Treacle tart is something of a British classic. Frugal and filling, it also has a delicious decadence, its humble ingredients coming together in a dessert with much greater elegance than the sum of its parts. Loved by generations of Brits, this syrupy tart achieved global recognition a few years back when chosen as the favourite pudding of a certain bespectacled wizard – for Harry Potter to choose treacle tart over Fizzing Whizzbees, Cauldron Cakes and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, it must be something pretty special.
This classic pudding consisting of pastry, golden syrup and breadcrumbs is also a firm favourite of mine (you might have guessed that any dessert involving bread gets my seal of approval). Served warm with a big dollop of clotted cream or ice cream, it’s the ultimate comfort food, dishing out heaps of nostalgia in a single syrupy slice. Some people find it a little dense and rich, but in the recipe below the filling is softened with a little cream and eggs, and cut through with the zest and juice of a lemon to balance out the sweetness, a tip gleaned from Josecline Dimbleby in my Mum’s ancient edition of The Cook’s Companion.
This recipe also includes a sprinkle of rosemary salt. It might sound slightly bizarre, but the rosemary infused salt helps to develop a certain depth of flavour in an otherwise itchingly sweet filling. I got the idea from a Gizzi Erskine recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread and it really works. Look around town and there’s hardly a trendy restaurant that hasn’t jumped on board the salty-sweet wagon with their variation on a salted caramel or chocolate dessert. And with the rise of balsamic strawberries, chocolate with olive oil and other seemingly strange combinations, our palates are becoming more receptive to the challenge of unusual salty, sweet and savoury combinations. Of course you could leave the rosemary salt out altogether, but if you like experimenting with food, I urge you to give it a go.
The pastry here is a simple sweet shortcrust taken from Dan Lepard’s brilliant new baking book, Short & Sweet. My first attempt at a Heston recipe involving equal quantities of butter and flour (am I making a tart or a croissant?!) ended in a big buttery mess on the kitchen worksurface, so my recommendation if you’re fairly new to pastry is to stick with Dan – follow the instructions below and you can’t really go wrong. I used brown breadcrumbs for their lovely nutty flavour and texture, but you can sling in pretty much any old bread odds and ends you might have to hand. The lemon and double cream really lift the filling, making a softer, more pleasing pudding all round and finally, I’d suggest making up more rosemary salt than you need for this dessert – it keeps for ages and is just as good on savoury food as when used to add that element of salty-sweet to a pud.
What’s your favourite British dessert? And what do you think to the rise of salty-sweet flavours in mainstream baking?
Treacle tart with rosemary salt & clotted cream ice cream
For the rosemary salt
Few sprigs rosemary
Handful coarse sea salt
Strip the leaves from the rosemary and mix in a small bowl with the sea salt, rubbing together to ensure the rosemary aroma is released. Cover until ready to use, leaving for a minimum of 24 hours to infuse.
For the clotted cream ice cream (adapted from the BBC Good Food website)
1 x 225g tub clotted cream
600ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
80g caster sugar
Put the clotted cream and milk in a non-stick pan. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod, then add pod and seeds to the pan and bring almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 mins.
Cream together the eggs and sugar. Bring the milk and cream mixture back to the boil, then strain over the egg yolks, whisking all the time.
Return the whole mixture to the heat and cook over a gentle heat until it coats the back of your spoon and a creamy custard is formed. Leave to cool completely, then churn in your ice cream maker.
For the sweet shortcrust pastry (from Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet)
(makes enough for 2 x 20cm tarts – you could freeze half or bake the leftovers as biscuits)
250g plain flour
50g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cold but pliable & diced
2 large free range egg yolks
10ml ice cold water
Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Rub the butter through the flour mixture til it vanishes, working quickly and with light fingers. Stir in the egg yolks and water, then mix everything together to form a soft, smooth paste. Pat into a flat block, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes minimum, ideally overnight.
Brush a 20cm round tart tin with a little melted butter. Take the pastry out the fridge and let it soften ever so slightly. Divide in half and freeze for use at a later date or bake as biscuits (you could also double the filling quantities below and make two tarts if you’ve got a crowd to feed).
Flour the work surface and your rolling pin, then press the dough out slightly with the rolling pin, flipping it a few times and smoothing flour on each side. Then roll the dough out quickly, turning regularly and checking that it hasn’t stuck to the work surface. If it does dust with a little more flour. Aim to roll the pastry around 1/2 cm thick.
Roll the pastry round your rolling pin then ease it over the prepared tin. If it starts to tear, you can always patch it up so don’t panic too much – it may look slightly less beautiful but will taste just as delicious! Prick the pastry base all over with a fork and pop in the freezer for around an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line the pastry with non-stick baking paper and baking beans, rice or coins. Bake for 20-25 minutes then remove the baking paper and weight, lower the oven to 170 degrees C and cook for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden but barely cooked on the base.
For the filling (adapted from The Cook’s Companion by Josceline Dimbleby)
454g tin golden syrup
125g brown breadcrumbs
Zest and juice of one small lemon
2 medium free range eggs, beaten
3 tbsp double cream
Heat the golden syrup over a gentle heat until slightly more liquid and easy to work with. Mix in the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice, eggs and cream until fully incorporated.
For the tart
Remove the pastry case from the freezer. Place on a tray in the middle of the oven (just in case any filling spills over – it will save you from cleaning up a big sticky mess!), then pour in the filling until level with the edge of the pastry crust. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until golden brown and fairly well set.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool fully on a wire rack then remove from the tin. Sprinkle carefully with rosemary salt – not too much, you want that slightly salty-sweet taste without overpowering the pudding.
Cut into thick wedges and serve with a velvety scoop of clotted cream ice cream.