We’re big on Valentine’s Day this year, so I hope you are, too. To begin: Bonnie S. Benwick has assembled a trio of special dinner menus for cooks who want to sidestep the V-Day restaurant rush. Our newest columnist — cookbook author and culinary genius Dorie Greenspan — guides you through making, baking and decorating big heart-shaped cookies perfect for sharing. (They’re terrific, by the way.) Wine columnist Dave McIntyre dispenses Valentine’s Day wine tips; Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan gives us a rose-imbued cocktail. And Becky Krystal looks at local craft chocolate makers and offers tips on how to taste chocolate bars that would make nice little valentine treats.
All that hearts-and-flowers stuff might make you a little lightheaded, in which case you’ll welcome a nice, earthy braise. Author and cooking teacher Molly Stevens writes about the art of braising vegetables and gives us five great recipes to practice on.
Stevens will be a guest on today’s Free Range Chat, as will Marisol Slater, owner of the Cocova chocolate shop in Dupont Circle. It starts at noon and lasts but one brief hour, so submit any questions early. There’s bound to be a glut of q’s and a slew of leftovers — like this one, from last week’s chat:
I am a big fan of the British TV show “Last of the Summer Wine.” Every now and then they mention treacle tart. I would love to taste one, but I have never seen it sold in bakeries or pastry shops in the States. What is it? What recipe do you recommend I use that would be as authentic as possible? It does not have to be fast and easy to make; I’d rather get a better product than cut steps here and there.
I’m pretty sure that question was aimed at two of last week’s chat guests: Chetna Makan and Richard Burr, contestants on BBC’s “The Great British Baking Show.” But time ran out, so I will tackle it in their stead.
What is it, you ask? It’s a British pastry whose closest relative here in America would probably be chess pie. Or shoo-fly pie. Or maybe, as some have noted, pecan pie, but without the pecans. In a word, sweet. Or in two words, REALLY sweet.
The “treacle” is golden syrup, and the product pretty much everyone uses is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. The same company also makes a dark, or black, treacle, which is closer to what treacle tarts historically were made of before the invention of golden syrup in the late 1800s. Some cooks include a small hit of the black treacle, which tastes a little like a bitter molasses, along with the golden syrup, which is somewhat similar to light corn syrup.
Had the baking show contestants been able to answer your question, they might have pointed you to recipes by the show’s two esteemed judges. Mary Berry’s Treacle Tart has just seven ingredients; Paul Hollywood’s recipe is a bit more complex. Both judges top their tarts with a lattice crust, which seems to be somewhat of an unusual flourish; tradition doesn’t call for it. A more classic version of the recipe can be found in the Guardian; it presumes to be “the perfect treacle tart.” Frankly, it’s the one I’d use.
Try any of the three recipes and be ready to convert grams to ounces, millimeters to inches and Fahrenheit to Celsius.
By the way, Lyle’s Golden Syrup used to be hard to find but these days is available in many supermarkets. I’ve gotten Lyle’s Black Treacle at Classic Cigars & British Goodies in Arlington; if you buy it, try our recipe for another traditional British treat, Black Treacle Toffee. Not as sweet as the tart, but right up there.