Back when I started writing Lost Recipes Found as a little Chicago Tribune column, one of the early requests I got was from someone who had 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 last week.
Researching menus, 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 smear of sweetened-condensed milk toffee, bananas and coffee-laced whipped cream, was immensely popular in England.
Turns out the restaurant where Banoffee started—The Hungry Monk at Jevington in Sussex, recently closed. But Ian Dowding, the original head chef who created the pie, 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 West Coast cafe chain, Blum’s. (more on that recipe, later!)
Giving a bit more history, Dowding said he’d been working at a small Berkshire cafe for a chef named Russell who included Blum’s pie as one of his secret-recipe specials. But 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, it dawned on Dowding that he’d found a foolproof way to make the toffee layer of the pie. The addition of bananas perfected the recipe.
In the years since, Dowding has made many variations on the Banoffee theme, from a hot one, served individually with Tia Maria ice cream, to a chocolate Banoffee, to a caramel apple version. We like the original, but served as individual tarts. If you don’t like the flavor of coffee-whipped cream, simply leave the instant coffee out and you’ll have what is essentially a toffee banana cream pie. While you eat it, read the full story at Dowding’s site.
Makes 5, individual-serving tart pans OR 1, 10-inch quiche pan
Banoffee Pie Crust Ingredients
- 5, individual-serving tart pans with removable bottoms OR 1, 10-inch quiche pan with removable bottom
- 9 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 oz powdered sugar
- 4 1/2 oz unsalted butter
- 1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
Banoffee Toffee Ingredients
- 2 unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk
Banoffee Topping Ingredients
- 5 to 6 bananas, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp instant coffee
- 1 Tbsp superfine sugar
- pinch of instant coffee 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 pie crust: Preheat oven to 425. 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. Roll out dough and fit into the tart pan(s) or quiche pan. Chill in refrigerator. Line piecrust(s) with parchment; fill with baking weights or dry beans.
- Bake pie crust at 425 for 15 minutes. Remove parchment liner & weights. Bake for five minutes more until pie crust is golden. Remove from oven to a cooling rack.
- While crust cools, make whipped cream. Whip 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup superfine sugar and 1 tsp coffee.
- Spread cooled crust with 1 1/2 cans of the soft toffee. 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.