This recipe is bonkers: bonkers name, bonkers method. I’ve spent ages trying to work out what, in the 18th century world of erratic spelling, the name is supposed to be, and drawn a blank¹. I’ve pondered many an hour over the pancake-ception involved in the filling, and been baffled. It’s a true one-off. I’ve never read anything like it – and I’ve read a LOT of recipes. Finally, ealier this month, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and just make it, and see how things go. The result, after a little tweaking, is insanely delicious, so I thought I would share in time for Pancake Day (February 16th), so you can enjoy the deliciousness yourself.
Aside from the already-mentioned bonkers title, the method of this pie is very unusual: make some pancakes, mash them up, mix in yolks, cream and sherry, fry this mixture as thin pancakes, then layer them in puff pastry with candied peel, dried fruit, sugar and butter. When baked, pour a sherry/lemon custard (caudle) through the holes in the lid.
The adding-the-sauce-after-baking was an acceptable approach for pies at this time. Usually the pastry served mostly as a container for the contents and to keep in steam and moisture, and an interesting sauce was added at the end.
It was the pancakes-made-from-pancakes that really intrigued. And so I set to with a vengeance, and initially, it all went swimmingly. Unfortunately, the second batch of batter proved a giant stumbling block. The recipe called for it to be made into thin pancakes, but even using single cream, it was more like bread sauce. Trying to dilute the batter with more cream meant it just wouldn’t hold together. Batch after batch was scrapped, which meant I then had to re-make the first batch and pancakes before working on the second. I must confess, I got a little tetchy, telling myself: it’s a pancake batter! How can I mess up a pancake!?
Eventually, I came up with a compromise, and made just a single, standard pancake batter, but with the flavourings and enrichment that had been used in the second batch. This did indeed make wonderfully thin pancakes, which were delicious in their own right.
Once this hurdle had been successfully leapt, the rest of the recipe was almost straightforward. The pancakes are layered in a puff pastry case, with each layer being sprinkled with sugar, spices, dots of butter, candied peel and dried fruit. A cut-pastry top, 40 minutes in the oven and the addition of the caudle sauce finished it off quite easily, and I must admit, being rather impatient to taste the result.
Well, gentle reader, you’ll be pleased to discover that it is bonkers. DELICIOUSLY bonkers! The pancake layers keep the filling evenly spread, but are light and delicately flavoured with no hint of ‘stodge’. The spiced filling mixture is reminiscent of mince pies, and rich-tasting and thanks to the sharpness of the sour cherries/barberries neither heavy nor cloying. The sauce/caudle really brings the zing, with the sherry and lemon-juice adding freshness and richness. I commented on Twitter after the first trial that it was ridiculously delicious, and I stand by that claim. I literally had to hold my daughter at bay until I had photographed the smaller pies, as she is so taken with them!
Now that I have sorted out the pancake problem, it’s a very straight-forward recipe: much more an assembly rather than anything complicated. If you’re short of time, you could even opt to buy the pancakes rather than make them, although that would mean on missing out on their delicate flavour.
There are no quantities given in the original recipe for the filling, so you can be as generous or as careful as you like. The quantities below make for a flavourful, rich pie without overdoing it, but for special occasions, you could really layer them thickly.
Banyon Toat Pie
This can make whatever size and shape of pie(s) you like. One large (20cm) pie will serve 8 generously. Due to the richness, a smaller, 10cm pie can be shared between two. The instructions and quantities below are for one large pie, but, as mentioned above, can be scaled up or down easily.
For the pancakes
50g plain flour
1 large egg
1 large yolk
50ml cream sherry
butter for frying
1 x 500g block of puff pastry
40g candied citron peel, diced small
40g candied orange peel, diced small
40g candied lemon peel, diced small
40g dried sour cherries or barberries
4tbs caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground nutmeg
2 large egg yolks
juice 1 lemon, strained
50ml cream sherry
2tbs caster sugar
2tsp cream sherry to finish
Egg white and caster sugar for glazing
- Whisk together the pancake ingredients and make four thin pancakes. Use a 1/4 cup measure to ensure the batter equally. Lay the cooked pancakes on kitchen paper and leave to cool.
- Grease your pie tin(s) and line with thinly (5mm) rolled puff pastry. Leave a generous edge overlapping the sides of the tins, to help secure the lid. Cut a lid a little larger than your pie. Chill the lid in the fridge.
- Pile the pancakes on top of one another, and place your lined pie tin on top. Cut around the base of the tin, to make four pie-sized pancakes. Eat the pancake offcuts and enjoy!
- Layer the pie contents as follows. For each layer:
- Place a pancake.
- Sprinkle 1tbs caster sugar.
- Sprinkle ¼tsp ground cinnamon.
- Sprinkle ¼tsp ground nutmeg.
- Sprinkle 10g candied citron peel.
- Sprinkle 10g candied lemon peel.
- Sprinkle 10g candied orange peel.
- Sprinkle 10g sour cherries or barberries.
- Cut 10g butter into tiny pieces and dot over.
- Repeat for all 4 layers.
- Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the pastry lid from the fridge.
- Cut holes in the lid. You can do this by using a lattice wheel, or by cutting a lattice by hand. Alternatively, use small pastry cutters or even the wide end of a piping nozzle, to cut random holes in the pastry.
- Moisten the pie edge with water and carefully lay the lid over the filling. Press the edges together firmly, to seal, and then trim the excess with a sharp edge (I use my metal bench scraper).
- Whisk an egg-white to froth and brush it over the pastry lid. Sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is crisped and brown. Turn the pie around midway through cooking, to ensure even colouring. When fully baked, it will be easy to lift the edge of the pie and check that the base is also browned. If you’re making mini pies in 10cm tins, cooking time is 25 minutes, turning the tray around after 15 minutes.
- While the pie is baking, make the caudle, You can do this after the pie has been turned, so that it is ready to go when the pie is fully baked.
- Whisk the ingredients (except the final 2tsp sherry) in a pan over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has thickened. It should be of the consistency of single cream. If you think it looks too thin, whisk in an extra yolk. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. When ready to add to the pie, add the remaining sherry.
- Remove the pie from the tin to a wire cooling rack. Spoon/pour the caudle into the pie through the holes in the pastry lid. Gently shake the pie to help distribute the caudle.
- Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before enjoying.
- Best served warm. Delicious by itself, if you wanted to ‘gild the lily’, you could serve it alongside some unsweetened whipped cream.
¹ Of course, a week after publishing this post, I worked out that ‘Banyan Toat’ was a variation in spelling of ‘Banniet Tort’. a recipe published in Charles Carter’s “The Complete Practical Cook”, 1730.