Sunday, February 6

52 Flavors Challenge Week 5: banoffee pie bonanza

* Warning *
This post may cause severe sugar cravings and an animalistic need to inhale as much caramel as humanely possible. You've been forewarned.

I hope you've done your weekly cardio, put on your finest post-Thanksgiving-dinner stretchy pants, and saved room for dessert because ooooooooo lordy, have I got some tasty treats for you today.

To say Week 5 of this challenge was a smashing success would be an understatement. Cookie crusts, homespun caramel, freshly whipped cream...these are the things dreams are made of. Well, my friends, just call me the dreamweaver because I rocked the socks off this flavor challenge. (Was there really any doubt?)

I wanted to test my culinary skills by making 2 infamous British desserts from scratch: banoffee pie and sticky toffee pudding. Both presented their set of obstacles for me having never made whipped cream, caramel, or toffee from scratch before. I also don't have an electric mixer (I like to pretend it's 1906 up in here) so this week proved to be a fantastic upper body workout as well.

First on the docket for the week:

After researching a couple different versions of this recipe, I went with a variation off this one from BBC. This recipe called for the caramel to be made from scratch using a combination of condensed milk, sugar, and butter. A lot of butter. A lot a lot a lotttttt of delicious, artery-clogging butter...

but for the sake of the blog, I forged ahead. I was supposed to melt the butter and sugar together to a boiling point and then simmer with the condensed milk. However, within minutes of adding the milk things started looking murky. The color stayed a bright yellow instead of the rich caramel brown and was getting kind of chunky. (you know, like my ass will be by the time I polish off both of these desserts). Instead of simmering the mixture, I was scalding it.

Oops. Into the trash it went. But not before Sean managed to get his hands on some and test it out.

He insisted no form of caramel is ever bad caramel, even if it is burnt, chunky, and disgusting looking. Now that's true love.

For my 2nd attempt at the caramel sauce, I decided to go with a method I've heard from Jamie Oliver. ("heard from Jamie Oliver" ha. Yes, he calls me all the time to chat and share cooking tips, didn't you know?) The steps for this process were so easy it baffled me. You simply submerge an unopened can of condensed milk in a boiling pot of water for 2 to 3 hours and then let it cool. When you open the top, the milk will have caramelized on its own.

I was skeptical. As a self-diagnosed OCD, neurotic, type-A cook, it irritated me to not know what was happening inside that can. I kept checking on it every 10 minutes waiting to see if something would happen. Nothing did. Except water boiling. So I spent 3 hours watching water boil. Seriously? Help me. Please.

The end results were SO worth it though. Lookie lookie what I found:

Caramel! Jamie Oliver, you are one smart man.

Once I got the caramel out of the can, the real fun could begin. I layered the graham cracker crust with 4 small bananas

and then covered them in caramel. I had to set it in the fridge to chill for 3-4 hours. When it was ready to serve, I had to cover the entire thing in whipped cream. This was the most nerve-wracking part of the entire process. As I stared at the bowl of double cream, all liquidy and wet, I couldn't imagine how it'd ever turn into the fluffy, pillow-y substance I so desired.

But I began stirring.

and stirring.

and swearing.

and then stirring AND swearing.

Until, voila!

WHIPPED CREAM! (Baking tip: I have attempted whipping things in the past, but they never got hard enough for me (ha. ha. ha.) I've tried it with electric mixers, Kitchen-Aid mixers, nada. But this time was my first success. While I'd love to credit these smoking hot guns I call biceps for the job well done, I think a lot of it came from the fact I froze the bowl and whisk before starting. Allowing the tools AND the cream to be ice cold when I started made all the difference for me.)

The rest was easy: just layer the whip cream and fresh chocolate shavings on top to finish off the masterpiece.

Hello, gorgeous. You got a name?

Sean and I could've stared at this pie all day. It smelled incredible and those little chocolate crumbles were just begging to be eaten. We shared the pie with some friends at a dinner party and arrived home empty handed. No left over pie for us. Sean was devastated, a tear slowly rolling down his cheek, until I announced I was only half way through the challenge. Sticky toffee pudding still awaited us.

Sean wiped the tear from his eye, sniffled a little bit, and looked up at me pleadingly, "Really? There's more desserts coming?"

Yes dear. There are more desserts coming...and away we went with Challenge #2.

When I announced this week's flavor last Sunday, Sarah of Fritos and Foiegras commented almost immediately with the following:

Extra sugar and all that enthusiasm? It must be good. I am down! (Here's the recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding)

This recipe, of course, calls for freshly made toffee (duh) so I was a bit hesitant to jump right into the candy making game again after the previous day's failure. It was interesting though to learn the differences in caramel vs toffee. The caramel sauce had called for butter, white sugar, and condensed milk while this toffee recipe included butter, light brown sugar, heavy cream and vanilla.

I was pumped. I knew it'd taste delicious. I made sure to be extra careful with the burner settings this time around and used a heavy duty saucepan to ensure the toffee wouldn't burn. 20 minutes later, I had thick, beautiful toffee.

(P.S. I totally understand where the term "food porn" comes from now. Read this recipe the wrong way and it sounds like I'm advertising for a soft core Cinemax movie rather than a classic British dessert)

The "pudding" portion (which isn't even really a pudding by American standards. It's a very moist cake) included freshly ground ginger and chopped dates.

Once we mixed all the ingredients together, the pudding need to bake in a water bath for 45 minutes. I had never done this technique before so I was interested to see the results. I filled a small baking dish with the mix and set it in a larger one filled with hot water. It went into the oven this way.

(Side note: does anyone know why we do this procedure? Is it to keep the cake extra moist by creating a lot of steam? Ensure even heat dispersion?)

What seemed like an eternity later, the cake was finished and ready to be dressed. I poured the warm toffee sauce over the top and served it with ice cream on the side.


Step aside Mr. Banoffee Pie. Go find a home somewhere else, because this girl only has room in her heart for one.

and that one is sticky toffee pudding. I can assure you, this dessert will not be shared with friends. It might not even be shared with Sean. Since making this recipe, I have found it difficult to complete mundane daily tasks.

I've had to stop and ask myself "Is this an acceptable breakfast item?" (Yes) "How many times a day can one have sticky toffee pudding before it's too many?" (No such thing) "Will Sean notice if he never gets to taste it because I've eaten it all?" (Probably. But that's what unconditional love is all about right? He can't get mad at me?)

More people need to eat desserts like these. If we filled the world with banoffee pies and sticky toffee puddings, I'm pretty sure wars would no longer exist. People would simply be too full and fat from their sugar comas to bother getting all riled up over things like religion, politics, and human rights. Who needs 'em when you've got 4 sticks of butter and a tub full of caramel sauce?

Bam! There you go. I just answered the eternal questions of "What is the meaning of life" AND "How do we achieve world peace?". Ms. South Carolina ain't got nothin' on me

You go girl.

Next week's flavor: Chickpeas! After last week's dessert challenge, I need a week to balance my glycemic levels before I start putting permanent holes in my ceiling from bouncing out of my mind so much. I already have a few ideas for what I want to do with the chickpeas: roasting them, create hummus, and making Eat, Live, Run's Channa Masala (yay Indian food!) If you have any other chickpea recipes, or one that goes along with the 3 I'm trying, please let me know!

52 Flavors Tally:
Foods I like: 3 (Fennel, Indian, British desserts)
Foods I dislike: 1 (Figs, Quinoa)

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