Thursday, November 18, 2010

Treacle Tart: Harry Potter's Favorite......Yes, I get it! I'm a nerd.

©2010 John Houser III
If you are ridiculously obsessed with enjoy the Harry Potter series as I do, then you know that J.K Rowling created lots of imaginative foods for the kids of Hogwarts to eat. Foodstuffs like Chocolate Frogs, Acid Pops, Cockroach Clusters and Nosebleed Nougat are just a few of the sweets enjoyed by our wizarding wunderkind. One item that is often thought of as made up but is actually a real dish (before the books) is the Treacle Tart.

I can hear you now "Treacle? That's totally a made up word?" Nope, it's real alright and its recipe is as old as Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem.

The Treacle Tart's predecessor was a mixture of honey and "medicinal" herbs and spices that the Romans used to fight sickness. Over time, as industrialization took hold, the recipe switched out the honey for the more affordable Treacle. What's Treacle you say? Tell us now goddammit you say? Well, Impatience McGhee, Treacle is a syrup that is left behind after sugar is processed. We call it Molasses here in America.

That's it? Yep. Kind of disappointing isn't it. Treacle sounds like it's something that is made by House Elves in the kitchens of Hogwarts castle, or at the very least an Oompa Loompa or two. But alack, no, it's just fucking molasses.

There is no reason to be disappointed though, molasses makes for great pies. The Shoo Fly Pie is made from molasses and people travel far and wide to find a place that makes a good one. Treacle Tarts and Shoo Fly pies are basically the same thing with slight differences. Let's just say that they're twins and The Treacle Tart is the evil twin.

It is evil because at some point in its development, the Treacle Tart got a bit sweeter with the addition of golden syrup (light treacle) and the subtraction of the regular Treacle. Some of today's modern recipes even leave the regular treacle completely out. This is not the recipe we will be going over today.

I have put golden syrup (light treacle) in my version but used black strap molasses (black treacle) to give it a deeper flavor. Yes. I'm using it because it sounds dirtier than regular molasses, but it also balances out the golden syrup in a way as to not make it cloying. Confused yet? Don't worry I'm here to help. I'll even teach you how to make a sweet pie crust.

*I do want to point out that the photos were taken during the first test run of the recipe. The final product will be a few shades lighter than the tart pictured. I know you are shocked, but I do test my recipes.

Treacle Tart
Recipe makes 2 pies
©2010 John Houser III
Sweet pie dough (Pate Sucree):
12 oz Flour
3 oz Sugar
zest of 1/2 of a Lemon
8 oz frozen butter chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 eggs
pinch of salt

1. In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Pulse a few times to mix together.

2. Add the butter and pulse until the flour mixture looks like cornmeal. See the picture below.

©2010 John Houser III
3. Add the eggs to the flour and pulse until combined. The dough should keep together when squeezed in the palm of your hand. If it doesn't stay together, add a teaspoon of water, pulse, and try again.

©2010 John Houser III

4. Turn out the dough and fold it over a few times to combine.

©2010 John Houser III

5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put the dough into the refrigerator. Let it sit there for at least an hour. While in the fridge, the flour sucks up the egg and hydrates making it sticky and bonding the dough together so when you roll it out later it doesn't crumble apart. Letting the dough sit is important.

©2010 John Houser III

And now, while the dough is chilling in the fridge..........

©2010 John Houser III


28 oz Golden Syrup (I used king syrup, but feel free to find whatever golden syrup you can find)
4 oz Blackstrap Molasses
6 oz Country Bread (baguette, Italian loaf- something dense) cut into cubes
3 Eggs
2 1/2 oz of Cream
8 oz Butter
1 Lemon- zested and juiced

Special Equipment:
Tart Pan
3 cups of dried beans
rolling pin
aluminum foil
bench scraper - not essential but great for dough cutting and clean up

1. Preheat your oven to 325°

2. Put the cubed bread onto the food processor and pulse until your bread crumbs are around the size of peas. Set them out to dry out a little more. There will be smaller and bigger pieces throughout, it's not a big deal.

Add caption

©2010 John Houser III
©2010 John Houser III

4. Now that you're all cleaned up, take the pie dough out of the fridge and pierce the bottom with a fork to create holes so the air will come out and not dome your crust.

©2010 John Houser III

5. As another precaution, rip off two pieces of aluminum foil and crinkle them up and open them back up. Place them on top of your dough as a barrier for the beans that you will use to weigh the dough down and keep it from doming up and ruining your beautiful crust.  

©2010 John Houser III

6. Lay your foil pieces criss crossed over the dough and fill with the dried beans.

©2010 John Houser III

7. Put the crust into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Set it on a cooling rack and don't touch it until it is completely cool. Keep your oven set on 325°.

©2010 John Houser III

8. While the pie crust is baking, melt the butter and cook it until the solids brown. Be careful here and watch the butter and keep it from turning black. Set it aside to cool a bit.

©2010 John Houser III

9. Mix your syrups together then add the warm butter, salt, lemon zest and juice. After they are combined, add the cream and then finally the eggs. Whisk together until homogeneous.

©2010 John Houser III

10. Toss the bread crumbs into the filling and stir until mixed through. Let the mixture sit for ten minutes so the bread crumbs can suck up the filling a bit.

©2010 John Houser III

11. Place your tart pan onto a sheet pan (it might bubble over), and then place your pan onto the top rack that has been pulled out. Fill your tart crust while it is on the rack. These kind of fillings are a pain in the ass to fill and walk across the room without spilling it all down the front of your shirt. Looks lovely doesn't it?

©2010 John Houser III

12. Let it bake for 1 hour. It will look something like this by the way.

©2010 John Houser III

13. Let this cool for at least 20 minutes. I find that it is best served a little warm. When it is warm, it's a bit of a pain to cut, but if you lightly (lightly!) wipe some grapeseed or vegetable oil (something neutral) on the blade of you knife before cutting, it will not get as gummy with treacle. Always wipe your knife off on a damp towel after every cut.

©2010 John Houser III

14. This is not a super sweet pie. I have found that it is complemented wonderfully by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 Dobby and Winky can kiss my ass. They never made a Treacle Tart as good as this. Enjoy muggles!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's the great...... somethin?

 ©2010 John Houser III

So this recipe is something I'm posting because I posted a few pictures on my Facebook and Twitter pages and there has been a bunch of people asking what it was and how to make it. Well dear readers, don't say I never gave you anything.

The pictures in this blog are the originals I took last with my phone week when I made this, so please forgive their quality. They are not my usual step by step pics, but this recipe is so damn easy that there is no need for such rigmarole.

This dish is an interpretation of a general recipe by Dorie Greenspan that is outlined in her new book. She got this recipe from a friend and it's one of those recipes that is super versatile and open to many types of interpretation. I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to make a version of my own.

The original recipe called for a medium to large size pumpkin and that seemed a bit too bulky and precarious for me. All I needed was to pull this big ass pumpkin out of the oven and have it collapse on itself when it was moved for the baking tray to a serving dish. No thanks. So I've scaled the pumpkins down to mini guys that you can find easily in your local grocery mart, or farmers market.

You can use pumpkins or squash, either will be fine in this dish. I used these crazy little guys called red curry squash and a Siamese twin looking butternut squash that we got from our C.S.A. but any regular mini pumpkins or squash would work just as well.

So lets get to it. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Makin Bacon!

There are few things in this world as fun as smoking your own meat..... and then there is making Canadian bacon. Canadian bacon is one of nature's most expensive meats ($25 a pound) and a luxury that most people only have with Eggs Benedict when they go out for brunch. Also known as Back bacon or Irish bacon, Canadian bacon is actually unbelievably easy and cheap to make. Just like our friend Gravlax, Canadian bacon is a great first step into the world of charcuterie. Charcuterie, as previously mentioned, is the art of curing meats or vegetables. As with most curing techniques, Canadian bacon is cured with salt but there are also other flavors you can add that you will not find in the commercially made versions. This recipe will also call for you to order a special ingredient, but don't worry we'll get to that later. It's cheap and it will last forever and that's all you need to know now (hint: It's the Pink Salt).

Unlike Mr. Salmon that we cured in a dry rub, this pork loin will be cured in a brine. At its basic a brine is a saltwater solution that helps preserve meat, fish, or vegetables. When you add spices and herbs to it, a brine becomes an unlimited source of inspiration and an unstoppable way to add flavors to your food. The salt carries the flavors of the herbs and spices into the meat through osmosis (nerd alert!), penetrating deeper into the item being brined than just salting alone. The osmotic process also plumps up the cell wall of the meat with salt water making your meat almost impossible to dry out by over cooking.

There is no crazy technique needed in making back bacon. It takes care of itself and is pretty hard to screw up (unless you let it sit in your brine for longer than described). It really is all about patience. Most of the time, your bacon is will be out of sight and out of mind. The recipe takes 3 days to complete, and while this sounds daunting, it really means nothing more than your meat is chilling in the fridge. Even when it comes to the actual cooking, the pork just sits on your grill and soaks up smoke. You will do nothing more complicated than adding more wood chips to your smoker. So your total active time of cooking will be around 30 minutes over three days and it will yield you over 8 pounds of Canadian bacon. That works out to $200 worth of bacon for basically drinking beer and watching TV. I think that sounds pretty fucking awesome and if you do too then read on and let's get on with the bacon makin.