Recipe Corner: Treacle Tart

by Harry on March 30, 2007

In response to popular demand (well, a single request from vivian) I’m going to try to do a semi-regular recipe post. I’m aiming for one every couple of weeks or so, but if Eszter, Belle and others join in perhaps we’ll manage weekly. I’m hoping they join in, because my recipes tend to be so be so unhealthy that we’ll kill off the readership.

Today’s recipe is Treacle Tart. Treacle Tart is completely familiar to our British readers, but unheard of by most of our US readers (and I don’t know about the rest of you). If you have a Whole Foods near you you can find Golden Syrup in the syrup section, or, amazingly and very cheaply, at amazon. (It’s also great on pancakes or, if you don’t care what the neighbours think, and I don’t, on toast).

Update: Of course, all our American readers have heard of treacle tart, I apologise. As the last person left in the world who has not read Harry Potter, I didn’t realise that treacle tart had become world famous. This is it, and golden syrup is the key. Now American CT readers can delight their children. Serve with heavy whipping cream, unwhipped. Or, if you dare, Bird’s Custard.

First, make enough pastry for a tart base in a 10 inch pan, plus a little more. Make the base, and bake it for about ten minutes at 325.

The filling uses the following ingredients:

9tbsp golden syrup
9tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
juice of 1 lemon
(pinch of ground ginger is wanted)

Mix the filling ingredients together in a pot on a low heat. When it is well mixed, pour into the tart shell. With the remaining pastry make a lattice over the top. Bake at 375 (this time on a baking tray) for about 20 minutes.

There’s a huge variety of recommendations for the ratio of breadcrumbs to syrup. Some use much more syrup, others much more breadcrumbs. I prefer a roughly equal ratio. The lemon really cuts the sweetness nicely. Do not use Corn Syrup (tasteless, so a waste of effort) or Treacle (basically molasses, makes for too harsh a taste, though it can be nice to replace just one tablespoon of syrup with treacle). I’ve never tried to use maple syrup (it might be great but I tend to find maple syrup a bit too sweet).



Z 03.30.07 at 2:44 pm

So that’s treacle tart… I have been reading about it in Harry Potter for years and now it comes to the real world.


Hidari 03.30.07 at 2:49 pm

Can future recipes not be such an open and unapologetic declaration of war on my teeth? (and my ever expanding waistline?).


Kieran Healy 03.30.07 at 2:50 pm

2: Sure, next week, my recipe for injectable liquid fibre.


sanbikinoraion 03.30.07 at 3:11 pm

Another use for golden syrup is to spread it thinly on ontoasted sliced bread. It oozes into the bread and crystallizes back into sugar. It’s the best thing ever when your age can be measured in a single digit.


Chris Bertram 03.30.07 at 3:17 pm

Harry, you have to give them the recipe for Spotted Dick next time.


harry b 03.30.07 at 3:23 pm

Ok Chris, generic steamed pudding recipe with variations including spotted dick coming up in the next few weeks. I’ll try to do something for hidari first, though.


Cranky Observer 03.30.07 at 3:29 pm

OK, but what IS golden syrup? I have quite a few English cookbooks and bread books, but often the hardest part of using the recipes (after getting past “Gas Mark IV”) is figuring out exactly what the food names mean.



Cranky Observer 03.30.07 at 3:32 pm

Ok, the evil useless Wikipedia tells me what I need to know ;-). I should be able to find that in the local imported foods store.



harry b 03.30.07 at 3:36 pm

Yes, cranky, but much cheaper at amazon, in my experience, even allowing for shipping.


Z 03.30.07 at 3:38 pm

I don’t know if I should be flattered to be responsible for an update or irked to be mistaken for an American. That said, I would try treacle part if I trusted my liguistic abilities more.


harry b 03.30.07 at 3:44 pm

No, z, as you know I know you’re not American, and didn’t mean to imply you were! But what you said (correctly) implied the falsehood of what I had said about Americans, so that was what I corrected.


David Margolies 03.30.07 at 4:41 pm

Actually, there is a recipe for treacle tart (roughly the same as the one given, but no mention of ginger) in the old (ca. 1930-1975) Fanny Farmer Bosrton Cookbook.

What is most English (to me) about treacle is that the tin does not have the word ‘Treacle’ anywhere on it (Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup), while the tin that does say ‘Treacle’ (Black Treacle, I think) is the wrong stuff, being roughly, in American terms, blackstrap molasses.

For those who cannot be bothered to look it up, Treacle = Golden Syrup = Invert Sugar Syrup. Invert sugar syrup has the glucose and fructose (sugar is sucrose, which is a glucose and fructose joined together) separated. This will not crystalize since the fructose interferes with the crystalization of the glucose and any remaining sucrose.


stuart white 03.30.07 at 4:44 pm

Golden syrup is also really good, along with margarine or butter, on well-toasted crumpets. (Its so long since I was in the US for any length of time that I can’t recall whether ‘crumpets’ requires explanation for CT’s US readers.)


David Margolies 03.30.07 at 4:44 pm

And PS to sanbikinoraion: also very good spread thickly on bread. Apparently I have remained with a single digit age for most of my life.


The New York City High School Math Teacher 03.30.07 at 4:48 pm

You can make your own golden syrup by making a simple syrup (1:1 white sugar to water) and adding a teaspoon of citric acid crystals while boiling it to a thread consistency.

The decreased pH and the heat will catalyze the breaking of the disaccharide bond. Later on, add some baking soda to neutralize the acidity.


ejh 03.30.07 at 4:52 pm

As the last person left in the world who has not read Harry Potter

Never so much as opened a copy. Which is strange for someone who works in a children’s bookshop….


moriarty 03.30.07 at 4:55 pm

Lyle’s Golden Syrup is avaialble in many supermarkets in the US. It should be near the maple syrup, or possibly the corn syrup.


tps12 03.30.07 at 5:18 pm

z, you’re clearly not American, or you would know that the US editions of the Harry Potter books replace mentions of treacle tart with Lil Debbie Snack Cakes.


LizardBreath 03.30.07 at 5:19 pm

I wouldn’t try maple syrup unless you’re a serious food-chemistry cook type who can figure out how to do the substitution properly — it’s much, much less viscous than golden syrup, and I’d guess that it wouldn’t set at all without some additional change in the recipe.


KCinDC 03.30.07 at 5:26 pm

Amazon suggests purchasing seafood chowder to go with the golden syrup. No doubt a traditional British combination.


Ben 03.30.07 at 6:56 pm

Does all British food qualify as ‘gourmet’ over there, or is it just an Amazon thing?


dearieme 03.30.07 at 8:50 pm

At my English wife’s first breakfast in Edinburgh:-

“I hope you don’t put sugar on your porridge, dear?”

“Oh no. I use golden syrup.”


Brett Bellmore 03.30.07 at 11:18 pm

“it’s much, much less viscous than golden syrup,”

Depends on how long you spend boiling it down; I’ve got a batch left over from last spring, and it’s completely saturated. I know ’cause the jar is lined with sugar crystals…

I may try it out over the weekend.


David 03.31.07 at 2:07 am

Merle Haggard likes Caro syrup on toast for breakfast, but he’s not British.


Eszter 03.31.07 at 3:36 am

Whoa, intriguing. I see now why you have that concern about killing off the readership…


nick s 03.31.07 at 5:12 am

I was shocked to find tins of Lyle’s Golden Syrup in the baking section of the local (non-hippie) supermarket. It’s especially useful for flapjacks or parkin, which aren’t quite as tooth-rotting as treacle tart.

I suspect you could boil down cane syrup to a similar viscosity — it’s sold alongside the disgusting shitty corn syrup shit here in the South — but I’ve yet to try it.


vivian 03.31.07 at 8:15 am

WOW, flattering and fattening at the same time! Thanks – just the thing for school vacations I guess. Would it work with a crumb-crust, do you know, or does it have to be proper pastry? Does the lemon give it lemon flavor or just general tart-ness?

By the way, what is the difference between a parkin and a flapjack? Over here flapjacks are US-style pancakes, yours are like a cross between toffee and brownies.


Henry (not the famous one) 03.31.07 at 9:08 am

Boycott Whole Foods.


Richard J 03.31.07 at 11:43 am

Parkin is essentially gingerbread cake, while a flpajack is essentially oats, butter and sugar.


chris y 03.31.07 at 1:17 pm

27: Needs real shortcrust pastry, such as you should be able to buy in any supermarket. The lemon (optional IMO), is there to cut the sweetness, not to add flavour.


nick s 03.31.07 at 4:31 pm

Needs real shortcrust pastry, such as you should be able to buy in any supermarket.

Or, y’know, make for yourself. Half fat to flour, half shortening to butter, pinch of salt, add icewater (or milk for a sweeter pastry), mix, refrigerate and roll. I can understand store-bought filo and puff pastry, but shortcrust takes no effort to prepare.


Greg 04.01.07 at 5:27 am

I once made a pecan pie substituting Golden Syrup for Karo’s light corn syrup (although it may be true that U.S. brands have crowded out many domestic offerings in the UK, I could find noone selling Karo’s syrup in London!!)

I decreased the amount of syrup somewhat, but otherwise it turned out respectably well. The Golden Syrup gave is a distinctive flavor, although it was easy to miss the subtle difference underneath the overwhelming sweetness.


Katherine 04.02.07 at 12:04 pm

Cranky – I have much the same problem with interpreting American cook books. What the hell is corn syrup? Presumably some kind of sugary stuff made from corn – is that about it?


SamChevre 04.02.07 at 3:14 pm

I hadn’t realized that treacle tart was a close relative of shoo-fly pie. (Shoofly pie has egg added, and the crumbs are flour and lard rather than breadcrumbs. I make it with sorghum; shoofly pie with sorghum–I might as well carry a sign with my background on it.)


harry b 04.02.07 at 4:22 pm

Katherine: avoid corn syrup. Just forget about it. Use Golden Syrup instead — it can only be better than whatever the corn syrup would have yielded.


Helen 04.02.07 at 10:45 pm

If you need further uses for your Golden Syrup, Anzac day is coming up (the celebration of Australia’s glorious defeat); you can make Anzac biscuits (not “cookies”!), which actually aren’t that unhealthy. Comparatively speaking.


vivian 04.03.07 at 2:44 am

#30, #31 yes, okay, I’ll make proper pastry crust for it, was just asking. (Sometimes I get really lazy and use a mix, but frozen crusts almost never.)
The Anzac biscuits sound yummy and kid-preparable too. I’ll report back on the next recipe thread.


Sam Jackson 04.03.07 at 6:07 am

As an american of solid and upright character I don’t know any tart–unless it is the halloween kind as in treacle or tart.

p.s. I didn’t inhale either


eudoxis 04.03.07 at 5:16 pm

Pecan pie was made for corn syrup. I’ve tried using golden syrup in a pecan pie and the flavor and structure is all wrong. There are some who have made special pecan pie recipes calling for cane syrup and swear by it, but I think the end result is a different product. The cloying sweetness with brown sugar and the more intense molasses flavoring with fresh pecans is what pecan pie is all about. Old recipes are of brown sugar pies or maple syrup pies.
I always have Lyle’s Golden syrup on hand. It’s so yummy. Like candy. I have found it readily available in most grocery stores where I’ve lived, including the smallish town I live in now.

Comments on this entry are closed.