Hogwarts Treacle Tart
inspired by the Harry Potter series
In honor of his birthday (July 31st), here’s Harry Potter’s favorite dessert.
For the tart shell:
- 9 oz (250g) all-purpose flour
- 4.5 oz (9 tablespoons) room temperature butter, cut into small cubes
For the filling:
- One 11 oz jar of golden syrup
- 5.5 oz (150g, about 6 slices for me) white sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 1 lemon
- 1 egg
Make the tart shell
Place the flour in a large bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers if it’s soft enough, until the mixture reaches the consistency of soft breadcrumbs. (You can also do this in a food processor.) Mix in 3 tablespoons of water to make the mixture into a firm dough. You may find it’s too crumbly and you need to add another tablespoon (I did), but add extra water gradually, mixing it in, because if you add too much the dough will be very sticky and hard to work with. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400F and put a cookie sheet on a rack in the middle to heat. Grease an 8 inch loose-bottom tart pan. Pull about 6 oz of dough from the chilled dough ball and leave it in the fridge. Take the larger portion of dough out and roll it with a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface, or between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it into a rough circle about 2 inches larger on all sides than the bottom of your tart pan. Line the pan with the dough circle, pressing it gently across the bottom and up the sides, and into the corners. Let the excess dough hang over the top, then roll your pin over the pan to trim it. Add the trimmings to the dough in the fridge, for your decorations.
Prick the base of the tart all over with a fork to help stop air bubbles forming in the oven. Place the tart pan onto the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes to set, it will still be pale.
While the tart shell is baking
Grind your bread slices in a food processor until they’re fine crumbs. Juice and zest the lemon, taking care to only grate the yellow lemon skin and not the white pith underneath, which is very bitter. Reserve the lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Remove the tart shell from the oven when the 10 minutes are up and set it aside, leaving the cookie sheet in the oven.
Make the filling
In a large saucepan, heat the golden syrup on medium heat until it becomes warm and runny, be careful not to raise it high enough to simmer or boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and add the breadcrumbs (reserve a couple of tablespoons), lemon juice and zest. If the mixture seems very runny, add the reserved breadcrumbs. Pour the syrup mixture into the tart shell to just within 1/4 of the top so it won’t overflow.
Make the decorations: Remove the extra dough from the fridge and roll it out about 1/8 inch thick, about the same as the tart shell. Cut shapes from the dough with cookie cutters or a sharp knife, and lay them carefully on top of the warm filling. Press any dough that touches the edge of the shell firmly to the edge. Once you have all the decorations arranged to your liking, beat the egg in a small bowl until the yolk and white are well mixed, then brush the egg wash lightly onto the pastry decorations and all around the perimeter. Use a small clean paintbrush or your fingertip, if the egg drips down the decorations and onto the filling it will leave a little eggy blob on the surface of your pie. Place the tart onto the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F. If the top of the pastry is already browning, cover the tart with foil. Bake the tart another 25-30 minutes at 350F until the pastry is a nice golden brown and the filling seems set. Remove the tart from the oven and cool at least an hour to make sure it’s firm enough to slice. Serve warm or at room temperature.
“…one of the most seductive scents Harry had ever inhaled: somehow it reminded him simultaneously of treacle tart, the woody smell of a broomstick handle and something flowery he thought he might have smelled at The Burrow.”
Treacle is a very light grade of molasses, and as such it’s very sweet liquid sugar with a hint of toffee toastiness and a hint of bitterness. I have a strong aversion to bitterness and I’m sorry to say this tart, although made to a traditional recipe and objectively quite sweet, was slightly too bitter for me. This is a reflection only on my own tastes, but if you make it and find it strikes you the same way, in the future you could swap some (maybe a 1/4 cup or so) of the golden syrup out and replace it with honey. It wouldn’t taste the same but you have to adapt recipes to suit your own tastes.
Because the filling is cooked sugar with only breadcrumbs to soften the structure, it will get hard and chewy when refrigerated. Just be aware that for serving you’ll want to bring it to room temperature or serve it warm and it will be soft and pie-like again.
I decorated my tart with a rough version of the Hogwarts crest, imagining how it might look when served in the Great Hall. It helped me to roll out the dough and press the bottom of the tart pan against it lightly so I could see an outline of the circle I had to work within. I cut strips to divide it into quadrants, used a cookie cutter to make the central lozenge (heraldry term for a diamond shape) and cut an H into it with a small knife. Then I just looked at pictures of the Hogwarts crest while I free-form cut the animals with my knife. If you don’t want to tackle a design like this, a lattice top of woven strips is traditional and very attractive. You could also cut leaves or stars with a small cookie cutter, or add wings to small circles to make a flock of golden snitches. It’s also quite traditional to leave the top of the tart undecorated, so it’s up to you.
I served the tart with clotted cream because I barely need an excuse to eat it, but creme fraiche or plain whipped cream would also be nice rich toppings that let the sweetness of the tart shine. If you don’t mind a very sweet dessert, you could serve it with vanilla ice cream or creme anglaise (custard).
“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.”
― JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone