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Banoffee Pie

May 29, 2012 2 comments

What does a born-and-raised Southern woman make for a going away dinner for a friend from the UK? A banoffee pie, of course! According to Wikipedia, a banoffee pie is “an English pastry-based dessert made from bananas, cream, toffee from boiled condensed milk (or dulce de leche), either on a pastry base or one made from crumbled biscuits and butter. Some versions of the recipe also include chocolate and/or coffee.” I had no idea what I was getting into. I’d never tried a banoffee pie; I just knew that Conor mentioned that he liked them. I liked the idea behind it – crust, layer of soft toffee (a.k.a. caramel), sliced bananas, whipped cream, and grated chocolate. What’s not to love?!? Also, it sounded like it might be fairly easy to make.

So I turned to Google and searched for a banoffee pie recipe. I found several versions. Some used pastry crusts, others used crumb crusts. Some had homemade toffee made from scratch; others used a toffee filling made from sweetened condensed milk. Some included chocolate; others did not. The common thread was sliced bananas and whipped cream. Next time, I will try flavoring the whipped cream with some espresso powder. I only used vanilla this first time, but I think coffee would give it a nice flavor boost.

Dinner was rather spur of the moment. We originally planned to meet at Sam and Greg’s, a local pizza and gelato shop. But that just didn’t seem right. A home cooked meal seemed like a better send off for Conor before he moved to Richmond, VA. Conor was our co-worker from our days in Building 17 at Intergraph. I was the Betty Crocker of the group and cooked for the folks in the bay. That’s actually kind of how Matt and I started dating. When I’m stressed, I bake. When I started the job at Intergraph, I was stressed a lot! So, there was lots of baking. I would bring in food and Matt would stop by my cubical and we started hanging out together.

Back to dinner and the banoffee pie. I had my food preservation class earlier that day at Harrison Brothers Hardware. I completely forgot it was the same day as the going away dinner. So, I decided on something easy to prepare – homemade chicken and dumpling stew, a fresh picked salad from our garden, and a quick version of the banoffee pie.

Figured there was not enough time to make homemade caramel or toffee, so I used a can of  Nestle’s La Lechera (The Dairy) dulce de leche. This particular brand is made in Chile and it is awesome! You can find it at a Latin American market or in the international section of a large grocery store. Usually, Publix and Kroger carry it (in Huntsville and Madison). When I find it on sale, I buy a few cans and keep it on hand. It is almost as good as a homemade caramel and it is so much easier! It reminds me of the caramel we made as a kid by boiling unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk. This method produces great results but it can be dangerous. Cleaning caramel from the ceiling is not fun :(. I would not recommend this method! However, if you are inclined to make your own dulce de leche, I would recommend looking at Cooking for Engineers. A great website and they provide a safer method.

I liked the idea of a crumb crust since it is quicker to make than a pastry crust. I decided to go with the digestive biscuits recommended in a few recipes. This is my new go-to crumb crust; it isn’t as sweet as a graham cracker crumb crust. Digestive biscuits are easy to find in Huntsville. You can get them at Publix, Kroger, The Fresh Market, Earth Fare, and the European Market on the Parkway. TJ Maxx and Target also stock them on occasion. I like the McVitie’s brand. If you can’t find them, shortbread wafers or graham crackers would be fine. Or if you want to make a pastry crust, go for it!

The finished pie in the photo is a little thin. I should have used a 9” or 11” springform or tart pan. However, I made three pies (9”, 4½”, and cupcake sized). The cupcake was for testing (you need a sample when experimenting!), the small pie was for Conor to take home. That left me with either a 9” or 11” pan. I went with the 9” and the caramel layer was a little thin.

Bottom line, this is an easy recipe, though I’m not sure it is a true banoffee pie. But it was tasty and Conor liked it (high praise!).  So here is my version of a quick banoffee-like pie…

Crumb Crust:

2 cups cracker or cookie crumbs* (I used 16 McVitie’s Original Digestive Biscuits)

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon sugar

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a medium bowl, combine the crumbs with the sugar and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Press the mixture into a 9” or an 11” spring form or tart pan lined with parchment paper (just to make slicing and removing the pie easier). Use the back of a spoon or a measuring cup to press the mixture up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack. Then refrigerate until firm.

Filling:

13.4 ounce can La Lechera dulce de leche

3-4 bananas (firm, not too ripe)

½ pint heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

pinch of espresso powder or instant coffee, optional

1 ounce chocolate, grated

Heat the caramel. You can heat it on the stove or in the microwave. Heat just until it is warm and soft. It can burn, so don’t overheat it. Actually, I just placed the entire can in the warm oven after the crust baked. Pour the warm caramel into the cooled crust. Spread it with a spoon. Try not to dig into the crust or you might get crumbs in the caramel. It tastes fine, but the texture gets a little funny. Chill for an hour or until the caramel is firm.

Slice the bananas into ¼-½” uniform slices (just depends on how much banana you want). Arrange in a single layer on the caramel. Whip the cream and add the sugar and the vanilla (and coffee if you want). Top the bananas with the whipped cream. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Chill until you are ready to serve.

This pie is better served fresh. Even covered in whipped cream, the bananas can get a little mushy for my taste once refrigerated. I made it and served it on Thursday, it was great on Friday. The last slice on Saturday was not as good as the one on Thursday. Serves 8.

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Purple Goodness in a Glass

March 29, 2012 2 comments

Around our house, smoothies make a quick, healthy breakfast, lunch, snack, or dessert.  We pick blueberries every summer at MaryMac Farms and then freeze the berries for use year-round.  Smoothies are one of our favorite ways to enjoy the berries.  This smoothie recipe can be a base for other smoothies – add some extra frozen bananas, peaches, strawberries, or cherries.  Yes, we keep all of those in our freezer! 

Helpful hint:  We also have lots of bags with little cubes of things in the freezer. When we have extra yogurt, fruit juice, wine, pesto, lemon juice, fresh herbs, apple cider, and tomato paste, I freeze it in ice cube trays. Then pop them out and store them in resealable bags.

  • Yogurt:  I like to buy large containers of organic Greek yogurt, but we never seem to finish it.  The cubes are perfect for smoothies.  Frozen flavored yogurt cubes make good mini popsicles (just add a toothpick when it is almost frozen).
  • Fruit juice: We usually don’t finish a bottle of juice either.  Hate to waste it, so it gets frozen. Perfect for smoothies or depending on the juice, great in iced tea!
  • Wine:  Leftover wine doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I freeze it.  The wine cubes are perfect for finishing up a sauce or gravy.
  • Pesto:  When the basil in the garden is going crazy, I make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Oil the trays first for easy removal.  Just thaw a cube and toss with fresh, hot pasta or mixed vegetables.
  • Lemon juice:  When I make limoncello, I have almost 4 cups of lemon juice!  There’s just so much fresh lemonade we can drink. So, I freeze some in ice cube trays and some in larger containers for making lemon bars.
  • Fresh herbs:  To freeze fresh herbs (like basil, parsley, chives, and mint), just rinse, snip if they are large, place in an ice cube tray, fill the tray half full with water, freeze, fill trays with water, freeze, and then store them in resealable bags.  If you initially fill the trays with water, the herbs tend to float and they might get freezer-burned.  This method, though it takes more time, prevents freezer damage to the herbs. Another method is to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil.
  • Apple cider:  We get local apple cider from Scott’s and then freeze some in cubes for drinking hot in the winter.  It is also great with tea (hot and iced). And sometimes I eat the cubes in the summer, another popsicle-like treat.
  • Tomato paste:  Freezing is great when you need just a little tomato paste and have leftovers from the can.  It is much cheaper to buy cans of tomato paste than those little tubes. Oil the trays before filling to hopefully prevent them from staining. 

 

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

1 banana (fresh or frozen)

1 cup frozen blueberries (fresh or frozen)

½ cup juice (I used tangerine, cranberry, apple, orange, etc. juice is fine too)

¾ cup plain yogurt or kefir (any kind works – soy, coconut, regular)

Optional add-ins:  protein powder, dash of cinnamon, ground flax seeds, shredded coconut, (ice cubes if you use fresh fruit, I like the cold), flax seed oil, almond butter, ginger, cayenne, etc.

Pour contents into blender container.  Cover with the lid (otherwise you might end up with purple goodness all over the place!). Blend until smooth and purple.  Enjoy!

Servings:  2 snack-sized servings or 1 meal-sized serving