“Haven’t I read this before?” Why, yes you have. But for one thing, the picture is beyond ghastly. Secondly I followed even more of the rules than before. And finally I previously linked to The Times, and can’t stand the idea of the recipe disappearing behind the Murdoch paywall.
So how was it this time? I made the pastry myself. It was alright. I am no pastry ninja, possessing of skillet-like furnaces for hands that sees any dough crumble to bits in my grasp. I need a walk-in fridge to help with this. I’d be happy enough with shop-bought pastry for this. And I aged the treacle by baking it in a low oven for 24 hours. I’d like to think it made a difference, but the flavour maturation is subtle but interesting. Worth it if you have the time, don’t weep if you don’t.
If you haven’t tried this yet, really, really do. If you think Heston Blumenthal recipes are too complicated, they’re really, really not. It’s a stunner, and will make you incredibly popular if you take it round someone’s house for tea. Do it.
Heston Blumenthal’s perfect treacle tart (an easy 10 slices):
For the vanilla salt:
Seeds from 2 plump vanilla pods
50g sea salt
- Work the seeds into the salt with your fingers and leave to infuse until you’re ready to serve.
For the pastry:
400g plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon table salt
400g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
100g icing sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 large egg yolks (about 40g)
2 large eggs (about 120g)
- Tip the flour and salt into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Given the amount of butter, you may need to add and rub it in in batches.
- Quickly stir in the icing sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds. Add the egg yolks and the whole eggs, and mix until combined. Tip onto a sheet of clingfilm, wrap it up and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150°C.
- Dust a piece of greaseproof paper with flour. Take the pastry out of the fridge and remove the clingfilm. Place the pastry on the greaseproof paper. Cut off about one third of the dough and reserve in case it is needed to patch holes in the pastry base. (If unused, it can be frozen or baked as biscuits.) Shake over more flour, then top with a second piece of greaseproof paper. Begin to roll the pastry flat, moving the pin from the centre outwards. Turn the pastry 90 degrees every few rolls. Aim for a thickness of 3mm–5mm, and a diameter of 45cm–50cm. Once the pastry is rolled out to the correct thickness, peel off the top layer of greaseproof paper, trim off any excess, then wind the pastry onto the rolling pin, removing the other layer of paper as you go. Unwind the pastry over the flan tin and gently push it into the base and sides. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Once the pastry has firmed up, remove it from the fridge. Prick the base with a fork to stop it puffing up. Take a fresh piece of greaseproof paper, scrunch it up and smooth it out several times (this makes it easier to put in position), then place it over the pastry base. Put baking beans or, even better, coins on top. Return the lined pastry case to the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the case from the fridge and put it in the oven to bake for 25–30 minutes, until the pastry is a light, golden brown. If, after removing the beans or coins, the base is slightly tacky, return the case to the oven for 10–15 minutes.
For the filling:
400g loaf of brown bread, whizzed to crumbs
200g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
75ml double cream
2 teaspoons table salt
900g tin of golden syrup (age this by placing in the lowest your oven will go for at least 24 hours)
Zest of 3 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
- Preheat the oven to 150°C.
- Make a beurre noisette by putting the butter in a pan over a medium heat. When the butter stops sizzling (a sign that the water has all evaporated, after which it will soon burn) and develops a nutty aroma, remove it from the heat. Strain it into a jug and leave to cool. Discard the blackened solids left in the sieve.
- Put the eggs, cream and salt in a bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.
- Pour the golden syrup into a pan and heat gently until liquid. Pour the beurre noisette into the warmed syrup, and stir. (Try to avoid tipping in any sediment that may have collected at the bottom of the jug.)
- Pour the buttery syrup into the egg and cream mixture. Stir in the breadcrumbs and the lemon zest and juice.
- Transfer the mixture to a large jug. Pour two-thirds of it into the pastry case. Slide the tart into the oven and pour in the remainder of the filling. Bake for 50–60 minutes, or until the tart is a deep brown colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before taking out of the tin.
- Serve the treacle tart with a few grains of vanilla salt sprinkled on top, and with a good dollop of clotted cream.