Is it the epitome of culinary irony that treacle tart doesn’t actually contain treacle? Or is it just part of the mystery of a foodie history in which mince pies are meat-free, toad-in-the-hole isn’t even vaguely francophile, and neither cottages nor shepherds are regularly sacrificed to the gods of pie?
Yes, my friends, it’s time to get back in the kitchen. I’m trying not to be too overawed by gingerbread Coliseums or a chiffon heaven and hell and focus instead on the fact that all three finalists’ attempts at fondant fancies looked remarkably like my own previous efforts in that direction. I’m two challenges down, with seven to go, and ever so slightly less than seven weeks until the baby is due.
I’m leaving rum babas until I’m actually allowed to eat them, so make that six challenges, including the fondant fancies of doom. I thought I’d let myself in gently with one of the early weeks; Mary Berry’s Treacle Tart, only slightly upping the ante by making it alongside our roast beef lunch, in a fairly tight window between church and meeting up with some friends this afternoon.
I nearly fell at the first hurdle when a cursory search of the fridge revealed a singular lack of butter. Brendan would never allow that to happen. But the village shop came up trumps and yesterday’s baguette leftovers yielded just about enough breadcrumbs for the middle. The base of my proper fluted flan dish has vanished to goodness knows where so I substituted a two part cake tin; really for a cook with a kitchen full of culinary equipment I appear to be lacking in all sorts of things I thought I had. I’d ask what’s taking up all that space but I know the answer: shaped cake tins – lots of them!
I’m not ashamed to say that I food processed the pastry. I’d claim it’s an advantage over my hot little hands but to be honest, my hot little hands get tired, and were peeling carrots at the time. If Mary Berry says ‘or you could just use the food processor’ for pastry making, who am I to argue. My true dirty little pastry secret is that I tend to make a rich shortcrust (bound with egg) rather than a plain shortcrust (bound with cold water) for, well anything that asks for a shortcrust. Plain shortcrust just always seems to fall apart on me whereas the eggy version will cope with a few rolls and re-rolls. But if nothing else, the whole idea behind a technical challenge is to jump both feet forward out of my comfort zone and see if I can pick up a few tips and tricks along the way, so the eggs stayed in their carton.
20 minutes later I rescued the rolling pin from the toybox, gave it a quick scrub under a scalding hot tap and eyed the innocent looking cling film bundle on my worktop. It was cool to the touch but still pliable, and appeared to be agreeing to play ball so away we rolled. I may have aimed for something vaguely circular and ended up with a distinct rectangle regardless of in what direction I wielded the pin, but crucially it was a bigger rectangle than my cake tin, and in it went.
Mary’s tip to run the rolling pin over the edge of the tin worked pretty well, and if I had to patch a little, at least it wasn’t on the bottom.
In contrast the filling was the easy bit; blitz the baguette in the processor for bread crumbs, gently warm an insane amount of a British staple, and mix it all together with a bit of lemon juice and zest. I mean, anything that uses up so much golden syrup that I used up the rest of my current tin and got to open the special Jubilee version, thus getting me nearer to my true aim of having the Jubilee tin as a pen pot on my desk, has got to be a good thing.
And then we came to the bit that caused the most havoc for the intrepid tv bakers; the lattice. I’ll admit to a serious advantage in having full recipes rather than their more basic guidelines. I’m working from the book recipe rather than the one on the website, but the website looks pretty similar. The key is to roll the lattice pastry out on clingfilm, brush it with a little beaten egg, and then stick it back in the fridge. When you come to lattice, the strips are rigid enough to pick up and not too sticky from the egg.
My own top tip would be to use a pizza wheel to cut strips, and if I’d been being really pernickity I would have got the ruler out; shades of quilter meets baker, but I went for a slightly more rustic look. I actually forgot to glaze the edges of the tart case before I laid on the lattice and had to go back and reverse engineer a little gluing but that may not have been a bad thing as it let me finagle without anything getting too stuck.
The roast beef came out, and with Mel’n’Sue in close attendance the tart went in.
35 minutes later, there it was; a treacle tart with an actual genuinely woven lattice. On that basis alone I think I’m safe-ish for week 3.
Which is probably a good thing. I could just show you pretty pictures of a golden glazed tart, with neat slices accompanied by vanilla ice-cream, and I can legitimately claim that it is delicious and rapidly disappearing (note to self; place cake further out of reach, you have long arms).
But we know that the first thing Paul would do is to turn over my slice for inspection.
Yes, the Great British Bake Off shame has come upon me, I have a soggy bottom. It’s a pity really, another five minutes in the oven would probably have done wonders for that last little middle bit of pastry and crisped it up beautifully, and the rest of the pastry has turned out really well. Would my latticing have kept me out of the drop zone? Thankfully we’ll never know and my version of Paul (otherwise known as H) is significantly more susceptible to bribery and corruption in the form of Yorkshire Puddings.