August in the Victorian Kitchen
So far, all the dishes produced for each Steaming Sunday have been made from recipes common in the early years of Victoria’s reign.
This month is different, and its name will have a very familiar ring to many people.
Believe it or not, TREACLE TART, in the form that most people know it, has been a family favourite for well over 100 years.
The key ingredient, Treacle or Golden Syrup as it is better known today, only became available around 1885. And even then, initially, it could only be bought in the area of East London where the Lyle sugar refinery was situated.
This byproduct, known as “Goldie”, was recognised as an excellent sweetener for pies, puddings and cakes. To start it was only sold to the refinery workers and valued customers. It soon caught on and before long it was available all over the country in the now, very familiar, green and gold tin.
However, when visitors to the museum were invited to have a “Taste of History” they were very surprised at what they were offered!
The Treacle Tart they tasted contained Golden Syrup, butter, egg and cream. “What!” I hear someone cry. “No breadcrumbs!” No, not in this rich version.
Research shows that a filling of Golden Syrup and breadcrumbs were for the Treacle Tart of the poor!
The desert or cake that is a teatime favourite today actually started life as “good filling, cheap grub to feed hungry mouths!“
The pastry was made using only a little lard and this was used to line a dish. “Goldie” and stale breadcrumbs were mixed together for the filling and then more pastry was rolled out for the top. This pastry top is still in existence today in the form of a pastry lattice decoration!
The dish on offer this Sunday was actually called Norfolk or Walpole House Treacle Tart. It is believed to have been a favourite at Houghton Hall in Norfolk the home of the Walpole family: one famous son was Sir Robert Walpole who is regarded as the first ‘real’ Prime Minister of England.
The original recipe predates the one given here by a good 200 years. Obviously, the treacle used in the 17th century was black treacle but as was explained for the Acton Gingerbread recipe, the treacle at this time was possibly sweeter than its modern counterpart. Of course once “Goldie” was available; there was simply no contest and the golden appearance of the tart became the accepted norm.
So, now to the recipe itself.
Norfolk Treacle Tart Or Walpole House Treacle Tart
- 4oz (110g) shortcrust pastry or ready cooked pastry case
- 4oz (110g) golden syrup
- 1oz (25g) butter
- Grated rind 1 lemon
- 1 egg – medium
- 3 tablespoons double cream
- Roll out the pastry, line a flan dish approx 6” (160mm) and bake blind at 190C, 180 fan, Gas Mark 5 for 12 – 15 minutes or until set.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180C, 160 fan, Gas Mark 4
- Gently warm the syrup and the butter to make the mixture runny – do NOT allow the syrup to get too hot
- Stir in the lemon rind
- Beat the egg and stir in the cream. Make sure they are fully combined
- Mix together the syrup and egg and cream mixtures very well. It should be a uniform colour
- Pour this into the cooked pastry case and bake for approximately 30 minutes. The filling should be golden brown and almost set at the end of this cooking time. If it is still a little runny cook for NO MORE than another couple of minutes
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting
Baking blind involves cooking the pastry case before adding the filling as the time taken to cook both together would result in one or the other being under or overcooked.
The uncooked pastry case is lined with foil or baking parchment and weighted down with baking beans (dried peas, lentils or dried beans – these are obviously removed before the filling is added). Without these, the pastry would just collapse in the oven and therefore the filling couldn’t be added.
For anyone unused to this technique, cooked pastry cases are available in most supermarkets or look on the internet for helpful videos which will demonstrate this method.
This dish does freeze well for about 1 month.
Shortcrust pastry ingredients –
- 4oz (110g) plain flour
- 2oz (55g) butter
- 1 tablespoon water
Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and mix to a firm dough.