The history of the treacle tart
Treacle Tart is one of my favourite puddings and is also Harry Potter’s favourite too. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love this sticky sweet pudding too.
It is said to have originated sometime in the late 1800’s after the invention of Golden Syrup in 1883. Even though the name suggests that treacle is used, the modern day recipe that we are more familiar with uses “Light Treacle” or Golden Syrup.
The Norfolk Treacle tart is not the same as the regular one that you are probably more familiar with. No one is really sure about its origin but it is also sometimes called the Walpole House Treacle Tart because of their association with Sir Robert Walpole, the first British Prime Minister. It was supposed to have been invented in Houghton Hall, his home situated between King’s Lynn and Fakenham. This is sometime in the 1600’s where they used Treacle in the recipe as Golden Syrup had not been created yet. The recipe is more like a rich custard as it doesn’t use any bread crumbs.
How to make a Norfolk Treacle Tart
Every time I bake, I am quite thankful for those basic baking lessons I took in Home Economics at school. We were schooled in all the manual methods for baking and the techniques and tips just stuck.
This Norfolk Treacle tart recipe calls for short crust pastry. This is one of the easier pastries to make and I have used it successfully in a few other recipes documented here. The basic recipe calls for just flour and cold butter in the ratio of 2:1, a pinch of salt and a bit of water to bind the pastry. The method is simply to use the “rub-in” method which I speed up by cutting up the butter in the flour with a knife before using the hands. It’s quite therapeutic. If you want to avoid the hassle, you can always use a good quality all-butter shop bought shortcrust pastry.
The next step to using a shortcrust pastry to make a tart base is to roll out the pastry and line the case. For this recipe, a plain unsweetened shortcrust recipe is ideal as you will get plenty of sticky sweetness from the filling. Then this is blind baked before the filling is added. A pastry case like this can then be used to make a savoury or sweet tart. Totally versatile.
Where my baking fails is when I take shortcuts or ignore instructions like “bake blind “using baking beans. I didn’t have any to hand and didn’t use any which resulted in a wonky tart base. On this occasion, I also over-baked it a bit and it was way too crumbly. But never mind, I just carried on, just like an experiment.
I followed the recipe to make the tart filling, which is just butter, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and double cream. I filled my wonky tart case and put it back in the oven to bake, with fingers crossed. (I know I will be a disaster if I ever did a GGBO). If you are looking for the more familiar recipe that uses breadcrumbs, you can find Nigel Slater’s here.
Tip: If you can’t get Golden Syrup, you can substitute with either corn syrup with a bit of added molasses, honey or even maple syrup, but this is much runnier.
Voila! 25 minutes later, I have created something resembling a treacle tart, albeit a bit shallower than normal as some of the filling had leaked through the cracked crust. We live and learn.
The result was quite a buttery and tasty tart which is delicious served with a generous pouring of cream, a dollop of clotted cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Norfolk Treacle Tart
- 6 oz / 170g shortcrust pastry
- 4 oz / 110g unsalted butter
- 8 tbsp golden syrup
- 2 eggs beaten
- 4 tbsp double cream
- 2 lemons zest finely grated
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6. Put a baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat.
- Make or use shop bought all butter short crust pastry. Roll out the pastry to a size bigger than the tin.
- Line a shallow 23 cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and bake blind.
- When done, remove and allow to cool. You can do this way in advance.
- Meanwhile, gently warm the butter and syrup together in a pan - just enough for the butter to melt but not letting the mixture get too hot.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and lemon zest together.
- Gradually whisk in the warm butter and syrup mixture, then pour the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case.
- Place the tart on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the centre is set.
How to store a treacle tart?
Keep it at room temperature as you don’t want it to firm up too much.
How long does a treacle tart keep?
It will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container but if you have it in the kitchen, it probably won’t last that long.
What else to see and eat in Norfolk?
Since Norfolk is on the coast, there is a lot to explore. You can spend a day on one of their many sandy beaches, bring along a picnic or grab some fish and chips on the way. Norfolk is great for a gastronomic weekend. If you plan ahead, you can visit find a lot of fantastic local food from local producers. You can even go fishing, crabbing or rock pooling.
You can stay in a self catering cottage or a posh barn conversion while you enjoy the country air. Nearby, you can spend your days boating, sailing, cycling, walking or even seek out some of the newer English vineyards that have sprung up in this area. Cottages.com offer self-
This recipe was done in association with Cottages.com