Bake Off Challenge – Treacle Tart
The Bake Off Challenges are a series of posts I’m doing to celebrate my 100th post. I’ve challenged myself to have a go at making something from, or inspired by, ‘The Great British Bake Off‘ – an English programme in which 12 contestants have to bake something different every week. It will hopefully improve my baking skills and as I go, I’ll spill my guts about how hard these things actually are to make!
I’ve only ever tasted treacle tart a few times despite it being really tasty, so I thought it would make the perfect challenge for this week (and the tarte tatins and fruit tarts looked too complicated for my baking skills!). I had no idea how to make treacle tart and was surprised to find that not only did it not contain any treacle, but one of the main ingredients is bread crumbs! I’d have never thought of putting bread crumbs in a tart. It makes you wonder how the first ever person to make one came up with the recipe really.
While I was making the treacle tart, my mum was sorting some things out in the kitchen so instead of using a recipe book, every so often I’d just ask her what the next step was and go along like that. I don’t know how she remembers so many different recipes – she’s like a walking recipe book! The first task was making shortcrust pastry, which I’ve done once or twice before. To make it, two parts flour to one part fat is used, so I weighed out 6oz of self raising flour and 6oz of plain flour (not sure why some of both is required, I just followed instructions!). I then added 3oz of butter and 3oz of vegetable fat, but I guess you could just use 6oz of butter if you wanted.
With this comes the classic fingertip rubbing action that comes with making pastry. The aim is to use the coldest part of your hands (the fingertips) to rub in the butter and flour so the butter doesn’t get too warm and melt. I’m not sure what happens if it gets too warm, I think it gets really crumbly and hard to work with. My hands got quite warm while I was doing this, so I kept having to run over to the sink and wash my hands with cold water to cool them down! The other trick to use when rubbing in the flour and butter is to lift your hands quite high above the bowl. Again, not sure why but my guess would be to make it light and airy. Anyway, keep doing this until the mixture resembles bread crumbs (this seemed to take AGES while I was doing it, but after a while it seemed to just turn from floury lumps of butter to a bowl of fine breadcrumbs).
Look – they could actually be breadcrumbs! I think they look more like breadcrumbs than the ACTUAL breadcrumbs I use later on! Are you as amazed with these as I am? I hope so!
After the breadcrumb amazement had died down, I added little drip-droplets of cold water to the mixture and mixed it in by slicing the mixture with a knife over and over. This process was repeated again and again until it started to come together in one big ball of mixture. The trick is to use as little water as possible, apparently.
Once it got to this stage, I started to bring it together using the side of the knife and eventually used my hands to shape it into a ball. Don’t be tempted to add more water if there are still crumbs at the bottom – they should smush into the mixture when you use your hands.
After this, I covered it with cling film and popped it in the fridge whilst I made the filling.
The filling is really simple. Much more simple than I would ever have thought. It’s literally just bread crumbs soaked in golden syrup with a little lemon rind added. To make breadcrumbs, stale bread is best as it soaks up the syrup better. I only had the very end of a loaf of bread to use, so I just hoped it would be enough. You need enough bread crumbs to fill the tart case you’ll be using plus a little more, as they seem to shrink as you add the syrup and mix it around.
Once the breadcrumbs have been made, simply keep adding golden syrup until it has the right texture for treacle tart. It took a lot more than I expected and even then I don’t think I added enough, so be generous with it.
All that’s left to do after that is add a little bit of lemon rind. Add as much as you feel necessary – I added a tiny bit, just a few scrapes of a lemon but I think next time I’d add a bit more.
Once the filling is complete, grab the pastry out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and place a baking tray in there that’s big enough to fit the flan tin on top of. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board until it’s about the thickness of a pound coin (if I did it again I would roll it out a bit thinner than I did this time, but I kind of ran out of board space a bit).
The next bit is the most nerve racking bit of the whole thing – you have to roll the delicate, crumbly pastry that’s taken you the whole morning to make (ok, maybe not the WHOLE morning…) on to the rolling pin, LIFT IT UP, and unroll it over the flan tin. This is scary stuff people, but I just about managed it.
Once I’d placed the pastry over the tin, I gently pressed it around the rim so that the pastry would come out with fluted edges. I then pricked it all over with a fork so that it wouldn’t rise when I put it in the oven.
I trimmed off the edges and then using baking paper and barley (you could also use special ceramic balls or just rice) to weigh it down, I blind baked it for 15 minutes. It wasn’t quite done after that, so I popped it back in without it’s little baking paper hat for another 7 minutes.
While it was cooking, I balled up all the edges of the pastry that had been trimmed off and rolled the ball out to the same thickness as the pastry base. I then cut it into strips ready to make the lattice for the top.
When the pastry base was cooked, I popped the filling in and then went to work on the lattice. It wasn’t too fiddly to do actually, just a little time consuming. I joined one end of every strip going sideways with milk and then wove the ones going downwards before fixing both ends of them with milk, along with the other side of the ones going sideways. (The crumbs are there because I went round with a knife and chiselled off any bits that were sticking up).
I trimmed off the little extra bits and put a milk glaze over the lattice (which turned out rubbish – I should really pay more attention when I glaze things!) before popping it back in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the lattice was golden brown. The filling still didn’t have the golden tinge to it, so I fashioned another hat for my treacle tart, this time made from tin foil and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the filling looked suitably golden. AND IT WAS DONE!
There are several things I would change about this if I made it again. Firstly, I would make more filling. There wasn’t much I could do about this one, as we only had a small amount of bread to use but it meant there was a large amount of crust sticking up above the filling. The next thing I would do is add much more golden syrup. There was lots of trial and error going on as we weren’t working from a proper recipe, and the whole thing ended up a bit too dry although it was scrummy! It just meant that a bit of double cream or ice cream was required with it. The last thing I would do it try and make the pastry thinner. Obviously it takes practise to get a really good pastry and I was scared about rolling it too thin, but next time I would bite the bullet and get it as thin as possible.
All in all, I enjoyed making the treacle tart, but I was definitely more impressed with the result of the bagels. I’m still really enjoying trying out all the different types of baking, and so are my family! I’ll be interested to see what options I’ll have for my next challenge. They seem to be getting harder as the weeks go by, so hopefully I’ll still be able to have a crack at whatever it is!