When everyone had eaten as much as they could, the remains of the food faded from the plates, leaving them sparkling clean as before. A moment later the desserts appeared. Blocks of ice cream in every flavour you can think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate eclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, jelly, rice pudding --
As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk turned to their families.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling, p93
As a twelve year old, the world of Harry Potter seemed a million miles away from my backyard in Queensland. Not just the spells (and the snow), but the seemingly endless array of desserts, many of which I had never heard of, let alone tasted. As an adult, and after five years in England, I have now sampled a knickerbocker glory, a blancmange and some spotted dick, and have developed a deep love for Harry's dessert of choice - treacle tart. Sticky, sweet, lemony toffee-like filling inside crisp pastry. What more could you want?
250g plain (or spelt) flour
2tbsp icing sugar
Zest of one lemon
Pinch of salt
175g butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg yolk
600ml golden syrup
A pinch of ground ginger
150g fresh fine breadcrumbs
Zest and juice of one lemon
23cm fluted tart tin (or similar)
Baking paper and baking beans (or rice/uncooked beans)
Pastry brush (optional)
1. To make the pastry, combine the flour, icing sugar, lemon zest and salt in a bowl. Rub in the cold butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1-2tbsp of very cold water and combine with your hands in the bowl until the mixture comes together into a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured bench and bring into a ball. You don't need to work the mixture too much, or knead it, as the pastry won't be crisp if you do.
2. Wrap the pastry in cling film and pop in the fridge for half an hour. Don't be tempted to skip the chilling, as the pastry may shrink in the oven.
3. Cut a third of the dough off the ball, wrap it and put it back in the fridge. Roll out the reminding two thirds on a lightly floured bench (if the pastry is sticking - as it is wont to do in a warm kitchen - roll it between two pieces of greaseproof paper rather than straight onto the bench). Stop rolling when you have a 30cm circle that is around the thickness of a pound coin.
4. Drape your pastry over your rolling pin, or keep it on the sheet of greaseproof paper, and lay it across the fluted tart tin. Use a small ball of spare dough (rather than your fingers - your nails may cut the pastry) to push it into place, making sure it goes right into the edges. If there are any tears in the pastry, patch them up with extra dough. Lightly prick the base with a fork and return to the fridge to chill for a further 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 190C and insert the baking sheet in the middle of the oven to heat up.
5. Line the chilled pastry case with baking paper and fill with the baking beans or uncooked beans. Place in the oven on the baking sheet for fifteen minutes, then remove the baking paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes, until golden.
6. Roll out the remaining dough into a 25cm circle, around 2mm thick. Slice into 5mm thin lengths, and put aside.
7. To prepare the filling, heat the golden syrup and ground ginger in a saucepan over a low heat until hot, but not boiling. Stir in the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice and one beaten egg until just combined, and pour into the pastry case.
8. Use the lengths of pastry to lattice the top of the tart. Do this on your piece of greaseproof paper from earlier by starting in one corner to weave the pastry over and under the other lengths (as in the picture). Then carefully lower the lattice onto the top of the tart, slowly pulling the paper away from underneath it. Alternatively, for a slightly less time consuming effect, simply lay the pastry in straight lines going in one direction. Try and avoid allowing the pastry to fall into the filling but (as can be seen from my attempt) this is a little easier said than done.
9. Bake the tart in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the filling is set and the pastry golden. Cool on a wire rack for fifteen minutes before removing from the tin and serving warm with crème fraîche. Leftovers (should there be any) should be reheated a little in the oven before eating, or you risk losing a tooth!