Probably the first thing you heard about Heston Blumenthal was "snail porridge" or "bacon & egg ice cream". They are both great dishes, but to the man in the street it seems more shock & awe than cooking. So a couple of years back when the BBC commissioned "In search of perfection" I tuned in. The first thing I saw was his treacle tart program. Him & his research chefs made a vast array of syrups, from scratch and then tasted them and came to the conclusion that "The one in the familiar green tin"1 was the best. That pretty much sealed my fate, after all how many 3 star chefs after experiment say buy the ingredient from the local co-op !
So when I got the book of the series I enjoyed reading it and started to look for a recipe I could give a reasonable go to, after the burgers the tart looked like a good bet, I was aware that some step would be given in an offhand manner, which to the home cook would take hair-pulling, teeth gnashing fury. I didn't expect it quite so early though. Here are the pastry ingredients.
Yes that is a lot of butter & its about to cause me some grief & the most work of the entire recipe. The pastry is 400g of plain flour & 400g of unsalted butter (yup co-op's finest there). The recipe gliby says "you may have to add the butter in batches" The reality is you absolutely have to add the butter in batches, rubbing it in is going to take an hour or so, keep ice water to hand so you don't overwork the pastry. Once you got it down to bread crumbs you make it even richer with icing sugar, 2 yolks, 1 egg, the zest of a lemon and the seeds of a vanilla pod.
Lets have a look at the filling. Ok eggs & cream, then salt & vanilla. Quickly whip up a buerre noisette.strain & filter it and put it in a pan with your 2 tins of golden syrup (that's just under a kilo of refined sugar goodness ( A quick aside, treacle tart is even in its meanest incarnations a rich dish, if you are counting calories, don't make this)).
The heated syrup is a lot easier to work with than cold syrup.
Oops, didn't quite get the pastry flat, but its vanilla/lemon scented goodness lifts the tart beyond the mundane, before you get anywhere near the filing. As you can see there is a crust over sticky goo, this is exactly how treacle tart should be. The top is on the edge of crunchy, and not dry in the slightest. Is it perfect ? Well with the burgers its very difficult to find a good burger in these parts, treacle tart however is easier, and I've eaten my fair share. From WI tart to corner bakery varieties, from cheap no frills to taste the difference. This is the best, everything about it is right, when I make it again, I'll be using slightly more chopped lemon zest, but that's about it. Oh yes the quantities, Heston does overshoot, and I can see several reasons why. The book says 8-10 portions. I'd say its more like 12 & then you can use the spare pastry & treacle mix to make individual tarts for deserving co workers.
To see more photos go here
The cocktail recipe will appear shortly
1 For those of you unfamiliar with the BBC they have to be quite careful about brand names, the tin in question is the familiar (to most of the UK) green Tate & Lyle golden syrup tin. Yes that is a dead lion, and no those are bees not flies.