Monday, September 20, 2010

Treacle, Treacle Little Tart.....about the frequently mentioned dessert in Betty's Books

What is treacle???
According to the folks at wiki:

Treacle is any syrup made during the refining of sugar cane and is defined as "uncrystallized syrup produced in refining sugar". Treacle is used chiefly in cooking as a form of sweetener or condiment.
The most common forms of treacle are the pale syrup that is also known as golden syrup and the darker syrup that is usually referred to as dark treacle or black treacle. Dark treacle has a distinctively strong flavour, slightly bitter, and a richer colour than golden syrup, yet not as dark as molasses. Golden syrup is the main sweetener in the Treacle Tart.

In popular culture

In chapter 7 of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Dormouse tells a story of Elsie, Lacie and Tillie living at the bottom of a well, which confuses Alice, who interrupts to ask. "The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, 'It was a treacle-well.'" When Alice remonstrated, she was stopped by the Mad Hatter's analogy: "You can draw water out of a water-well, so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well." Alice said very humbly, "I won't interrupt you again. I dare say there may be one." This is an allusion to the so-called "treacle well", the curative St. Margaret's Well at Binsey, Oxfordshire.
In Series 3 episode 6 of Jeeves and Wooster, Bertie Wooster, while trying to make off with an unsightly painting, attempts to use treacle and brown paper to muffle the sound of broken glass. He is foiled, however, by the treacle's stickiness.
Harry Potter also often eats treacle tart in the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. Treacle tart is also mentioned in Agatha Christie's murder mystery novel, 4:50 from Paddington , as young Alexander Eastley's favourite dessert

Hmmmm....all this interesting Treacle information. They even mention treacle in popular literature BUT they managed to miss the appearance of treacle tarts, frequently, in our dear Betty's books. A horrible oversight!!!

Yes, fellow Betty lovers, I am sure that you have noticed the frequent whipping up of a quick treacle tart or as is mentioned in A Small Slice of Summer, the eating of the tart because it's ....well dare we say it, cheap and filling....
Letitia wandered along the counter with her tray, looking for something cheap and nourishing. She had bought a dress on her last days off and her pocket was now so light that buying her meals had become a major exercise in basic arithmetic.
She chose soup, although it was a warm june day, a roll to go with it and a slab of treacle tart, because starch was filling and even though it was fattening too she was lucky enough not to have that problem, being possessed of a neat little figure which retained its slender curves whatever she ate. she paid for these dainties at the end of the counter and went to join her fellow staff nurse, Angela Collins, who cast a sympathetic eye at the contents of her tray, said fervently,  "Thank God, it's only a week to pay-day," and addressed herself to her own, similar meal.

 Now, dear Bettys. we ask..."What is a treacle tart?"
According to WiseGeek  (I thought I would change up authorities to keep you on your toes):
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.

 This is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for treacle tart. It comes from his cookbook Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food .  I am told that the tart tastes even better a day after baking, when the breadcrumbs have had time to absorb the filling. Serve slices with whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Gordon Ramsay’s Treacle Tart – Recipe

  • 300g sweet flan pastry (see below)
  • 450g golden syrup
  • 85g white breadcrumbs
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 70ml double cream
  • ½ tsp black treacle
Ingredients to make the sweet pastry – (makes about 500g-you can freeze any excess for a day or so)
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ice-cold water (if needed)
To make the sweet pastry:
  1. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and whiz until just combined. Add the egg and whiz for 30 seconds.
  2. Tip in the flour and process for a few seconds until the dough just comes together. (Do not over-process or it will become tough.) Add a little cold water if the dough seems too dry.
  3. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface and shape into a flat disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the treacle tart:
  1. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a large round, the thickness of a £1 coin. Use to line a 23-24cm round shallow tart tin, with removable base, leaving some excess pastry overhanging the rim. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.
  2. Line the pastry case with baking paper and dried or ceramic baking beans and bake ‘blind’ for 15-20 minutes or until the base is cooked through. While still warm, cut off the excess pastry to level with the rim of the tin. Lower the oven setting to 140°C/Gas 1.
  3. For the filling, gently heat the golden syrup by immersing the bottle or tin in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Mix the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and ground ginger together in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
  4. Pour in the warm golden syrup and add the butter, egg yolks, cream, treacle and lemon juice. Stir well to mix.
  5. Pour the filling into the pastry case. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top has just set, but the centre is slightly wobbly when you shake the tin gently. It should still feel slightly soft in the centre.
  6. Let the tart cool completely before slicing and serving, with cream or crème fraiche.

recipe found at Suite101: Gordon Ramsay's Treacle Tart Recipe: How to Make Traditional English Pastry 


  1. I just found your blog, and had to post a comment. First of all, what a wonderful blog, with fantastic recipes! Second of all, I am a huge Betty Neels fan, too. So nice to meet another one! :)

  2. LOL Glad you like the blog! I think there are a lot of Betty lovers but we are hiding in the shadows....Betty Lovers Unite!!!

  3. Hi!
    I'm so glad I found your blog. I've been looking around for a fan site where I might be able to find out a few things and share a love of Betty's books. I found this quote on "Good Reads" and I'm anxious to find out which book it came from. Do any of the other fans out there have any idea?

    "He sighed deeply: to fall in love at first sight with this malodorous sleeping girl, with, as far as he could see, no pretensions to beauty or even good looks, was something he had not expected. But falling in love, he had always understood, was unpredictable, and, as far as he was concerned, irrevocable That they hadn't exchanged a word, nor spoken, made no difference. He, heart whole until that minute, and with no intention of marrying until it suited him, had lost that same heart."
    — Betty Neels

    Thanks so much for the treacle tart recipe. I've often wondered what it was like.

  4. Oops, I posted the reply to Kathy's note in the wrong place, here it is again: Wow, "malodorous," yikes! This does ring a recent bell, sorry don't remember which book, but I can't believe even Betty's haughty heroes would say something quite that bad... >:) Thank you so much for this beautiful blog! I've read dozens of Betty's books, don't feel right unless one of them is sitting nearby. Such a delicious and comforting fantasy... I once wrote to Harlequin and suggested they publish a Betty Neels Cookbook, but they never responded... Everyone's so excited that Betty was 59 when she started writing--yup, we can keep procrastinating! >:) Neelsgirl

  5. Too late for Katie's question (two years and twelve days late), the malodorous sleeping girl is Sarah from
    Betty Neels, Making Sure of Sarah
    also in: Betty Neels, Emma Goldrick, Love & Marriage

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