I’m not entirely sure sugar plums are a thing. The farmers’ market definitely sells something it calls sugar plums – they’re about the size of a half dollar, scarlet on the inside and sweet as all hell, I eat ’em like actual candy – but Wikipedia and the Google machine, when asked, kick up only sugar plums the weird British candy and sugar plam the Tchaikovsky tune. In First Prize Pies, the cookbook from which I’m sure you remember all these pies are drawn, it seems pretty clear that author Allison Kave is drawing more on her fond memories of The Nutcracker in naming this pie than any sort of nod to actual plum physiology. (Do plums have physiology? I’m thinking no, but I’m also thinking that I’m really enjoying that use of “physiology.”)
Anyway: Sugar Plum Pie is a basic plum pie seasoned with cardamom and honey, and I have to say, I wasn’t wild about it. My assessment of the pie was definitely colored by the fact that pitting plums is a gigantic pain in the ass and I had to pit something like twenty, given the size of plums with which I was working. For me, that sort of time investment demands high return, and flavorwise, it just wasn’t here. I did not think the plums were improved by cooking, and cardamom …. I really, really love cardamom, and I think part of the problem here is me. The recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom, and I have not yet got through my head how powerful cardamom is, so I doubled it to 1/4 teaspoon. And the flavor was overwhelming. So while this pie was not a winner, I wouldn’t hold it against it just yet. I’m sure this is an entirely solid recipe for plum pie that I’d turn to again. If I felt moved to make it again. Which I don’t.
ON THE OTHER HAND BANOFFEE PIE.
If you, like me, are American, you can be forgiven for having one solitary reference to banoffee pie in your world, and that’s Keira Knightley in Love, Actually. You know, the part where she goes to visit Mark at his apartment to forcibly befriend him/get her wedding video and she says, “Bdlkjgvadf pie?!” and he says “no” and she says “It’d have broken my heart if you’d said yes” and then later she references her terrible taste in pie? You know exactly the scene I’m talking about, don’t front. Anyway, that gibberish word she says is “banoffee,” which is an English dessert pie combining bananas and toffee. I’d never had it, but my pie companion requested we make it for her birthday.
I’ve talked about this cookbook being fussy, and the banoffee pie recipe is a prime example. For the “toffee” component, just folded into the recipe, not printed in red or all caps or anything, no warning, Kave instructs you to boil a can of sweetened condensed milk, unopened, FOR FOUR HOURS. Now, if you read the wikipedia entry for banoffee pie you will learn that that is in fact the traditional way to make banoffee, but if you make one more click to dulce de leche, you will learn that that ubiquitous South American dessert which you can get at literally any market with a Hispanic clientele is just boiled sweetened condensed milk. So what I’m saying is that in the name of veracity, Kave has you spend FOUR HOURS PLUS TIME TO COOL on making something that you could probably get within ten minutes of your house with the exact same end quality.
So that’s fun.
Pain in the ass cookbook fussiness aside, this recipe is fucking flawlessly delicious. I wouldn’t have thought Carr’s Whole Wheat crackers would make a good crust for a sweet pie, but in reality they taste like what a graham cracker crust wants to grow up to be. The mix of fresh bananas, soft toffee, and whipped cream is perfect. I would eat this every day and twice on Sunday and I’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason to stop.
Because of the extent to which I intend to blog about this cookbook, I will not be publishing the recipes. However, if a particular pie speaks to you, let me know and I’ll be happy to send the recipe along privately.