Okay, raise your hands, all of you who know what treacle is. If you guessed molasses, you're pretty close. Like molasses, it's a by-product of the sugar refining process, but treacle is a lot darker and thicker than most molasses.
I first encountered treacle by way of Alice in Wonderland. My fourth-grade class put on a play that covered quite a bit of the book, and I took part in the scene that involved the Mad Tea Party. You probably don't remember that the Dormouse (who falls asleep a lot) launches into a complicated story about three sisters who lived at the bottom of a treacle well. (for the full text, go here)
But you can't get treacle around here. I saw it in Ireland, but a can of it was too heavy to carry home in my already-loaded suitcase. So I ordered some online when I came back. The go-to brand is Lyle's, and you may be more likely to come upon their Golden Syrup in a local store. Golden Syrup doesn't quite match anything we have here, but it's tasty.
Well, I figured I should try treacle once, so I went hunting for recipes and came up with Treacle Tart. You should know that I've never eaten this before, so I have no idea if it turned out the way it was supposed to. Cooking is such an adventure!
Treacle tart is basically bread crumbs soaked with golden syrup and/or black treacle, poured into a sweet pastry crust and baked. (Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-Fly Pie may be a direct descendant.) The lemon rind cuts the sweetness, and the Irish whiskey makes it a bit more interesting.
Pastry to line the pan (8" or 9" tart pan with removable bottom): you can use whatever you like, whether it's a regular pie crust or a short crust. As you well know, I'm crust-challenged, so I used the food-processor version from my recent Apple Tart recipe here (no rolling!).
3/4 cup golden syrup
2 Tblsp dark treacle
2 Tblsp Irish whiskey (optional)
2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (white, wheat, whatever)
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of salt
Line your pan with your crust. Bake according to instructions.
When you remove the crust, pre-heat the oven to 325°F.
While the pastry is baking, put the golden syrup and treacle into a pan over medium-low heat and warm it for about 3 minutes (this stuff is thick!), until it becomes runny and easily pourable.
Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling and stir until blended.
When the pastry has baked, remove it from the oven and let it rest briefly, then pour in the filling mixture.
Put the tart back into the oven for 15 minutes (or longer, if it looks goopy).
Remove the tart from the oven and let it to rest for 10 minutes before removing the outer ring.
Cut into portions and serve.
If you eat it warm, a bit of whipped cream or ice cream is a nice addition. If you're eating it later, you can cut it into bars and eat it like a large cookie. It's not too sweet, and it has an interesting flavor.
Will I make it again? I just might. I still have treacle!
First in the new County Cork Mysteries, coming out in (gasp) eleven days!