Oyster Tarts

A great little recipe from that classic baking institution: Be-Ro.

Thomas Bell founded his grocery company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1875. Amongst other items, he manufactured and sold baking powder and the world’s first self-raising flour under the brand name Bell’s Royal.

After the death of King Edward VII the use of the word ‘Royal’ in business was prohibited, so Thomas shortened each word to just two letters, and the Be-Ro brand was born.

To encourage the use of self-raising flour, the company staged exhibitions where visitors could taste freshly-baked scones, pastries and cakes. This proved so popular, and requests for the recipes so numerous, the Be-Ro Home Recipes book was created. Now in it’s 40th edition, the company claims that, at over 38 million copies, its recipe booklet “is arguably one of the best-selling cookery books ever.”

I’m not sure which edition my Be-Ro booklet is, as it’s undated, but from the appearance of the smiling lady on the front it definitely has a 1930s feeling; it’s pictured on the Be-Ro website, with a deep red cover.

These little tarts are a beautiful example of how the simplest ingredients can be given a subtle twist and appeal by both their appearance and the ease with which they are whipped up. In essence, these are a Bakewell Tart with cream, but a little tweak turns them into sweet ‘oysters’.

I’m not a fan of almond flavouring, so I’ve used lemon zest to brighten the almond sponge and used a seedless blackcurrant jam inside. Adding the jam after baking (unlike the method for Bakewell Tarts) circumvents cooking the jam for a second time, and so it retains its brightness of flavour as well as colour. The pastry is crisp and dry and a perfect contrast against the moist filling. I’ve opted for an unsweetened pastry, but feel free to use a sweetened one if you prefer.

You could customise these tarts by swapping the ground almonds for almost any other nut, and matching the jam accordingly. Here are a few that occurred to me.

  • Almond with orange zest, and orange curd as the filling.
  • Coconut and lime curd, with a little lime zest in the filling.
  • Hazelnuts or pecans, with a praline paste or Nutella in the filling.
  • Walnut and a little coffee icing.

Have fun with them!

Oyster Tarts

Pastry
60g cornflour
225g plain flour
140g butter
ice-cold water

Filling
70g unsalted butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 small lemon
85g ground almonds

To serve
200g cream cheese
200ml whipping cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1-2tbs icing sugar, plus more to sprinkle
120g sharp jam

  • Put all the pastry ingredients except for the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Knead smooth, then roll out thinly. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge to relax.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Beat the butter and sugar for the filling until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes to get as much air into the mix as possible.
  • Add the egg and whisk in thoroughly.
  • Fold in the lemon zest and ground almonds.
  • Grease a 12-hole shallow tart tin.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut out 12 circles. Line the prepared tin with the pastry.Add about a tablespoon of filling to each tart. I use a small ice-cream scoop but 2 spoons will also work.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the tin around after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
  • Transfer the cooked tarts onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
  • Whisk the cream cheese, vanilla and cream together until firm. Gently stir through a little icing sugar to slightly sweeten.
  • When the tarts have cooled, slice off the top of the filling with a sharp knife and set aside.
  • Add a teaspoon of jam and either spoon or pipe a little of the cream mixture into each tart.
  • Set the ‘lids’ back on the tarts at a jaunty angle, so as to appear like a half-opened oyster.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Sugarless Biscuits

I don’t mean to boast (which means I’m going to), but I’m very pleased with this recipe, which I found in a book from 1767 entitled “Primitive cookery; or the kitchen garden display’d”. In the curious attribution style of the day, the frontispiece declares the book “Printed for J.Williams at No. 38, Fleet Street”, which leaves the authorship somewhat undetermined – possibly J.Williams or he might have been the publisher, or even the printer himself.

That mystery aside, the frontispiece also contains some wonderful claims, viz “RECEIPTS for preparing a great Variety of cheap, healthful and palatable Dishes without Fish, Flesh or Fowl; WITH A BILL of FARE of Seventy Dishes that will not cost above Two-Pence each”. The low cost and the vegetarian nature of the dishes was doubly interesting, since vegetarianism didn’t really take off in Britain until the nineteenth century. Alas, it wasn’t quite the groundbreaking publication I thought, as I found meat and meat products scattered liberally throughout, and although the seventy tupenny dishes are meatless, they consist mostly of dishes along the lines of “[insert the name of a vegetable] boiled and bread and butter”. Still, it’s not all plain fare, as the following meal suggestion illustrates: “Bread and half a pint of canary, makes an excellent meal.” With half a pint of sherry (canary) inside you, you wouldn’t really care that you only had bread to eat. And for tuppence? Bargain!

ANYHOO…..

These biscuits are listed in the book as Parsnip Cakes – the word ‘cake’ having a much more versatile usage in the eighteenth century, and more inclined to refer to shape, rather than some delightful teatime confection. Parsnips provide both bulk and a very gentle sweetness. Sliced, dried in the oven and then ground in a spice grinder, the parsnip ‘flour’ is then mixed with an equal quantity of flour, a little spice, and formed into a dough by mixing with double cream. Rolled out to a thinness of 5mm and baked in a cool oven, the resultant biscuits are crisp, crunchy and similar to a close-textured digestive biscuit. The flavour of parsnip is detectable, especially if, in the drying they have also browned a little and the sugars caramelised, but it’s not overpowering.  More nutty than vegetable. In terms of sweetness, they sit bang on the fence between sweet and savoury – sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving, savoury enough to eat with cheese.

It’s this versatility which got me thinking of ways in which it could be adapted, and after experimentation, came up with the following:

  • Spices. You can vary the spices and tip the biscuits more towards sweet or savoury as you prefer.
    • Sweet spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves.
    • Savoury spices: garam masala, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, curry powder.
    • Neutral spices that could go either way: aniseed, fennel, fenugreek, caraway, cardamom, Chinese five spice.
    • Herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic powder, onion powder, chives, etc.
  • Flours. This is where these biscuits are most versatile.The flour you match with the parsnip powder doesn’t have to be limited to plain white. The biscuits in the picture above have been made with stoneground wholemeal with aniseed (top) and medium oatmeal, with a little salt (bottom). Here are just a few further suggestions:
    • brown
    • wholemeal
    • medium oatmeal
    • barley
    • rice
    • plain white
    • white + cornflour
    • brown + rye
    • malted
  • Usage. The dough can also be used as a pastry, with different results coming from the different flours used. Mixing the parsnip flour with brown flour or oatmeal would make a fantastic crust for something like a cauliflower cheese tart. I haven’t tried it for turnovers/handpies, but I suspect you’d need to use bread flour and to work it quite well in order to prevent it cracking when trying to fold it.

Sugarless Biscuits

The recipe for mixing the actual biscuits requires only a fraction of your parsnip flour, thereby allowing you to make several batches from this one quantity. That said, this made only about 200g of parsnip flour in total.

4 large parsnips
50g flour of choice
½-1tsp spice/herb/flavouring of choice
50-70ml double cream

¼ tsp salt (for savoury biscuits and/or when using oatmeal)

  • Peel the parsnips and slice thinly – a mandolin is ideal.
  • Arrange the slices on parchment-lined baking sheets and put into the oven.
  • Turn the oven on low, 120°C/100°C Fan.
  • Since the slices are so thin, they won’t take very long to dry at all. Check after 15 minutes. If they have curled into flower shapes, remove from the oven and allow to cool. If they aren’t completely crisp when cold, you can easily dry them a little longer. It’s better to dry them in two stages, than to let them go a little too long and allow them to take on colour – unless that’s what you’re after, of course.
  • When the parsnips slices are crisp and cold, grind them to powder in a spice grinder, or pound them in a pestle and mortar. If you’re using them for savoury biscuits, you can get away with having it a little coarser – like semolina or polenta. For sweet biscuits, you’ll probably need to sieve out the larger pieces and re-grind.
  • Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan
  • To make the biscuits:
    • Put 50g parsnip flour in the bowl of a food processor.
    • Add 50g of your chosen flour.
    • Add your chosen spices and salt, if required.
    • Blitz for a few seconds to mix.
    • With the motor running, gradually pour in the double cream. Depending on the flour you are using, the quantity of cream required to bring the dough together will vary. Add just enough until the dough comes together in a ball, or at least resembles damp breadcrumbs.
    • Tip out and press together into a ball.
    • Roll out between sheets of cling film plastic (to avoid sticking) to about 5mm and cut into biscuits. I made rectangles of 2.5cm x 5cm, but any shape will do.
    • Lay the biscuits onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick the middles neatly with a fork.
    • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around and bake for a further 10 minutes.
    • Transfer to a wire rack and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes in order to ensure the undersides are dried and crisp.
    • Allow to cool on the wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

 

Cream Cakes

I spend a lot of our holidays in southwest France prowling around patisseries and artisan boulangeries with eyes like saucers, admiring the delicate and stylish combinations of cream and fruit and chocolate and truffle and glaze and, and, and….

However, in order to get there, it is rather a mammoth road trip, so I generally make sure I’ve got a handful of recipe books with me in the car to while away the hours. With no other reading matter to hand, I find it’s a good way to make sure I actually READ some of the hundreds of books on my shelves and I invariably discover something I’ve overlooked before. Sure enough, this year, yet again, I have re-discovered a recipe in a dusty housewives’ pamphlet from umpty-plonk years ago that reveals itself to be a real gem and, despite my hopeless and complete admiration for the exotic and awe-inspiring patisserie creations of France, I am enchanted all over again by British simplicity.

The recipe for these cakes was so brief I almost passed it by, yet curiosity caused me to pause and read it over, wondering what ‘trick’ there was; surely the small paragraph didn’t contain making, baking AND decorating instructions for cream cakes?

Sure enough, it didn’t, because the recipe was for cakes MADE with cream. Specifically, substituting cream into the mix instead of butter.

So simple – flour, sugar, eggs, cream, baking powder. I just had to try them.

And they were delicious, and a complete breeze to make; no fretting over whether the butter is soft enough, or whether the sugar is dissolved sufficiently. They rose, magnificently domed, in the oven and are light and tender of crumb.

If I had just one niggle, it was that they were sweet. Tooth-achingly so. I couldn’t resist tweaking them a little. Even the sugar-pop posing as my daughter prefers this version. Of course she ate the sweet batch too, but she prefers these.

There’s no added flavouring – you could add some if you like, but I urge you to try the recipe just once, with farm-fresh eggs and rich double – or even clotted – cream.

The simplicity, lightness and flavour will be a delight.

Promise.

Cream Cakes

The cakes in the photo are made in mini layer tins I bought in my local The Range, 4 x 10cm diameter pans for £2.50 (also fab for Yorkshire Puddings – I bought 2 sets) and I put 100g of batter per pan and made six. If you’re using large cupcake/muffin tins, I suggest just 50g of batter per ‘hole’, and thus twelve cakes. Cooking time is the same for both sizes.

150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder

  •  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and whisk in.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients – the balloon whisk/attachment is best for this, less washing up too!
  • Grease and line your tins, or use cupcake cases.
  • Spoon your mixture into your tins. Spread the batter to the sides, leaving a hollow in the middle. They will still dome up during cooking, but this way it should be a little more controlled.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • I think these are delicious served warm, lightly dusted with icing sugar and with a drizzle of cold cream poured over and a few fresh berries on the side. You can also split them and fill with whipped cream and berries or jam, or indeed any way that takes your fancy!

Snow Cake

An unusual and simple cake, with the bonus of being gluten-free!

As I was perusing one of my several vintage baking books, I came across this recipe – not in any specific allergy-related book or even chapter of a book. No, it was just included with a bunch of other recipes in a book aimed at the commercial baker, dating from the early 20th century. I have scaled the recipe down from the originally huge quantities, but otherwise, it is unchanged.

This cake is made using potato flour. IMPORTANT: Potato flour is made from RAW potatoes and is a bright white and very fine powder, with no discernible taste. It is NOT dehydrated cooked potato, which is coarse, yellowish and tastes of potato. That makes mashed potatoes when reconstituted and will add a similar texture to your cake. Readers in the US: use potato starch flour.

At first, I thought the cake got its name from it colour, because, as you can see from the photo, it is indeed a very pale cake. However, after tasting the cake, I’m now of the opinion that its name comes from its texture. It has the same quality of settled snow, in that there is a thin ‘crust’ on the top and soft, friable, almost powder-like substance underneath. The cake dissolves in the mouth – but in a different way to, say, Melting Moments. It’s incredibly light and tender and is best enjoyed simply, where it can really shine.

That said, the cream that I have teamed with it is pretty awesome itself. It is a variation of the filling I used for the mille-feuilles in the final of The Great British Bake Off. The mixture of sweetened cream cheese and whipped double cream is given a firmer set by the addition of gelatine, which helps to hold in the moisture and makes for a very luscious, rich, creamy and mousse-like texture. Just to continue the frozen theme, it’s like the very best soft-serve ice-cream, without the cold.

I’ve brightened the filling with some Apricot Jam, but any other sharp jam would also work well.

I bought the potato flour at Holland & Barrett.

Snow Cake

112g unsalted butter – softened
112g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
2 level tsp baking powder
225g potato flour

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Grease and line the base of a 20cm diameter, tall cake tin – not a sandwich tin. The high sides will help shield the cake from the direct heat of the oven and keep it from becoming over-coloured.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly – a good 5-10 minutes. Ordinarily, you’d run the risk of over-beating a cake mixture, which would develop the gluten in the flour, leading to a tough cake. Since the potato flour has no gluten, there’s no need to worry about this. You want to try and get as much air into the mixture as possible to make for a light texture in the cooked cake.
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the tin 180 degrees and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, for a total of 30-35 minutes. When you turn the cake after 20 minutes, slip a sheet of baking parchment over the top of the tin to keep the colour from getting too dark.
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Luscious Cream Filling

50ml double cream
50g caster sugar
2 leaves gelatine

1tsp vanilla extract
150g cream cheese,  room temperature
250ml double cream

  • Soak the leaves of gelatine in cold water for 15 minutes.
  • Warm the double cream and caster sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Shake off the excess water from the gelatine and add to the pan.
  • Stir until the gelatine has melted, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Once the mixture has cooled a little, pour it into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
  • Whip the mixture until the cream has thickened and it is soft and pillowy.

To Assemble

Even though this is a light sponge cake, the weight of the top half will be too heavy initially, to avoid squidging (technical term) the cream out of the sides of the cake. Therefore, I strongly recommend using the following method to assemble your cake.

200g apricot jam – warmed and pureed

  • Using cocktail sticks, mark the midpoint of the cooled cake around the edge and cut it horizontally.
  • Spread the cut side of each cake half with apricot jam.
  • Put the bottom half of the cake back into the tin in which it was baked.
  • Slip a band of parchment or food-grade acetate around the inside of the tin, between the cake and the inside of the tin.
  • Smooth or pipe the cream filling over the bottom of the cake, making sure it reaches the edges of the cake.
  • Place the other half on top and press gently.
  • Cover with cling-film and chill for 2-3 hours, until the gelatine in the cream has set.
  • Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and gently peel the parchment/acetate from around the filling.
  • Smooth with a knife if necessary.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Radnor Cranberry Tart

If you have an extended social life in the run-up to Christmas, and sample nothing but mince pies throughout December, by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out.

Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end of a meal, and this is why this recipe is perfect. It’s simple and straightforward – just two main ingredients of fresh cranberries and juicy raisins. The raisins take the edge off the sometimes eye-popping sharpness of the cranberries and the little dash of vanilla also gives the aroma of sweetness, so only the merest sprinkle of sugar is required. It’s festively reminiscent enough of a mince pie to deserve a place on the table, its fresh-tasting, palate-cleansing, sweet but not too sweet, can be served hot or cold, but ALWAYS with a slice of cheese. I’m thinking some vintage cheddar, crumbly white Cheshire or even one of the fruited cheeses – white Stilton and apricot anyone?

It is a traditional (Welsh) border tart, ideal for Christmas – just look at that glorious colour! The original 1930s recipe in Mrs Arthur Webb’s Farmhouse Cookery didn’t specify any particular pastry, so I’m taking the opportunity to offer for your delectation and amusement, a new pastry recipe! Yes, I know I love the cornflour pastry – and I really do, both sweet and savoury versions – but I can’t resist something that has the potential to add a new arrow to my pastry quiver, as it were, and in this case, I’m really glad that I did.

It’s Eliza Acton’s 1845 recipe for cream pastry and it has my seal of approval for several reasons:

  • Simplicity – in its basic form, it can be whisked together with just two ingredients.
  • Taste – when baked, it is crisp and dry, without any hint of greasiness or stodginess.
  • It can be enriched with butter, but at a ratio of just 1/4 fat-to-flour, it is not as indulgent as it tastes. When enriched with butter, the texture is moving towards the flakiness of flaky pastry, yet with the ‘dryness’ and crispness of the cornflour pastry – Nom!
  • And on the practical side, it handles and rolls really nicely.

You can, of course, use your own favourite pastry instead.

Radnor Cranberry Tart

Eliza Acton’s Cream Pastry
This quantity makes enough for a 20cm pie.

225g plain flour
0.5tsp salt
300-450ml double cream
56g butter

  • Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
  • With the motor running, gradually add in the cream, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together.
  • Tip the mixture out and knead until smooth.
  • Roll out the pastry into a long rectangle.
  • Using the same method as for Flaky Pastry, dot over half the butter.
  • Fold the ends over, turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat.
  • Roll out one last time, and fold the ends inwards.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Make the filling (see below).
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces (2/3 + 1/3 is about right).
  • Roll out the large piece and use it to line a greased, 20cm loose bottomed tart tin. Ease the pastry into the sides, rather than just stretching it by pressing down too hard. Leave the excess hanging over the edge of the tin.
  • Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to make the lid, and lay it onto a cutting board.
  • Chill both pieces of pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make sure it is relaxed and less prone to shrinkage in the oven.
  • By this time, the filling should be cool enough to use.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the two lots of pastry from the fridge.
  • Fill the lined tin with the cooled filling and smooth over.
  • Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry, then lay the lid across the top and press the edges together.
  • Trim off the excess using the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the edges to your liking – I used the tines of a fork to make for a good seal.
  • Brush the surface of the tart with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Cut a steam vent in the middle of the pastry lid using a sharp knife.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool, if not serving warm.
  • Serve with a nice wedge of cheese.

Filling
450g fresh cranberries
225g raisins
30g sugar
60ml cold water
0.5tsp vanilla extract

  • Rinse the cranberries and put them in a pan with the raisins, sugar and water.
  • Cover and warm on a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and you can hear the cranberries starting to pop.
  • Simmer for just five minutes, then turn off the heat.
  • Taste to make sure of the sweetness, but remember, this is not supposed to be a really sweet tart, however, it shouldn’t be too sour either. If you think it needs a little more sugar, add it by all means.
  • Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.

Banoffi Pie

I’d just like to take a moment to discuss a modern British classic pudding: Banoffi Pie.

Yes, Banoffi. Not Banoffee.

That’s just one of my little niggles regarding this dessert that have ultimately led to this post.

Done properly, to the original recipe, it is a classic, sophisticated and delicious dessert, worthy of a dinner party.

But it rarely IS done properly and, over the years, I’ve seen it churned out on television in worse and worse variations, until this past week when I saw an absolute shocker and so I was propelled into making this post just to set the record straight if nothing else.

I’m convinced that the fatty, over-sweetened mess that Banoffi Pie has evolved into, puts off a lot of people, which is a shame. Hopefully, if they can be persuaded to try it as it was originally conceived, they might just become fans.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how Banoffi Pie came into being, and one of the co-creators has also published online the back-story as well as his original recipe.

Even though I am a fan of the original recipe, I’m going to change it a little.

I know, I know……I realise I’ve just spent three paragraphs banging on about people changing recipes, but in my head this is ALLOWED – because in the past I have actually eaten original recipe Banoffi Pie. Over the years I’ve developed a personal rule of first trying a recipe in it’s original form, out of respect to the original author. That done, you can tweak it how you like, but make it their way first. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results.

Once you’ve tried the original recipe too, you can pop back and we’ll carry on.

Back already? Excellent.

Before we begin, lets just have a quick whizz around the components, which gives me the opportunity to bang on about those too:

Pastry Base: Yes, contrary to popular belief, the original recipe called for a sweet, shortcrust pastry, which is actually ideal for this dessert. We’re going to draw a discrete veil over the crushed biscuit-and-butter and (my personal bête-noir) chocolate-biscuit-and-melted-chocolate bases, which push this dessert into being sickly. The filling is so rich and sweet, having the dry, crumbly pastry is a perfect foil. I actually have a copy of the original recipe published in the second book of recipes from the restaurant where it originated ( “The Deeper Secrets of The Hungry Monk” ) which just specified ‘shortcrust pastry’. This I interpreted as carte blanche to use whatever recipe I liked. What I have for you here is the original sweet cornflour pastry which I adapted to a savoury version for the Cheese and Potato Pies. It has that extra crispness that a regular all-butter pastry lacks.

Filling: I’ve seen some people get very precious about the caramel “I make it all by hand!” they cry, ladling in the butter and cream. However, these caramels tend to be rather runny, and to be blunt, the filling can be doing without all that fat. The original is much simpler and is obtained by simmering unopened tins of sweetened, condensed milk for an extended length of time. This can be done in a variety of ways, but my method of choice is in the slow cooker because you can leave it unattended, and it won’t boil dry. Cover the tins with water, set it on Low and leave it for 8 hours. You can simmer them longer, up to 12 hours, and the caramel will gradually become darker the longer it is left in the water. The caramel in the picture was taken out of the slow cooker after 8 hours. In the UK, the most well-known producer of milk products (Carnation) have recently started selling tins of caramel. These are great if you need a dessert at short notice, but I find the caramel isn’t quite as firm as when you make it yourself, as well as being, to my taste at least, a great deal sweeter. If convenience is what you’re after, I suggest simmering more than one tin at a time and keeping the home-made spares in the cupboard.

Banana: This addition/improvement transformed Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie into Banoffi Pie. The banana is laid on top of the caramel and underneath the cream, NOT on the pastry base. This would make spreading the caramel very difficult, as the sliced banana would stick to the caramel and slide about. And no, they don’t go on top of the cream either, because they’ll just turn brown and become very off-putting. And if you DO put them on top of the cream and then throw chocolate on top to disguise the browning, you’re fooling no-one. One variation that meets with Ian Dowding’s approval is to replace the banana with a thickened apple puree, making an Appleoffi Pie. Made with sharp, cooking apples such as Bramleys, I can just imagine the delicious contrast in both flavour and texture, although I’d probably leave out the coffee from the whipped cream for this version.

Coffee Cream:  Yes, coffee cream – whipped cream flavoured with coffee. So often this is replaced with plain whipped cream, or even vanilla flavoured cream, to the dessert’s great detriment. And, contrary to Mr Dowding’s original, in my opinion the coffee cream should be unsweetened and strong to the point of bitterness. Using espresso coffee powder turns it into a fantastic counterpoint to all the sweetness in the caramel and bananas, as well as lifting the dessert into dinner-party status. Coffee can do that. It’s almost as if it’s status as a grown-up flavour, confers adult status on everything it touches.

Chocolate for sprinkling/garnish: Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Nellie!? Whaddya doin’? You can’t go introducing a new flavour and shoving it on top of the pie just because you feel like it! Coffee, banana and caramel flavours are plenty busy enough, thankyousoverymuch! If you must sprinkle anything, a light dusting of espresso coffee powder is all the garnish it needs.

Baking Tin: You can make this dessert in any size and shape tin you like. A 20cm round tin, preferably with a loose bottom to help ease out the cooked pastry case, is traditional, but this time I used my loose-bottom rectangular flan tin (13cm x 35cm), which means the finished dessert can be neatly cut straight across in elegant, finger slices and the different layers are clean and clearly visible.

The Original(ish) Banoffi Pie

Pastry
60g cornflour
225g plain flour
140g butter
1 large egg
85g icing sugar
ice-cold water

  • Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Knead smooth, then roll out thinly.
  • Line your chosen tart tin, easing the pastry into the corners/sides.
  • Leave the excess pastry overhanging the sides and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the tin from the fridge and, now that the pastry has relaxed, trim the excess from the sides.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart tin with a fork.
  • Line the tin with baking parchment and weigh it down with baking beads/rice.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from the oven and take out the parchment and beans.
  • If the edges are already brown, cover them closely with foil and return the tart to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
  • Set aside to cool.

Filling
1 tin sweetened condensed milk turned to caramel, cooled

Unless you’re making a huge (30cm+) tart, then one tin is all you’ll need. Warmed carefully, it’ll spread a long way and a 1-2cm layer is rich enough for a treat without becoming sickly.

  • Open the cooled tin and tip into a small saucepan.
  • Warm the caramel gently until it becomes smooth and pourable.
  • Pour the warm caramel into the cooked pastry tart shell and spread it evenly over the base.
  • Lightly grease some clingfilm with butter and lay it closely over the caramel.
  • Chill until required.

To Assemble
300ml double cream
1tsp instant espresso powder + extra to sprinkle
2-3 bananas

  • Whisk the cream and coffee powder together until firm peaks.
  • Slice the bananas and lay a thin layer over the caramel.
  • Cover the bananas with the coffee cream. I like to just spoon it over, and keep it light and billowy, but if you prefer something more formal, you can pipe it. What you must do, is ensure that all the banana slices are completely covered. Just like the meringue on a lemon meringue pie, make sure the cream goes right to the edge of the tart, touching the edge of the pastry. Any banana left uncovered with start to discolour very quickly, but covered with the cream they remain delicately pale.
  • Dust the top lightly with espresso powder and chill until required.

Ivory Cream

A delicate cream of fresh bananas and orange set in a traditional mould for a classic and timeless pudding.

This recipe was found in a book published in the town where I live, back in the 1930s. I was drawn to the unusual combination of fruits and was curious how these two strong flavours would work together. The answer is ‘very well’ and the delicate colour of the set dessert is a genuinely attractive pale ivory. If you have any vintage glass or ceramic jelly moulds, then this is the ideal dessert to show them off.

Ivory Cream

4 leaves gelatine
5 large bananas
5tsp icing sugar
250ml double cream
juice and zest of 1 orange
150ml fresh squeezed orange juice
150ml water

To serve: whipped cream and orange zest curls

  • Soak the gelatine in water.
  • Mix the orange juice and water and warm over a low heat.
  • Add the bloomed gelatine and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
  • Peel and mash the bananas thoroughly. Add the orange zest and juice.
  • Whisk the cream until thick, then fold in the bananas.
  • When the gelatine mixture has cooled, whisk into the banana cream mixture.
  • Rinse your jelly moulds with cold water, leaving them wet inside, then pour in the mixture.
  • Cover lightly with plastic film and chill in the fridge until set.
  • To turn out: Dip the moulds in hot water for a few seconds, to melt the surface gelatine, then turn out onto your serving dish.
  • Serve with whipped cream and orange curls to garnish.