Traditional Treacle Tart

A buttery, flaky pastry crust is filled with a sweet and gooey lemon-infused filling, this traditional Treacle Tart recipe features one of Great Britain’s most famous desserts at its best!

I also have a Gluten Free Treacle Tart so that nobody needs to forego this delicious dessert!

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A traditional British dessert, don’t be fooled by its simple list of ingredients and simple appearance – Treacle Tart is irresistibly delicious!

What is Treacle Tart?

Treacle tart is a sweet pastry consisting of a buttery shortcrust base and a gooey filling made from treacle (aka golden syrup), breadcrumbs and lemon zest.

The first mention of a treacle tart recipe dates back to a 19th century cookbook by English author Mary Jewry.  Since that original recipe treacle tart has commonly included the added ingredients of cream and eggs to create a softer, more luxurious filling.  Treacle tart is a quintessential British teatime dessert.

And for you Harry Potter fans out there, treacle tart also happens to be Harry’s favorite dessert.

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My first encounter with treacle tart was an ominous one.  I was a young kid in Germany watching the classic film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  You may be familiar with the scene where the thoroughly creepy Child Catcher of Vulgaria, a land where all children are banned, disguises his child cage as a candy shop on wheels and goes prancing around the village chanting, “Lollipops, chocolates, cherry pie, cream puffs, ice cream and treacle tart!  All free today!”  At that the children lose all resistance: “Treacle tart?Ice cream??  And all free!!” and come dashing out of their hiding place only to get snatched by the evil child catcher.

A few years later I moved to England and I had the chance to sample it for the first time.  And for the first time I also understood why the promise of treacle tart was such a powerful lure to those unsuspecting children in that childhood film – it’s irresistibly delicious!

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What is Golden Syrup?

The term “treacle” in treacle tart refers to the primary ingredient, golden syrup (also referred to as light treacle.  There is also dark treacle which is molasses.)  Golden syrup is an indispensable ingredient when it comes to making a number of traditional British recipes and of course there is no treacle tart without it.

Golden syrup is a thick amber-colored inverted sugar syrup that’s made with sugar, water and citric acid.  It has a deep caramelized, buttery flavor and has been a staple in British kitchens for over a century.

Can I Use Karo Syrup Instead of Golden Syrup?

No, they are not the same.  The ingredients, the process, the flavor and the texture are different.

Corn syrup (whether light or dark) isn’t as thick and it basically tastes like thick sugar water, lacking any depth of flavor (many people, including myself, think its cloyingly, sickly sweet).  In contrast, golden syrup is thicker and has very deep caramelized, buttery, and complex flavor notes.  There is no equivalent in the U.S. and substituting corn syrup will not yield the same flavor results.

But have no fear if you’re unable to locate golden syrup at your local store!  You can also buy it here on Amazon or…drum roll…you can easily make your own!

Check out our tutorial on how to make Golden Syrup!

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As with most things, If you’ve only ever had store-bought treacle tart, let me tell you – you’ve GOT to try homemade because NOTHING compares to it!  The flavor and texture of homemade is far superior in every way.  Trust me, homemade is a total game changer.

Try this homemade Treacle Tart and we’re confident you’re going to fall in love with it!

treacle tart recipe best traditional English British pastry tea shortcrust shortbread butter lard golden syrup

Treacle Tart Recipe

Let’s get started!

First make the fresh breadcrumbs and set them aside until ready to use.  Be sure to make your own from fresh bread;  ready-made, store-bought breadcrumbs will not produce the same flavor.   Use fresh bread and either let it sit out for one day or toast the slices and then pulse them in a food processor.

Next let’s make the shortcrust pastry (i.e. pie crust).

How to Make Shortcrust Pastry

For the absolutely BEST, most FLAKY pastry you need to use some lard.  Can you substitute all butter?  Yes.  But for the flakiest results we highly recommend some good old-fashioned lard.  Check out our tutorial on how to render lard (it’s super easy)!

Place the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend.  Next add the cold butter and lard.

Pulse a few more times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the water a little at a time, pulsing between additions, until the mixture begins to come together. DO NOT over-mix the dough or the pastry crust will be tough and won’t be flaky.

The mixture is done when it resembles large streusel-like crumbs and when you take some and press it between your fingers it will hold together.

Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. (The shortcrust pastry can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for up to 3 months.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the pastry dough.  I find it easiest to roll it out onto plastic wrap, it makes transferring it to the tart pan easy.

Roll the pastry dough out so that there’s a little excess around all sides of the tart pan (it will shrink when baked).  You will need a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (also commonly called quiche pans).

Carefully place the pastry crust into the tart pan and pierce it multiple times with a fork.

Next we’re going to blind bake the crust.  To do this line the pastry crust with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or similar (I’m using dried cherry pits that I saved when canning cherries a while ago).

Place the tart on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the beans and parchment paper and continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the crust is a very pale golden.

How to Make the Treacle Filling

While the shortcrust is baking prepare the filling.

Place the golden syrup, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium saucepan.   Heat the syrup until hot and runny and then stir in the breadcrumbs.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Lightly beat the egg and cream together with a fork.  Pour the egg/cream mixture into the saucepan with the treacle mixture and stir quickly to combine.

Pour the hot mixture into the tart crust.

Place the tart on the middle shelf of the oven (still heated at 375 degrees F) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is nicely browned.

Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool.

Treacle tart is traditionally served warm with clotted cream, whipped cream, ice cream, or custard.


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If you’re gluten-free be sure to check out our Gluten Free Treacle Tart recipe!

For more delicious traditional British treats, be sure to try our:

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet May 13, 2020

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