Classic treacle tart: Pure old-fashioned indulgence
A mere sliver can be wonderful served as part of a trio of desserts
Super rich, but super good: classic treacle tart. Photograph: Harry Weir
If I had to define indulgent comfort food, I could do no better than to offer up a slice or three of treacle tart. It isn’t stuffed full of superfood berries or crammed with nutritionally complex nuts and seeds, this isn’t “eating the rainbow”. This is pure old-fashioned indulgence.
I grew up eating treacle pudding more than treacle tart, but the crisp pastry in a tart adds an essential textural contrast to the soft filling. Both are made with golden syrup, a very light form of treacle. In years gone by, a mixture of golden syrup and the much darker, slightly bitter, black treacle was sometimes used for a deeper flavour and colour.
Over the years I’ve had treacle tarts ranging from a runny porridge-like texture to tooth-shatteringly hard. I’ve been tweaking this recipe for years to get that perfect squidgy texture and crisp top.
On a trip to New Brighton near Liverpool last year, I ordered treacle tart and it was perfect – deep, zingy, golden and crisp. They’d used Japanese panko breadcrumbs, and I finally had the missing piece of the puzzle. Now more widely available in some supermarkets, panko crumbs are very dry and soak up the filling perfectly, but if you can’t find them, fresh breadcrumbs will do just fine. With fresh breadcrumbs, the more stale and dry they are, the better the final result (to dry them, leave them out in a bowl in your kitchen uncovered for a day).
This tart is super sweet. A mere sliver can be wonderful served as part of a trio of desserts, which are very trendy these days.
My favourite accompaniment is a dollop of delicious Velvet Cloud Sheep’s yogurt (from a farm in Mayo). You can also make this tart ahead, wrap it well and freeze until required.
CLASSIC TREACLE TART
For the pastry
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, diced small
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp cold water, if needed
For the filling
400g golden syrup
60g butter, cubed
1 lemon, zest and juice of
2 eggs, lightly whisked
150g panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
For a hint of ginger, add 1tsp of ground ginger to the breadcrumb mixture.
Ice cream, thick yogurt or whipped cream
1 Grease a 20cm ovenproof pie dish (or loose bottom tart tin). Preheat oven to 180° fan.
2 To make the pastry, sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in icing sugar. With a dinner knife, work in the egg yolk then bring together to a firm dough (add a little water if it appears very dry to help the mixture come together). Shape into a flat disc. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes.
3 Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface and use to line the ovenproof dish. To bake the pastry blind, line with parchment paper and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice or lentils). Place in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until light golden in colour. Remove the beans and paper and set aside.
4 Once the pastry is baked blind, reduce the oven temperature to 160° fan.
5 To make the filling, use a medium-sized saucepan to gently melt the golden syrup and butter together (keep the heat low). When the butter has melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice, cream and eggs. Gently stir in the breadcrumbs, without overmixing. Spoon the wet mixture into the baked tart shell. Bake first for 20 minutes at 160° fan, then reduce the oven temperature to 140° fan, continue baking the tart for 25 minutes more until the filling is just set with a slight wobble in the centre. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Serve with thick yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream.