable bottoms
- 9 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 oz powdered sugar
- 4 1/2 oz unsalted butter
- 1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- 2 unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk
- 5 to 6 bananas, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
- 1 Tbsp superfine sugar
- pinch of instant coffee, finely-ground, for garnish
- chocolate-covered coffee beans and dried banana chips, for garnish
- Make Toffee: Heat a large soup pot full of water, to boiling. Using canning tongs, clasp an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk and lower it into the pot of boiling water, ensuring that the water level is three or more inches above the top of the can. Repeat, lowering the other can of sweetened condensed milk into the boiling water. COVER THE POT. Reduce heat to simmer.
- Simmer for 3 1/2 hours, adding water to the pot as needed
- Remove cans from hot water bath.
- While toffee is cooking, make tart crusts: Sift flour and sugar together. Cut butter in. Add egg and egg yolk and lightly work to create pliable dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; flatten into a disk. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out dough and fit into the tart pans. Chill in refrigerator. Line each crust with parchment circles you've cut to fit; fill with baking weights or dry beans.
- Place tart crust-filled pans on half-sheet pans. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove parchment liners & weights. Bake for five minutes more until crusts are golden. Remove from oven to a cooling rack.
- While crusts cool, make whipped cream. Whip 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup superfine sugar and 1 tsp coffee. (Note: If you don't like the flavor of coffee-whipped cream, you could leave the coffee out....but then, this wouldn't be a banana-toffee-coffee tart, but rather, a banana toffee tart....
- Spread cooled crusts with 1 1/2 cans of the soft toffee divided equally between the tarts. Cut bananas in half lengthwise. Place the bananas over the toffee. Top with billows of coffee-whipped cream. When ready to serve, top each serving with a dried banana chip and a chocolate-covered coffee bean.
- The idea of boiling an unopened can of anything for 3 1/2 hours sounds scary. But it really goes just fine. I used a HUGE soup pot filled to within an inch of its top with boiling water, just to be sure that the level of water was a full five inches above the top of the cans. But keeping the lid on the pot as it simmered on the lowest temperature setting meant that very little water steamed off; the water level stayed virtually the same throughout the cooking time, and I produced three cans of perfectly lovely soft toffee. I used 1 1/2 cans for the recipe, spread the opened can on graham crackers for kids' snacks, and saved the remaining can to make a Banoffee Pie later.