Showing posts with label treacle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label treacle. Show all posts

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ginger Cake

by Sheila Connolly

All right, I’ll confess: I am officially addicted to The Great British Baking Show on PBS. I did my best to resist it—I kept seeing the TV listing go by and telling myself I didn’t need to watch one more contrived cooking show where judges make snotty remarks and some poor non-winner ends up near tears. I tried, really. And then I watched one episode (not even the first of the season!) and I was hooked.

I’m a sucker for anything baked. The problem is, many of the recipes the contestants make on that show are complex, and while I admire them tremendously for even trying, I don’t feel compelled to try to make them myself (but I did once make Spotted Dick!). At least I recognized most of them, and I will happily order them at any restaurant or bakery.

But I felt bad that I didn’t recognize either of the judges. In case you’ve never watched the show (your loss!), there are two official judges: Mary Berry, the doyenne of British cookbooks, and Paul Hollywood (really?), who is defined as a “top artisan baker,” whatever that means. There are also two contestant wranglers, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who apparently have done a whole lot of successful things together that we on this side of the pond have never heard of.

I was ashamed that I had never heard of Mary Berry, who apparently has been writing cookbooks almost as long as I’ve been around. So of course I ordered one (on baking) immediately. But then I went trolling online for some of her recipes, and found one that she declared that one of her favorites was one that her mother used to make for tea: Ginger and Treacle Spiced Traybake. It sounded tasty (and it has ginger frosting!).

Then I tried to translate the English terms and amounts. Ha. I did add a scale to my kitchen equipment not too long ago, so part of that problem is covered. But the ingredients can be a bit mind-boggling. Muscovado sugar? I think it’s like dark brown sugar. Maybe. Ground mixed spice? Huh? (Don’t panic—I found a recipe! It’s pretty much what you’d expect, but it includes coriander too).

And then there was “stem ginger from a jar.” Right. Had to look that one up! As near as I can tell, it’s crystallized ginger steeped in ginger syrup. Don’t think I’ll find that in my local grocery store! But, miracle of miracles, I had on hand both crystallized ginger and ginger syrup. (Now you know why I buy weird ingredients when I see them.) So I combined them.

Then on to the making of the recipe. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160/Gas 4. Uh, Fahrenheit, anyone? (Would you believe that I have the conversion formula tacked to the corkboard over my desk? And the answer is…350!) Then grease a 12x9 traybake. Okay, I can handle that. It’s a baking tin. Got it.

So here is Mary’s recipe, with a few tweaks for those of us who don’t have all these lovely ingredients lurking in our pantry.

Ginger Spice Cake (inspired by Mary Berry)


1/2 lb (8 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup treacle (this comes in dark and light—the dark stuff is pretty intense, if you can’t find it in your stores, substitute dark molasses) (Note: this is sticky stuff, whichever you use. To measure accurately, Mary suggested measuring your sugar, the placing the container on a scale and adding the treacle until you reach the right weight.)

2-1/2 cups white flour
3 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
1 tsp mixed spice (I had to make my own—if you can’t find or make any, just add cinnamon, cloves, etc.)
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
4 Tblsp milk
3 finely-chopped bulbs of stem ginger from a jar (see above)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” X 12” baking tin, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Cream and butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the bowl, and beat until well blended. Pour the batter into the baking pan and level the top with a spatula. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake begins to shrink from the sides and is springy when you touch it. (Do not overcook or it will dry out.) Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn it out on a rack to finish cooling.


1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tblsp ginger syrup that the ginger has been steeping in
3 Tblsp chopped stem ginger

To make the icing, sift the sugar into a bowl and add the ginger syrup. Mix until it reaches spreading consistency. Pour it over the cooled cake.

Chopped ginger
Sprinkle with the chopped ginger. Let the icing set for a bit before trying to cut it.

The results? This is more of tea cake than a dessert cake. It probably could have used more chopped ginger, but I was improvising. I may order the real stuff and see what it's like.

Meg and Seth are getting married (in case you haven't heard) in "their" restaurant in Granford. The alpacas were not invited, but just about everyone else in town was. Well, maybe not the ex-con...

A Gala Event is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lemon Treacle Slice

by Sheila Connolly

There are times when I think Gordon Ramsay has taken over television, maybe with a little help from Anthony Bourdain (who now appears to be CNN's new international political commentator). Gordon (may I call you Gordon? I feel that I know you well enough) currently appears in, at last count, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, The F Word, Hotel Hell, and a few others, and, yes, I watch all of them.  It's not just to listen to the bleeps (if you don't know it, he swears a lot). I admire the way Gordon cooks:  good fresh food prepared simply and presently attractively. I also keep watching because I'm still waiting for him to run out of energy, but he hasn't yet.

One show of his that I didn't know about until one dire evening when there was no network show I wanted to watch, and I didn't feel like committing to an entire movie—i.e., staying awake that long—is Gordon Behind Bars, a short series of four episodes made last year in Brixton Prison in London, and available on BBC America.  Gordon goes into the Victorian prison to try to teach a small group of inmates not only to cook but to make something marketable on the outside (and, since he's Gordon Ramsay, he succeeds).  Together they created Bad Boys' Bakery, and their signature product is the Lemon Treacle Slice, available commercially through at least one café chain.

British (and Irish) cooking is always challenging because many of the ingredients are unfamiliar and/or unavailable in the US, and units are given in grams or milliliters.  I solved Problem #1 by locating online suppliers for such things as golden syrup and treacle (yes, there is a difference), and Problem #2 by buying an adorable kitchen scale with any number of units of measurement.  I am ready! (Except I'm definitely going to buy European measuring cups when I'm in Dublin in June!)

So I was curious to see what this treacle slice was all about and what it tastes like. [Note:  this recipe is widely available on different Internet sites.] Warning:  whatever you call it, treacle is sticky! It's far thicker than our molasses or honey, but it has its own flavor.

US measurements in red

300g digestive biscuits  an 8-oz package is about right
150g butter 1 1/2 sticks
Okay, right up front we've got an issue:  what the heck is a digestive biscuit?  No, it's not a graham cracker, but close:  a whole-grain cracker, but with no sugar.  McVitie's seems to be the major producer, not available in my market but I found a decent substitute.

Place the biscuits in a food processor and blend until they are reduced to fine crumbs.

Melt the butter, then stir into the biscuits. Press the biscuit mixture firmly into the base of a 20cm 9-inch square tin which has been lined with baking parchment.

Chill for at least a half an hour (you'll see why below).

1 Tblsp lemon curd (you may have to hunt for this at the store)
675g golden syrup 
2 tins
90g butter 3 ounces
100ml double cream  
1/2 cup heavy cream
225g white breadcrumbs 
this came out to 4 cups loosely packed when I weighed it, but they could have been squished down to less
5 egg yolks
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Pre heat the oven to 160c.  This came out to about 325 degrees F, but not much cooking was going on at that temperature, so I bumped it up to 350

Place the golden syrup into a saucepan along with the butter and allow to melt GENTLY. You do not want this to boil.

Once the butter has melted take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream, breadcrumbs, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice. Stir well.
Once the base has chilled, spread the lemon curd onto the base (with a spatula or a brush—this is why you've chilled the base). Pour the breadcrumb filling over the biscuit base and then place into the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes or until firm to the touch (not browned). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.


A little icing sugar  confectioner's/powdered sugar
A little lemon juice

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice until you have a thick paste. Place it into a piping bag and pipe over the top of your slices. Or just drizzle the stuff with a spoon.

Gordon, if you'd like a guest slot on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, we'd love to have you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Treacle Tart

by Sheila Connolly

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!