Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Treacle Tart and Ice Cream recipe, from his TV show In Search of Perfection, was the natural choice for dessert after making Heston’s Perfect Bangers and Mash recipe.
Our quest to cook every single one of Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal’s dishes from the In Search of Perfection BBC TV series was inspired by a combination of our amazing first trip to the Fat Duck in 2008, and by my own stubbornness and idiocy.
Speaking of idiocy, we’ve been trying to serve each Heston Perfection recipe as part of a two course meal (at what’s become known as the 10pm Supper Club due to the absurd time the food is finally ready). Us being us, we need both courses to be Heston Blumenthal recipes.
Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe was included in the same episode of the BBC TV series as his Perfect Bangers and Mash recipe, described as the perfect double bill. We agreed. Heston’s Perfection Treacle Tart recipe was the perfect dessert to follow Heston’s Perfect Bangers and Mash recipe. Here’s how the Treacle Tart looks in the recipe book:
Making both dishes in the same weekend wasn’t easy (especially as both use a Magimix quite heavily), but they did make a great meal. A two course dinner I fondly refer to as “A Rhapsody in Brown and Beige”.
Here’s how we got on:
Here’s the episode of the BBC TV show In Search of Perfection, with Heston making the Perfect Treacle Tart recipe step-by-step.
Recipes: Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart with Milk Ice Cream recipe
Special Equipment: None
Special Ingredients: Aged Golden Syrup (optional), Vanilla Salt, (optional)
Time: 1 – 2 days (+4 days to age golden syrup)
Cost: £16 approx
Serves: 8 – 10
Heston’s In search of Perfection Treacle Tart and Milk Ice Cream recipe is actually a lot more simple than you might expect – probably why they could cram it into the same episode as Heston’s Perfect Bangers and Mash recipe.
BOC Gases ignored all our calls and emails, so we didn’t have dry ice available to make Heston’s Jersey Milk Ice Cream with. Ours had to be made in our basic drum-in-the-freezer-overnight ice cream machine.
Step 1: Aged Golden Syrup
If you include this step the cooking time for the recipe is closer to a week, rather than being measured in hours (or even days).
It’s not really mentioned in the TV show but in the book Heston talks at some length about visiting Tate & Lyle and trying some of their aged Golden Syrup. Just like wine, (so I’ve heard), dozens of extra flavour compounds develop within the syrup as it ages.
You can’t exactly buy 60-year-old Golden Syrup in your local Morrisons, so Heston gives you the option of artificially ageing your own: stick a tin in the oven at 70°C – 80°C for between 24 and 96 hours.
Our oven is far from precise at low temperatures (as we found out making both Heston’s Perfect Roast Chicken and Perfect Steak recipes) so we tried to cheat this step in our cheapo eBay sous-vide rig. After 4 days we did a taste test and there was a noticeable difference.
Step 2: Pastry Mix
When Heston calls this a high-butter pastry he isn’t joking! You’ll be using 400g of plain flour and an equal amount of unsalted butter. Using a Magimix is quite vital to this Heston Blumenthal recipe, same as it was with our main course – Heston’s Perfect Bangers and Mash recipe, so you could argue that these two of Heston’s Perfection recipes are also Heston Magimix recipes.
We personally can’t think of any device on the market better for doing the job of making a Heston Blumenthal Perfection recipe than a Magimix. Magimix really do make the best food processors and food mixers for Heston Blumenthal recipes in our book.
Into this you blend 2 eggs and 2 yolks (novel, since all the modern Heston pastry recipes call for yolks only).
The seeds of a vanilla pod and zest of half a lemon are also added at this stage, to give the pastry extra flavour.
All the mysticism surrounding pastry-making finally made sense to us here. By combining daft quantities of butter and the liquid from the eggs and you’ll get a soft, floppy sheet of dough that’s very difficult to manage.
Wrap it in clingfilm and get it to the fridge as quickly as possible.
Step 3: Chilling and Rolling the Pastry
What follows next is a stop / start process as laborious as my first ever driving lesson, though with fewer near-death experiences.
The mixed slab of pastry dough needs to go in the fridge for a good 3 hours to firm up (more manageable, less gluten, all that jazz).
Now you’ll be able to roll it out. This will be a lot easier if you have fancy granite countertops or chilled pastry boards and the like. At the risk of sounded like we’re boasting I have to tell you guys: our countertops are pure laminated chipboard, and our wooden rolling pin cost a full £1.99.
It’s easiest to roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm –Heston says to use baking parchment, but clingfilm lets you see what’s going on a bit better.
Once done transfer it to a sheet and then send it back to the fridge for another 30 minutes. Our tart tin is a bit smaller than the one Heston suggests you use in his recipe. This was pretty handy since we didn’t need to roll the pastry out nearly as large as he suggests. Neither our fridge nor our baking tray would hold the 50cm sheet you’re meant to roll out.
Rolling the pastry into the tart tin is very tricky. If the pastry gets too firm in the fridge it’ll crack as you try to unroll it. Too warm and your pastry will never hold its shape as you man-handle it into the tart case. I hate working with pastry.
Step 4: Blind Baking the Tart Case
Baking beans? “Pah!” Says Heston Blumenthal.
Like his Lemon Tart recipe (like all Heston’s pastry recipes, for that matter) Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe calls for the use of copper coins when blind baking a pastry case. Heston tells us that metal is a better conductor of heat, and the greater weight prevents the pastry from rising during cooking.
Scrunch your parchment paper up at least three times before you line the pastry with it. This’ll mean more fine creases from each scrunch, so the paper will fit the pastry more neatly. Stabbing the pastry with a fork repeatedly is a good opportunity to get rid of some of your frustration with this evil and wayward Treacle Tart recipe (and it prevents the pastry rising too).
Sling in some coins and bake (at a low-ish 140°C) for 25-30 minutes. Take out the coins half way, patch up the case if needed, and bake for another 10.
To me it always feels like blind baking times in recipes are way too long. My pastry always seems to end up dangerously nut-brown rather than the pale blonde of pre-made stuff. With this recipe we actually needed to increase the blind baking time to ensure pastry was properly done. An initial 40 minutes was followed by 15 uncovered. Probably an oven-temp issue.
Heston tells you NOT to trim the overhanging pastry from the tart case. His reason? The weight of this pastry will help the baked pastry keep its shape and prevent the tart from shrinking away from the sides. You can trim the excess off after blind baking.
Fat chance! The reality is that the soft, buttery pastry melts and sloughs off the sides of the tart long before it leaves the oven. We got a bit of pastry shrinkage on one side of the case but at least this saved us a trimming job once the pastry was baked. I really hate working with pastry.
Step 5: Making the Treacle Tart Filling
Remember how we said you’d need a Magimix to make the pastry? And now that you’ve made that pastry you’ve washed and dried all the Magimix components and hefted the thing back on top of the freezer where it lives? Well get it back down again because we need to make some breadcrumbs.
Heston’s recipes are often comically wasteful. This time he asks you to de-crust and blitz and entire 800g brown loaf to provide just 170g of breadcrumbs.
That done we’re, juicing and zesting lemons, weighing cream, whisking eggs and warming golden syrup to create Heston’s Perfection Treacle Tart filling.
This being a Heston Blumenthal recipe, especially a perfection one, there’s obviously a lot of salt and butter to add, this time in the form of a beurre noisette mixed in with the golden syrup.
Mix everything into the breadcrumbs and give them a good stir.
Step 6: Baking the Tart
Here’s a handy trick. To avoid any slapstick spillages you the filling into the (oven-warmed) tart case, when it’s already on the oven shelf. Then slide the shelf back in gently.
It’s advice that means you don’t risk dropping the full, heavy tart or have the filling sloshing over the sides as you carry it to the oven either.
After 50 minutes the tart should come out with a bit of a crust on the filling but still be slightly gooey in the centre. You’ll need to leave it to cool before you can trim it up and make it presentable for the dinner table.
Step 7: Milk Ice Cream
Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe, like all of Heston’s In Search of Perfection recipes specifies some very exact methods with which to prepare your ingredients. Few are more specific or dramatic than the recipe for milk ice cream that accompanies Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe.
Preparing the ice cream base is simplicity itself: weigh high-fat Jersey milk, double cream, sugar and liquid glucose into a pan and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
In Heston-world you now simply combine this mixture with some crushed dry ice and, hey presto, the smoothest dairy ice cream you’ve ever had in your whole damn life. Meanwhile, back in Leigh…
Without access to dry ice we had to just churn this ice cream base in our cheapo drum-style ice cream maker and hope for the best. And hope in vain, it turns out, because after a solid hour in the machine the ice cream was barely set.
We have no idea why this might have been. The drum had been in freezer overnight and the freezer itself turned to its coldest setting. In the end we had to pour the mixture into a shallow container and freeze it the old-fashioned way. Which of course would mean zero churning and massive ice crystals – the exact opposite of the goal of this recipe.
To try and save things we copied a trick from Heston at Home – specifically using a hand blender. This tip from Heston generally works best ¾ the way through churning your ice cream in the machine: a fast blitz with a hand blender chops the developing ice crystals into tiny fragments, giving you a smoother final result.
It sort of worked, though the hand blender was starting to give off smoke from the effort of cutting through our solid brick of ice cream. If you are making Heston’s Perfection Treacle Tart recipe and you can’t get hold of dry ice then it’d be best to use a different ice cream recipe.
Step 8: Serving
For Heston’s Perfect Steak recipe we’d ordered some Halen Mon Smoked Salt (which also came in handy when making Heston’s Perfection Bangers and Mash recipe).
They also sell vanilla salt, the final element of this recipe. To save the hassle of making our own we bought a tiny tub. It wasn’t expensive.
Cut a slice of the tart (note, thinner looks better but gives a miserly portion), sprinkle on a few grains of the vanilla salt, top with a quenelle –or dollop- of milk ice cream and serve.
Congratulations, Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe with Milk Ice Cream recipe from In Search of Perfection is ready to eat.
It may sound sacrilegious to say this but ordinarily we’re not the biggest fans of treacle tart. It just never came up during our childhoods so we’ve no nostalgic fondness for it.
However, Heston’s treacle tart recipe is absolutely stunning and utterly delicious. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Golden Syrup , this dish is pretty much the killer app for it.
Need a more pretentious description? Warming flavours and gluttonous stickiness, the slight spike of the lemon gives a pleasing lift. A great bit of comfort food.
Comfort you’ll need. That pastry was an awful lot of work. The rich butteryness is noticeable, we’re just not sure it’s worth the extra effort. We’d tell you that vanilla seeds and citrus zest make a revolutionary addition to tart cases, but we all know that’s old news.
Word of warning: in spite of all this praise Heston’s In Search of Perfection Treacle Tart recipe is aggressively sweet and sugary. Which is why the pure, clean dairy flavour of the milk ice cream makes a perfect accompaniment.
Or would have done if we’d made it properly. Tragically the ice grains were large enough to spoil the mouthfeel. If you look at some of our photos you can literally see chunky florets of ice texture in the ice cream. We’ve had similar problems making the Cornflake Ice Cream recipe in Hawksmoor at Home, another eggless ice cream recipe that failed to set in our machine (note: remedied for online versions).
Oh, and the vanilla salt adds an oddly savoury touch that gives an extra aspect to the recipe, but one we’d personally be happy to do without.
This wasn’t exactly “perfection”, but that’s down to us lacking pastry skills and dry ice suppliers. We started out not being fans, but we enjoyed Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe enough that we’d happily make Treacle Tart again. We just wouldn’t use this recipe.
So if we did make a treacle tart recipe again we’d probably still make a Heston Blumenthal Treacle Tart recipe, we’d just use the easier version he published in the Times.
If you’ve access behind their paywall the instructions for Heston’s easier Treacle Tart recipe can be found here.
The milk ice cream recipe we wouldn’t touch. Without dry ice it’s impossible to get good results. We’d use whipped double cream, clotted cream or Haagen Dazs vanilla.
Incidentally, if you want to try eating a version of Heston’s Perfection Treacle Tart recipe made by the Fat Duck chef who helped to create it you should head over to Aumbry Restaurant in Manchester.
Every now and then their menu features treacle tart, and I’m sure if you call well ahead and ask nicely enough they can add it to your menu. Their head chef is Mary Ellen-Mactague who you may recognise from the Perfection show.
She and her husband Laurence Tottingham were part of the driving force behind the historical side of Heston’s output, and they’ve carried on that tradition at one of Manchester’s finest restaurants (and we have quite a few now). We love the place, you should go.
BigSpud – We couldn’t even contemplate writing this report without mentioning Heston-and-Treacle-Tart-Fan-In-Chief Gary, who has made not one but two versions of this classic Heston Blumenthal Treacle Tart recipe. Essential reading.
Hungry Hoss – This Manchester blogger really knows his stuff. And we mean really knows his stuff. Likeable, informative, educational reviews of some of all the best restaurants in Britain, and as you can see he nailed the Aumbry Treacle Tart connection the moment he was served the dish. Worth following.
Do you like Treacle Tart? Have you made this recipe? Got any spare dry ice we can use next time? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.