I have eaten a lot of bad treacle tarts over the years, and more than a few of them I made myself. It took a while, but I finally figured out the perfect ratio of lemon, crumbs and syrup so that the result is light and airy rather than heavy and stodgy.
A traditional treacle tart uses breadcrumbs, but I have discovered that cake crumbs from a plain or vanilla sponge cake give a softer more velvety texture. If you haven’t got any leftover cake then make this tart using breadcrumbs as usual, but keep it in mind as an experiment next time you make a Victoria sponge.
The pastry here is a little tricky to work with because it is very short and crumbly, but it is well worth the effort. I’m sure you will agree when you feel it melt in your mouth.
This recipe requires a 23cm round tart tin, 2.5 cm deep.
RECIPE serves 12 easily
For the pastry case:
175g plain flour
50g fridge-cold butter, cubed
50g fridge-cold vegetable shortening, crumbled
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
400g golden syrup
150ml double cream
1 large egg
100g breadcrumbs (or 100g cake crumbs if you have them)
60g ground almonds
the zest of a lemon, finely grated
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
First, make the pastry case:
Put the plain flour, butter, shortening and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse a few times to mix it thoroughly. When it looks like fine crumbs add the egg yolk and pulse again, then add around a tablespoon of cold water a little bit at a time and pulse for a second until the pastry starts to come together. Take care not to overwork the pastry mixture, the beauty of this pastry is that it is soft and crumbly, doing too much to it is liable to make it tough. Empty it out of the food processor onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring it together into a smooth ball.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll your pastry out into a round until it is approximately the thickness of a pound coin, this should give you the correct diameter to fill your pastry case with a little left over that you can trim off later. Always keep your trimmings as you may need to make a couple of repairs.
Lift the pastry up onto a rolling pin, drape it over your tart tin and gently drop it into the tin. Using a small piece of pastry push the pastry gently into the corners and flutes of your tart tin so there are no air pockets. Trim off the surplus pastry from the edges of the tin and liberally prick the base of the pastry with a fork. Chill for another 30 minutes.
There is no need to butter or otherwise oil the sides of the tin, this pastry will come away easily once cooked.
Cut a piece of baking parchment large enough to completely cover the base and sides of the tart. Scrunch it up, then flatten it and place it in the pastry case, then fill with ceramic baking beans if you have them, rice or dried beans if you don’t. Now blind-bake the pastry case at 200C for 15 minutes; after this time remove the baking beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until your pastry is golden and cooked through. Now turn the oven down to 170C/ gas 3.
|*Tip: The best bit of baking wisdom I ever received was this: blind-baking is not part-cooking, it is pre-cooking. In other words, your blind-baked pastry case should be fully cooked when it comes out. That’s the 100% guaranteed way to ensure that you never suffer the baker’s nightmare of a soggy bottom. Some authorities suggest sealing the base of your pastry case with a thin layer of egg white; don’t bother, it doesn’t belong there and you will be able to detect it.|
Meanwhile, make the filling:
in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, gently warm the syrup. Don’t heat it until it is hot, you just want to soften it so it flows well and will accept the rest of the ingredients.
Take off the heat and whisk in the double cream, then add the crumbs and ground almonds. Break the egg into a cup and gently break it all together with a fork, then add to the filling together with the lemon zest and juice. Stir thoroughly so that everything is completely combined, then pour it into the pre-baked pastry case.
Bake at 170C/ gas 3 for approximately 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set. You can tell when it is set by setting the tin on a flat, heatproof surface and pulling it gently but sharply backward and forward. If set, the filling will be bubbling like a volcano but will not wobble.
Allow the tart to cool until it is just warm before removing from the tin. Serve with custard, creme fraiche or thick cream. Yumptious!