Baking Recipe: (Mostly) Mary Berry’s Treacle Tart

Everyone that loves baking has that one baking recipe they wish they could make perfect, especially since the rise of the Great British Baking Show. For me, it’s been tarts. Maybe it’s because it was something I always saw on TV and in magazines or mentioned in books but didn’t get to experience until my early 20’s.

In fact, the whole reason I started this blog was in an effort to force myself to get better at baking to use a couple of tart pans I got on sale once. My first attempt at making a tart was a complete and total failure — but I learned from my mistakes and ended up making the most delicious thing to date.

Most people know treacle tarts from either Harry Potter (it was his favorite sweet) or the Great British Baking Show (Mary Berry is the grandmother I always wanted). Still, it isn’t something readily available in America. 

It’s sweet, buttery, rich, crunchy, chewy, and sticky all at the same time but with a hint of lemon. If you’ve been privileged enough to taste Milk Bar’s Crack Pie, this feels like it’s lemony British cousin that is better. When I snuck a sliver as it was cooling, it reminded me of a warm lemony fig newton (as far as texture) with a crisp tart crust. 

I haven’t seen it in any bakery, and not a lot of people are familiar with it unless you give them the Harry Potter or GBBS hook. That’s probably because of the secret ingredient behind the unique flavor — Lyle’s golden syrup.

Take it from me; I watched all of the treacle tart recipe videos and read every blog possible. Pretty much everyone said the best (and only) golden syrup you should use is Lyle’s. It’s been around since the 1880’s — longer than 12 US states! It’s not readily available in US grocery stores, but you can quickly get it on Amazon or other online retailers. I need to find it in bulk because it is hands down my new favorite thing to make. Not only is it delicious, but shockingly easy.

Ingredients and Measurements

For the pastry

  • 250g/9oz plain flour

  • 130g/4½oz butter, plus extra for greasing

For the filling

  • 400g/14oz golden syrup

  • 150g/5½oz fine fresh white breadcrumbs

  • 2 lemons, zest and juice

Making The Tart Dough

The culprit behind the great baking failure of 2020 was a thick layer of raw pastry dough that was gross and beyond inedible. The biggest reason for it being so bad was how thick it was; the other part was that I didn’t blind bake it or take measures to make sure it was cooked properly. 

But I learned from my mistake and found a recipe that is not only delicious but extremely easy to make by hand. This is a variation on one of Mary Berry’s tart shell recipes but slightly less ambitious. Her version called for a lattice top, and I didn’t have the patience to try to attempt after my first couple of failed rollout and cuts — but it was still great nonetheless.

This recipe is made by hand in a big bowl and takes a few minutes to put together. I weighed out the flour and added some precut cold butter so that it would incorporate easier. You want to squish the butter and flour together and thoroughly mix it all. You’ll know you’ve hit the mark when the flour and butter start to look like wet sand.

When you hit that stage, you want to add a few tablespoons of ice-cold water and work the dough together until it is stiff and stays together. If it feels too dry, keep working it a little longer, and it should hopefully come together. You do not want to add too much water and have a loose dough.

Once the dough comes together, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. During this time, you can work on the filling.

Making Treacle Tart Filling

This filling is super easy, especially if you have a food processor or blender to make fresh bread crumbs. The best tips I can pass along is that it’s crucial not to bring the syrup to a boil, that is not the point of heating it, and to make your breadcrumbs. You want the golden syrup to be heated to the point of being just runny so you can better incorporate the breadcrumbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest. 

You want to make sure the breadcrumbs aren’t too crispy so they can absorb the treacle goodness, so store-bought is out of the question. Just leave some bread out overnight and throw it in a food processor or pulse in a blender until fine. If the pieces are too large, it could impact the consistency and possibly burn as it cooks. 

Heating this up and mixing it won’t take long, so you might be interested in rolling out the dough for the tart shell as you slowly heat the syrup. At no point are you trying to cook the filling in the pot; you just want to make it easier to mix everything evenly.

Rolling Out the Pastry and Baking

This part might seem too intimidating, but don’t fret. As long as your actions are gentle but concise, you will be able to roll out and place any tart shell. There are many different ways to roll out your dough, but I like to go with the quarter-turn method.

On a lightly floured work surface, you want to take your dough and roll it with a rolling pin away from you. Once you have done this, gently lift the dough and turn it 45 degrees and roll it again, repeating until you have a circle large enough to fit inside your 9-inch tart pan. 

I use two methods to get the dough into the pan, the gently-fold-the-edges-into-the-center-then-unfold-into-the-shell method or the roll-it-on-the-rolling-pin-and-deposit-into-shell method. This time I went with the latter, but both work well. Once you have the dough into the shell, trim the excess dough to make it neat and lightly dock the bottom on the pastry with a fork to prevent rising. 

The key to this recipe is to preheat your oven to 400 degrees with a sheet pan inside to heat up with it. This will allow you to avoid blind baking and ensure you don’t have a soggy bottom.

The filling can be added straight away, and you bake the tart at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and let it finish baking until the center is set — usually for another 20-25 minutes. 

Let the tart cool in the pan before removing and enjoying it. I highly recommend having it with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. When you factor in chilling time for the dough and baking time for the final result, you can go from no tart to the only pastry you’ve ever needed in about an hour.

If you really want to earn that handshake from your friends, you can try the lattice top version and be your own Star Baker of the week.

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