Life of pie: Banoffee at The Standard Grill
Some claim the Banoffee pie is a French invention; others say it’s British. Still more say it originates in an American dish known as “Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie.” Years ago, Val Hargreaves, chef at The Hungry Monk in southern England, claimed Banoffee—a portmanteau of banana and toffee, sometimes spelled “Banoffi”—was the result of a culinary coincidence in his kitchen. He even offered a 10,000-pound reward to anyone who could find a reference to it prior to 1972. The reward has never been claimed.
“Most desserts start as a mistake of some sort,” observes The Standard Grill pastry chef Frederick Aquino, who has developed his own signature take on the world’s most-beloved pudding. He starts by boiling 60 cans condensed milk for six hours to allow the contents to magically reduce and caramelize into toffee. The pastry layer—a shortbread with granules of sea salt to give it the yin and yang, the balance—is surmounted by the toffee, a layer of banana, then a layer of custard strained for consistency and topped with cream and caramel.
“It’s so simple, but there are actually many different textures and flavors. You’d think it would be really sweet but it’s not. And that’s the big surprise—it’s actually light and perfect.” The proof, as they say, is in the … well, you know. Sixty individual Banoffee pies are created daily in the kitchen, earning the dessert a place of honor among the array of banana-based confections served at The Standard Grill. “I guess I’m a banana dessert kinda guy,” says Aquino.