It was one of those meals when you see the dessert choices at the outset and then spend the next two hours steadily building up to the pudding you’ve set your heart on. But this time when it came to actually ordering it I realised I’d rather over-done things on Richard Corrigan’s staggeringly heavenly game pie (and may well have shown insufficient restraint with the bread too). So in the end I couldn’t face it – and have been pining ever since for the treacle tart that got away.
To make amends to myself, I decided to make one. This version has ginger in the tart’s middle to cut through the sweetness, and that touch of spice is complemented by the pears being poached in cinnamon and star anise. Its covering of pear slices are a nice contrast of texture and colour too.
You’ll see that treacle doesn’t make it into the ingredients’ list – that’s because treacle is really just the generic name for the uncrystallized syrups that are made whilst sugar is being refined. We think of treacle as the heavy black stuff, but golden syrup is treacle too.
Pear and Ginger Treacle Tart
You’ll need a lightly greased, loose-bottomed tart tin, 22.5cm across its base.
For the pastry case:
- 225g plain flour
- 25g ground almonds
- 50g icing sugar
- 150g butter – cold and cut into 2cm squares
- 1 egg yolk
- splash of cold milk
- Sift together into a big bowl the flour, almonds and icing sugar. Rub the butter in using your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the middle of all this and put the egg yolk into that. Bring the flour etc into the egg to start to meld it all together. Splash some cold milk over to help it bind as you work it into a dough with your hands.
- Once the pastry is nice and smooth, bring it into a ball, flatten it down, wrap in clingfilm, and put it into the fridge to rest for at least an hour – several hours or overnight is fine too.
For the tart’s middle:
- 454g golden syrup (not a particularly finicky measurement, that’s just how a whole jar of Tate and Lyle’s comes. It’s a pound-weight in old money, see?)
- 170g breadcrumbs
- zest and juice of a lemon
- 1.5tsp ground ginger
- 1 egg, beaten until frothy
This can be done the day before if you fancy – just make sure it’s at room temperature before you start to bake the tart.
- Gently heat the syrup in a large pan.
- Take it off the heat and add the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice, and the ginger. Stir well then fold in the beaten egg.
For the poached pears on top:
- 3 pears
- 200g caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half 3 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1/2 lemon
Method (once you’ve prepped the pastry and ‘treacle’ middle):
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the tart tin. Gently press the pastry into the fluted sides as you go. Trim off the edges but bear in mind that the pastry will shrink as it bakes. Chill the pastry case for 20 minutes. Put the oven on at 180C.
- Poach the pears: choose a pan that will hold the pears snuggly, then put the sugar into it with 500ml water and bring to the boil. Peel the pears, halve and core them, then rub them with the cut edge of the lemon and slide them into the water. Add in the cinnamon, cloves, star anise and juice from the half lemon. Simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes or until the pears are tender, and then take them out of the pan to cool.
- Prick the base of the pastry case a few times with a fork. Cover with baking paper and fill the centre of the tart case with rice or dried beans. It goes into the oven for 20 minutes and then you remove the paper and beans and put the tart back into the oven for a couple of minutes. Trim the pastry if you need to and let it cool down.
- Whilst it’s cooling, slice the pears into half centimetre lengths.
- Spread the treacle mixture over the tart case. Layer the pears over the top in whatever pretty pattern you fancy. A circle for me. Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the pears.
- Now it goes into the oven. 180C for about 45 minutes. Check at half an hour and if the pastry is getting a bit dark, put a piece of foil over. You want the treacle centre to be lightly browned and starting to firm up.
- Don’t try to cut into it straight away – let it cool.
Eat with cream if the tart is cold, but with ice-cream if it’s warm. Getting that the right way round makes a difference.