Norfolk Treacle Tart, Norfolk
The British pudding can be sublime, and Norfolk Treacle Tart is one of the very best, though given my Norfolk upbringing my judgement may suffer from a slight bias. For some the name should be more specific, however: Walpole Treacle Tart, or Walpole House Treacle Tart, linked with the great Norfolk family that produced Robert Walpole , the first British Prime Minister, and a lover of good food – let’s be honest in later years he was a fat bloke. Some suggest that this dish originated at Houghton Hall , his Palladian home between King’s Lynn and Fakenham .
Norfolk Treacle Tart is a world away from school dinner treacle tart travesties, basically shortcrust pastry with a bit of golden syrup poured on top and maybe some ham-fisted lattice work to give it still more bulk. The real thing has an almost custardy texture.
Shortcrust pastry to line a pie or flan dish is either baked blind or not, according to preference, though the crisper version if baked blind makes a better contrast with the filling in my opinion. Make sure your base has a good lip to retain the filling.
These days golden syrup is used more often than not to make the filling, though the original was made with darker treacle and it is worth trying that at least once for the deeper flavour it provides. The treacle, enough to give a good covering to your dish (most standard ones will need seven or eight tablespoons), is warmed in a pan to make it runny, then off the heat mixed with lemon zest and juice, at least half a lemon’s worth and maybe more if you fancy something sharper (and if black treacle is used you may want to use a full lemon’s worth), a couple of good tablespoons of melted butter, ideally unsalted, the same amount of single cream or - damn the waistline - double cream, and lastly two medium or large eggs well beaten. The eggs need to be stirred or folded in gently to retain their air, but care needs to be taken to ensure they blend into the other ingredients.
This filling is poured into the pastry base, and baked in a pre-heated medium oven, say 170 centigrade, until the top feels firmish to the touch, and is a nice golden colour if golden syrup is used, darker if treacle replaces it – this will take more than 30 minutes, and depending on your oven could require up to 45.
Serve warm with pouring cream. The tart keeps well and can be served cold, but if you serve it warm to a discerning table you will have none left to test this theory.
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