A bit like Victoria sponge, the date of invention of treacle tart is pinned to the date of its principle ingredient – in this case Lyle’s Golden Syrup. This by product of cane sugar refining was invented by the Eastick brothers in 1883 and marketed in 1885 by Abram Lyle & Sons (which is now combined into sugar behemoth Tate & Lyle. In 2008, Lyle’s Golden syrup enjoyed its 125th anniversary, and was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as having the oldest brand in continuous use.
The brand is quite interesting as it features a lion surrounded by a swarm of bees. This idea is taken from Judges 14:14 in which Samson challenged 30 visiting Philistines to a wager with the riddle:
“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”
The riddle was impossible to solve because it actually depicted an incident in the private life of Samson in which he had killed a lion, and then later encountered its corpse in which bees had set a nest. Samson harvested honey from the hive, hence the derivation of the riddle. The philistines extorted Samson’s wife to assist in solving the riddle, but Samson worked out that they had gone behind his back. Samson still had to pay the wager for the bet, which was 30 sets of clothes. To obtain the clothes, he slaughtered 30 other Philistines and gave the clothes of the dead men to the riddlers. This event was the trigger for Samson’s life-long battle with Israel’s sworn enemy.
Abram Lyle was a keen God botherer, and he used the second half of the riddle, and the image of the bee-blown lion, as the branding for the new syrup.
In his British food history blog, Dr Neil Buttery comments that has identified a several recipes for treacle tart that pre-date the invention of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Unsurprisingly, these tend to use black treacle (molasses), and those date back as far as the 17th Century.
The recipe given here is for the modern golden syrup version. There is only one key tip for success, and that is to use breadcrumbs made from fresh bread. Dried or frozen breadcrumbs are a disaster.
- For the pastry:
- 200g plain flour
- 100g cold butter, cubed
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- Tiny bit of cold water
- For the filling:
- 375g Lyle's Golden Syrup
- 200g fresh breadcrumbs
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 egg, beaten to brush
Start by making the pastry. Combine all the ingredients except the water in a food processor. Slowly add the water until it just comes together. Briefly knead on a floured surface, wrap with cling film and chill for at least 1 hour.
Melt the syrup in a saucepan. Add the breadcrumbs and lemon. Stir until all is combined.
Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Line the pastry case with cling film and fill with baking beans. Blind bake in an oven at 180˚C for 10 mins. Lift out the beans in the cling wrap. Brush the edges of the tart case with the beaten egg.
Pour the filling into the tart case and bake in the oven at 200˚C for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 180˚C for 30 mins until golden – turn the tart around in the oven once during the baking to ensure even cooking. Cool on a wire rack and remove from the tart tin.
This tart is nice if gently warmed and served with vanilla ice cream.