For those of you on the other side of the water, ‘treacle’ is more or less the same as molasses. I say ‘more or less’ because I like treacle better. It is less aggressive, perhaps. Or perhaps I feel so because I grew up with treacle - and my first experience of molasses was of a frighteningly intensely black stuff with a nasty bitterness about it. I have since tasted better molasses, but hold fast to my belief that English treacle is a more elegant, mellow article.
Treacle is very useful. You can even preserve meat in it, Mrs Rundell says so:
To preserve Meat by Treacle.
This experiment has been successfully tried in the following manner:—A gentleman put a piece of beef into treacle, and turned it often. At the end of a month he ordered it to be washed and boiled, and had the pleasure to find it quite good, and more pleasant than the same piece would have been in salt for that time. But the expense of this method must confine it to the opulent.
The family receipt book: containing eight hundred valuable receipts … (1819)
Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell,
In the past , treacle was useful and interesting in beverages such as treacle beerand ‘mahogany,’ but its unique dark sweetness is best appreciated in baked goods. It is indispensable and delicious in genuine North of England ‘parkin’ (which is more or less like gingerbread, but made with oatmeal, not wheat flour.) It should go without saying that it is fabulous in steamed puddings, and that steamed puddings without treacle in them can be improved by serving with treacle sauce.
‘Thunderand Lightning’ cannot be made without it, nor can (of course) treacle scones, treacle toffee, treacle fudge – or treacle cheesecakes, which I must give you the recipe for as soon as I remember where it is.
One of treacle’s most popular uses in the North of England, is in treacle tart – although this is nowadays more likely to be made with treacle’s much milder sibling – Golden Syrup. I came across a marvelous variation on the theme of treacle tart the other day, hence this post. I found it in a small Australian paperback cookery book published in 1943 by the ‘Truth’ and ‘Daily Mirror’ newspapers and edited by the well-known Brisbane medico, Dr Phyllis Cilento.
If large amounts of pastry frighten you, this is not for you. But I bet you love the name of this dish, as I do.
Take a shallow cake-tin, a deep plate, or a pie-dish, and butter it. Place at the bottom a layer of pastry (short crust), about ¼ inch thick, over this put a layer of treacle, then a layer of fine breadcrumbs, sufficient to hide the treacle. Over this squeeze a little lemon juice, then put a layer of pastry, and continue the rotation till the tin is filled up to the height of 3 or 4 inches or so. Bake in a fairly quick oven, remove from tin, and serve either hot or cold.