Holiday Rebel Baking: Banoffee Pie

I’m not knocking tradition.  I love pumpkin and apple pie just as much as the next American, but let’s just say you are going to a pot-luck for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Are you really going to need 72 pumpkin pies sitting there?  If you want to break free of all that holiday dessert mediocrity, read on.

Banoffee Pie.  MOTHERFUCKIN BANOFFEE PIE! Banana + toffee = banoffee.  It’s delicious, easy, unexpected…trust me ok?  I won’t steer your wrong.

Years ago when i was the pastry chef at the Ace hotel, I had the pleasure of being in total control of a pastry case.  I filled it up with all sorts of crazy shit, ok?  I was discussing this with my Nana one night (she’s British and AWESOME) and she asked if I had made banoffee yet.  I had no clue what it was.  She emailed me the recipe and said it was one of her favorites.  I thought it would be a hard sell, but to my amazement the entire pie was gone within one hour of me putting it in the case.  Since then the recipe has followed me everywhere to rave reviews and when people ask for the recipe and I tell them they are shocked.

There really isn’t much you will need for this pie.  I am heading to my sister-in-law’s for turkey day tomorrow (she makes a mean apple pie!!) and I don’t want to be stuck at my house making everything from scratch, so I used all store-bought for this version.  Here is what I got:

1 can sweetened condensed milk (I got two for the hell of it)

1 graham ready crust

1 bunch bananas (you’ll use as many as you damn well please)

1 can ready whip

1 bag heath crumblies

Jesus and Mary candles optional


Now obviously at work I would make the crust, whipped cream and heath bar from scratch but come on.  Does a data analyst want to analize shit on his day off?  Now just wait.  This is so stupid easy you are going to die.  Here’s what to do:

1- Get yerself a big ‘ol pot.  I have a jank one that has had stuff burned on the bottom of it a million times that I used.  Used to be our soup pot.  The taller the better.

2-Remove labels from sweetened condensed milk cans and stick em in the pot.  (I hate floaters.  Leave the labels on if you enjoy floaters)

3-fill pot up with water.  the water should always stay covering the cans.

4-put on the stove to boil for 4 hours, flipping cans with a pair of tongs halfway through.  NO THEY WILL NOT BLOW UP!

like sooooooooooo:

Keep filling the water up as needed so that the cans stay covered.  After 4 hours, turn off the stove and let them hang out until the water cools off a bit, dump out the water and let the cans cool completely before touching them or attempting to open them.  I’m not sure what will happen if you try to open them hot, but I imagine boiling hot caramel spilling onto your hand would not be very pleasant.  You can store these on your shelf unopened too, if you wish to do them ahead of time.

What happens here is that the sugars in the sweetened condensed milk caramelize real slow and sexy like…and you end up with this amazing, thick, sweet toffee. That looks. like. this.

You wanna get all up in that.  I know you do.

Ok, so literally, that’s all your prep.  Now you just assemble!!! scoop the toffee out of the can and spread on the bottom of the pie crust.  slice bananas over that to cover.  add whipped cream and sprinkle with toffee! (I’m going to do this all right before we eat it….I think that redi whip stuff kinda disappears after a while doesn’t it?) Since I havent done it yet, here is a very old picture of the finished product from another time I made it:

I used pie crust in this picture which you can do but I prefer graham.  I also shaved chocolate over the top but prefer toffee!!!  You do what you want! That’s all part of the fun!


Happy Holidays!!!


Exactly how to make delicious swiss buttercream!!

Now I know that you THINK that the shit that comes out of a can is good enough….You most likely THINK that you looooove that shit that they give you on birthday cakes at the grocery store….Trust a bitch, ok?  Try this.  I swear you will not be disappointed and your friends will fall to their knees at your feet, weeping tears of joy with their arms to the heavens and frosting slathered all over their bodies.

It’s really easy, I swear.  Let’s get started.

You will need three simple ingredients:

egg whites                8 oz. (1/2 cup)

granulated sugar    1 # (1 cup)

unsalted butter       1# (1 cup)

Before we get into this rad step-by-step photo tut I have going for you guys, let me note a couple of things.  Use fresh egg whites, not the suff from a box.  Some of the boxed whites have an additive which I can’t remember the name of that will hinder the whites from whipping up like a meringue.  Not to mention, fresh is best right?  (Use leftover yolks for lemon curd, ice cream base, mousse, etc.)  Second, we are making BUTTERcream.  This is the time to splurge on really high quality butter.  Don’t use the shit that has been sitting open in your fridge for a month.  Let’s do this!

1) Separate your whites from your yolks. Place them in a large heat proof bowl.  There are a few different ways to do this.  You can crack the egg into your hand and let the whites fall through your fingers (clean hands please!!), crack the egg and shift the yolk from one half of the shell to the other, letting the whites fall into the bowl, or use one of those fancy schmancy egg separator doohickys from target or whatever.  Whichever you do, the most important thing to remember is to not get any yolk into your whites.  Any amount of fat in your whites will keep the meringue from whipping up completely.  When i was first starting out, I would separate one egg at a time into a different bowl, then pour the white into the bowl i was using for my recipe.  This way if you totally break a yolk, you didnt just waste a batch of whites.  If you get a couple of specks of yolk into your whites, let it sit for a minute (the yolk will rise to the top) and carefully scoop them out with one half of your shell.  Your whites will look like this:

2)  dump your sugar in:

3)  Whisk the sugar into the yolks until it is completely homogenous.  Like so:

4)  Place your bowl on top of a pot of simmering water.  Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl or you will end up with scrambled egg white bits. ew.  Also if the whites get too hot your buttercream will taste eggy. ew x 2=yuck.

5)  Let the whites and sugar kick it for a while.  Give it a little whisk every few minutes.  Scrape the sides of the bowl down with the whisk when you do that so that its all incorporated.  You will be ready to go once all the sugar has dissolved (there are temps for this but I am too busy to dig around for a thermometer so I do it by feel.  And so will you.)  One way to tell that the whites are ready is to look at the consistency of them.  They will seem almost watery compared to what they were in step 3.  They will look like this:

When you have confirmed said wateryishness, you then want to dip your whisk into the bowl and pull straight up.  If the stream of whites falling from your whisk is thick and, well, streamlike….you’re not done.  If it falls off the whisk in droplets, chances are you are ready.  The final check is to feel the whites.  Let one of the drops fall onto your finger and rub your fingertips together.  If you feel the sugar grains between your fingers, let it go a bit longer.  If it’s completly smooth, continue to the next step.

6) Pour that into your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and start whisking at high-speed.  It will start to look thicker and more white almost immediately.  (I should note that I am using a bigger recipe and mixer in the pics than the recipe I gave at the beginning. I broke down that recipe to fit a standard kitchenaid mixer.)  It will look like this at first:

After a few minutes the bowl will feel cooler to the touch and the mixture will have whipped up to what we call “full volume.”  If you let it go much past that, it will deflate and become grainy and you have to throw it away and start over. It should  look like this:

7)  Turn off your mixer and take your butter out of the fridge.  Here is the butter I use which is AMAZING:

8) Chunk that shit up!

9)  Turn your mixer back on to high, start chunking in a few pieces of butter at a time.  Add whatever flavorings you want somewhere around this time.  Vanilla extract (the clear kind will keep the color pristine, you can find that by wilton at Michael’s), almond extract, maple syrup, etc.

Now here is where problems may arise, but you can ALWAYS fix buttercream. Remember that folks.  From this stage forward, nothing that happens to the buttercream is unfixable.  I mean unless your cat pees in it or something then you should probably scrap it and start over.

My kitchen was around 95 degrees this day, which obviously is going to effect the BC in a negative way.  We wanted the butter to be nice and cold when it went in, but the temp of the mixture plus the outside temp makes it all melty.  Like so:

Not what we want.  If this happens , add a little more cold butter.  For this big batch it only took like 4 oz to get it right.  That is of course variable depending on the temp in your house, the temp of your mixture, how long you mixed it….etc….you most definitely do not want to add more than like a quarter of the original amount of butter you added.  If it is still soupy after that, throw it in your fridge and let it set up for a couple of hours.  Put it back on your mixer with the paddle attachment and rewhip and it should be fine!

Now….are you ready for this?  When your buttercream is all done, it will be what we call in the industry, “sexy.”

like. this.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm yeeeeeeeeeessssssssss.  Who needs a cupcake?! shit.

Gustavo is ready to dive in!

This will keep for a while in your fridge, but honestly after about a week it starts to TASTE like fridge, so I don’t keep it beyond that.  Plastic wrap directly on top and seal with a lid in an airtight container for the best storage…AND ALWAYS DATE YOUR PRODUCT!  I cannot stress this enough.  Very important, not just for buttercream but for anything perishable that you make yourself.  How often have you almost ate something store bought then caught a glimpse of the “use by” date? huh? huh? Same idea.

If you put it in the fridge to use another day, when you are ready for it, rewhip it in your mixer with the paddle attachment until it is sexy again.  It may start to look broken, grainy, or just weird.  ITS COOL! Don’t freak.  It just needs more friction so let it keep a-whippin!

I hope this helped someone out there to score luscious buttercream that will be the envy of the whole neighborhood.  Any questions don’t hesitate to ask!

I love smoking stuff!!!

Relax stoners, it’s not what you think.  A few weeks ago I had this idea…”hey, I should make s’mores ice cream!”  I made this graham whipped cream one time by steeping graham crust leftovers in the cream, straining them out, cooling the cream back down and whipping it up.  It was so rad!  I thought I could take that same principle to my ice cream base.  Then I’m thinking about chocolate and home-made marshmallow….and I thought….”man….if only it could taste like a campfire……….HOLY SHIT I SHOULD COLD SMOKE THE MARSHMALLOWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Another one of those culinary epiphanies that I love so much.  I was stoked on it but for some reason it took me a while to get around to actually doing it.  In my world, if you want to order something from a company that provides goods to a restaurant, you usually have to buy like massive amounts of whatever it is you want.  I totes didnt want 375 pounds of wood chips lying around my kitchen.

*The Daily Jiao*  I called over to Ankit, the manager of Birba and asked if by chance they had any wood for me to use to smoke with.  He said “sure! I’ll bring you some!!”  He bops into the kitchen with a freakin hunk of wood half the size of him in his hand.  I’m like “duuuude……I need chips?!” And ever the optimist, he starts hacking away at the wood happily with a cleaver.  With everyone looking on, waiting to see him chop his finger off and wood chips flying all over the place (he totally looked like pig-pen from the Peanuts, but instead of stink he was in a haze of wood dust) I say, “dude….I can go get them for like five bucks at the store….”  He says, “well why didn’t you say so?!” drops the cleaver and bops happily back out of the kitchen.

I set off to World Market and retrieved a three-pound bag of mesquite chips that will probably last me until I retire.  Today was D-day.  I had a lot of other stuff going on, such as this baby shower cake that was due today:

The cake was lemon cake, soaked with lemon simple syrup and filled with thai tea mousse.  I did the bottom tier then built a small round cake for the body of the bee and an even smaller one for the head, then carved the shapes out of each with a serrated knife.  I iced them together with buttercream and covered it! Easy peasy, but before that I threw together a batch of marshmallows so they would be set up by the time I was ready for them.

I finished the cake and IT WAS TIME!  I was so excited….would it work?!  Would it be disgusting?!  I love trying new things!!  I used a 4″ deep hotel pan (400 pan as we call it) and put the marshmallows in a 2″ deep perforated hotel pan and wrapped the top of that with plastic.  I threw the smoking chips into the 400 pan and sat the 200 pan on top and wrapped the whole thing in plastic.

AWWWWW YEEEEEEEEEEAH!  Look at that!!!! It smelled just like a campfire in the kitchen and it sent me right back to the campouts of my youth.  I waited an agonizing five minutes before sneaking out a marshmallow and shoving that pillowy soft goodness in my mouth……..oh man.  Let’s just say………it. worked. It was SO GOOD! The smoke flavor was there to be sure but had not penetrated the entire marshmallow so you still got the sweet vanilla goodness in the center! I felt like a genius, I wont lie.  I’m sure someone somewhere has done this but if they have I havent heard about it.  I just love it when ideas actually work!!!!!!!

So today’s “Sunday Funday Sundae” was graham ice cream, brownie bits, chocolate sauce and mesquite smoked marshmallow.

Just for fun, I’ll share the two other Sunday Funday Sundae’s that I have done thus far:

mango sorbet, plum sorbet, marshmallow fluff, ube meringue, plum chip, sparkly strawberry chocolate (kinda like a pop rock but white chocolate, not hard candy.  I added strawberry powder, baking soda and citric acid), mango sauce and some of that rad nata de coco stuff that my friend Sherman brought me from one of her asian market adventures.

This one was bacon-ish ice cream (kinda bacony but not a lot…bacon-ish..ya feel me?) malted hot fudge, peanut bacon toffee and bacon whipped cream.  The bacon whipped cream was another epiphany.  I had the rendered bacon fat from the bacon I used in the toffee sitting there taunting me.  I thought “what if…………………” So I busted out the food processor and the tapioca maltodextrine and went to town making bacon powder.  (tapioca maltodextrine turns fats into powders)  I then whipped the bacon powder into the whipped cream and boom. bacon whipped cream.  Yes, it was as good as it sounds.  Smoky, sweet and luscious.

That was my day!  I love my job!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, sure.  I suck at updates.  In my defense, I’ve been really busy!! I quit my job at the Parker when I was offered the pastry chef position at a company that owned two restaurants and a hotel.  They were planning on opening a third and brought me in and boy has it been crazy!  I’m so incredibly happy at this place!! We have been open for about two months now and I have so much foodporn to share! But first, a shameless plug:

My new second home is called Jiao, the fourth installment in the Cheeky’s/ Birba/ Alcazar empire.  It’s an asian restaurant (read: food from any/all asian cultures).  I was so flattered when the (totes awes) owners approached me to take the reins on the pastry department for them.  These people know what they are doing.  Don’t believe me?  Come to Palm Springs.  You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner at three different restaurants, drink and party to a live DJ (that occasionally uses solar-powered equipment!) or possibly peruse the creations of local artists, go for a dip in a gorgeous pool then crash out in a big comfy bed….all without leaving a one block radius.  They have the PS entertainment arena on lock.

Jiao is housed in a beautiful corner space that was previously a bakery that never quite made it.  When I got ahold of my playground, it was pretty sparse and looked like this:

And when I finally had my dream pastry space all finished……..

Isn’t she a beaut?!  The best part is, I have been turned loose!  “Go crazy!” they told me!  AND CRAZY I WENT!  Well, admittedly, it was a tad overwhelming at first.  Working in a hotel is a totally different beast.  It did take a bit for me to really open up and start pushing the boundaries of my own creativity and skill.  I have learned so much in the last few months just finally being able to experiment and play.   I handled the dessert menu and was proud of it, but then I started in on specials.  The most fun part for me was using my classic french training and incorporating asian flavors.  I did stuff like this:

Orange cream cake with cream cheese frosting, thai tea custard and coconut caramel.  Which was great.  Tasted good, people loved it…. Then I got bored.  I was so used to being in the box of “safe” French bistro style desserts.  One day, it was like a light switch.  Without a second thought, without apprehension, I created the dessert that changed everything.  Key lime pie.  I’m not sure exactly what happened, but that day I walked into the kitchen and this dessert literally just poured out of me.  At that moment I knew a whole new world had been opened up.  I’ve made it a goal to try something that I have never done before each week for my specials, and I am having a blast!

Key lime frozen souffle, caramalized white chocolate pudding, graham strusel, sweetened condensed milk cube and key lime caramel.  The caramel was pure win.  I had one of those perfect epiphany moments that I love having in the kitchen.  I was making regular caramel sauce to go with this and decided to stop the caramel with key lime juice….then instead of cream I added sweetened condensed milk.  I kid you not, this caramel tasted just like key lime pie.  The caramalized sugar and vanilla bean took on a crust-ish note.  I patted myself on the back and that weekend I sold more of these than any other dessert.

Pluots are in season and I took full advantage and got some beautiful ones in.  Kaffir lime parfait, fresh pluot sorbet, pluot sauce, fresh pluots, sesame brittle and white gourd toasted meringue.

I became enamoured with the flavor of black sesame and my lovely friend Sherman surprised me with some gorgeous black sesame paste!  Black sesame panna cotta, mango lime sorbet, mango sauce, vanilla bean and greek yogurt microwave sponge, greek yogurt sphere (the kind that explodes and oozes when you break into it)  white chocolate crunch and a mango nata de coco.  (which I admit is a packaged product that Sherm also brought for me to try.  I normally wouldn’t put anything prepackaged in my desserts but it fit and looked cool so I went with it!  I will never claim to have made something that I didnt make, for future reference.)

And now we are up to date.  This is the dessert special for this weekend.  Chocolate ganache, flourless chocolate cake, tarragon ice cream, tarragon foam, dehydrated champagne grapes, salty strusel, rose syrup and maldon salt.   I adore the earthy chocolate/ salt/ tarragon combo and adding the little bursts of sweetness from the grapes and floral-y sweet rose syrup…..yum.

So as you can see, I have been a busy woman!  But stay tuned because a couple of weeks ago I started adding the “Sunday Funday Sundae” to my specials!  I have a very exciting one planned for tomorrow that I cant wait to share!!