Treacle tart is a popular dessert in the UK. It has become somewhat of a curiosity in other countries due to its frequent mention in the Harry Potter books. Treacle tart is in fact, Harry’s favorite dessert.
For most anyone not British, great misunderstanding exists about treacle tart. Many assume that it is made with molasses, which is often called treacle in the UK. Actually treacle tart is made with golden syrup, a by-product of sugar making, like molasses, but more similar in taste and texture to honey. Golden syrup may also be referred to as treacle in the UK.
One may find golden syrup in the US in international food stores, and it can be purchased on the Internet so one can make the perfect treacle tart. If one cannot obtain golden syrup, honey is a close alternative ingredient.
Most treacle tarts begin with a very rich shortbread pastry as a base, usually containing butter, flour and an egg yolk added so that the pastry crumbs adhere to each other. The golden syrup is combined with breadcrumbs, lemon juice, and occasionally spices like ginger to form the filling of treacle tart. The tart is then topped with several strips of the pastry to give it a rich, crispy finish.
The treacle tart bakes for about 45 minutes, and temperatures may vary according to recipes. A treacle tart may be baked in small tins for individual tarts, or it may be baked in a larger pie tin to serve in slices.
Treacle tart has a consistency similar to pecan pie, though it usually does not contain eggs in the filling and is less gelatinous. It is slightly stickier. It can be served hot, warm, or cold, and may be garnished with whipped cream, or ice cream. It is a very sweet dish, and those unaccustomed to such sweetness may find it overly sweet.
To those in the UK, the familiar taste of golden syrup usually makes treacle tart quite appealing. Golden syrup frequently tops porridge in place of brown sugar or maple syrup, and is thus reminiscent of childhood fare.
If one is familiar with pastry crust, treacle tart is no more difficult to make than other pies, though the ingredients may be a little harder to obtain outside of the UK. One can used store-bought breadcrumbs to further ease the process. Treacle tart dough should have cold butter cut into the flour, so that the flour does not become glutinous and stretchy, which results in a tougher crust. The egg should be added at the last minute and mixed in quickly so the resultant crust remains flaky.
Treacle tart might make a great offering for a Harry Potter themed party, or simply as a dessert after serving a traditional English dinner. Since it is relatively easy to prepare, one might enlist young Harry Potter fans to make and decorate individual tarts as part of classroom instruction or as a cooking class.