Chilly days and autumn colours, time to forget ideas of fresh fruit desserts and bring out the British winter classics, and today it is quite a classic indeed – good old-fashioned treacle tart.
This is simplicity itself – a pastry shell, filled with breadcrumbs soaked in golden syrup, and a little lemon added to cut through the sweetness and keep things fresh. It is also something of a literary favourite, appearing in the Harry Potter books, and referred to in Agatha Christie’s The 4.50 from Paddington. I can imagine this as exactly the sort of desert served at after dinner at a grand stately home in the 1930s, just before the bad news reaches the guests…
But back to the tart. When I was younger, I always found it odd that something called “treacle tart” did not contain treacle as I knew it. I always think of treacle as the thick, black syrup (like molasses), but the wonder of the Internet tells me that “treacle” is a generic term for any thick syrup, and hence golden syrup, used for treacle tart, is also treacle. All confusing stuff for a child.
Out of curiosity, I have tried to make a tart using black treacle, but the flavour was just way too strong. After a bit of experimentation, I worked out that the trick was to add just a spoonful of black treacle. This adds a hint of spiciness and makes the filling a little darker too, contrasting nicely with the pastry. Some recipes call for a pinch of ginger, and by all means go for it, but I find the spoonful of treacle does it.
To serve, either a little whipped cream or good vanilla ice-cream works a treat. I find it’s best the day after, as the filling becomes soft and delicious.
For the treacle tart:
For the pastry:
• 175g plain flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 115g butter, cut into pieces
• 3-4 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
• 260g golden syrup
• 1 tablespoon black treacle
• 115g fresh white breadcrumbs
• zest of 1 lemon
• 40ml lemon juice
Start with the pastry. In a bowl, rub together the flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add just enough water to bind. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out the pastry and use to line a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin. Transfer the tin to the fridge, and chill for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
To make the filling, warm the golden syrup and treacle in a saucepan until very runny. Remove from the heat, stir in the breadcrumbs and lemon zest, allow to rest for 10 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice. Pour into the pastry case, spread out, and jiggle lightly from side to side to even it out.
Bake the tart for 10 minutes at 200°C (400°F), then reduce the heat to 190°C (375°F) and bake for a further 15 minutes until the pastry is slightly golden.
Once the tart is cool, serve in slices. The tart will cut more easily if you use a knife heated in hot water.