I love banoffee pie. I don't think I've had banoffee since we left England in 2009. It's not that I like it any more than chocolate cake (any cake), apple pie or a good cheesecake. It's just that it has its place. It's the textures. The banana and the toffee. That crumb.
In England, it was slightly easier to make given that you could buy a jar of dulce de leche from a supermarket shelf. It was on my list of things I missed from home. I would eat the Argentine toffee spread straight from the jar, spoonful after spoonful. I'm not actually sure I made any banoffee with it.
I've been thinking about making this definitive pud of the 1990s for a while now. Wednesday was the day.
I had prepared myself all week for the fact I was going to be boiling condensed milk in the can. This is how you make the toffee in a banoffee – or so I thought.
I didn't need a recipe for banoffee – it is, after all, buttery crushed biscuit, toffee, banana and whipped cream (rich enough for you?) – but I definitely needed to know the details of safely boiling sweet milk in a can. I've heard horror stories, you see.
I stood in front of my cookery books (sadly, not the hundreds that I once had before we moved) and I pulled out Tom Norrington-Davies. A food writer and co-owner/head chef of Great Queen Street in London, but I wouldn't use the word chef for Tom. His writing and food is more than that. He's a cook. A proper cook. (Just checked his twitter account and he calls himself Chief Cook. Much better.)
Anyway, his is the only book I have with a recipe for banoffee pie.* I learnt that banoffee pie is actually an English dessert, not an American concoction. The other revelation was that he makes the toffee without boiling any cans. You just heat butter and sugar together, then add golden syrup and condensed milk.
Easy. And you really do end up with toffee in seconds. It's so quick that I overdid it and my first batch ended up more like thick fudge with burnt sugary bits. It didn't go to waste (by which I mean.... Wait. You know what I mean.)
I spent the day assembling (banoffee isn't really cooking or baking; it's an assembly job*) and I snapped away with my camera.
I ended up having banoffee for lunch and just when I thought I couldn't have any more of those wonderful textures, I'd wait a bit and have a bit more.
When the boys came home, I was ready for all those moments that happen so often here.
Whenever things got too much for me, in true Nigella style, I'd open the fridge door and sneak in a mouthful. I did it often that evening. And do you know what? I didn't lose my patience once with them. Knowing I had this in the fridge was all I needed.
So I may have just cracked it. The parenting thing, I mean. If I have something in the fridge – pie, cake, anything – that's just sitting there with a spoon at the ready so I can dive in whenever they get too tough to handle, I think the boys will turn out just fine.
Believe it or not, I have had enough banoffee pie for another three years. But there was a little left over, and Luca was clever enough to work out there was something in that fridge with the door opening that much over the last 48 hours.
He had a little after dinner tonight. So did Kian. As Graeme fed him a mouthful or two of crushed biscuit, Kian did that thing that Luca used to do as a baby, just before a feed. That desperate mouth-open rooting thing just as I'd undo my bra. The most adorable thing and I'd almost forgotten what it looked like.
But I was reminded tonight when my little sweet-toothed cuddlebug did it. Not for my milk. No.
He was rooting for butter and sugar.
I don't blame him. Especially when he's known a lifetime of plain yoghurt and fruit for dessert. Will he ever eat yoghurt and fruit again, I wonder?
* Recipe: Melt 50g butter and mix into 250g crushed digestive biscuits. Line the base of a Pyrex dish or cake tin with the biscuit base and set aside. For the toffee, heat very gently 125g butter and 100g sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, stir in 2 tbsp golden syrup and 200g condensed milk (about half a can). Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 mins, stirring constantly, until thick and toffee-coloured. When cooled slightly, pour it onto the biscuit base. Chill for at least 1 hour. Arrange 3 sliced bananas over the toffee. Whip 300ml double cream to soft peaks with 1 tsp honey and use it to top the pie. Adding the honey will not make the cream very sweet, but it makes it harder to over whip it (an old wives' tale that always seems to work). You can serve with chocolate shavings on top. The original recipe from Eastbourne, England uses coffee powder. From Just Like Mother Used to Make.