Bourbon Treacle Tart

18 Sep 2012

Tuesday. 9:30am. Phone rings. I answer: Hello?

Caller: I’m afraid your cows are having breakfast in my garden.

Me: Silence

Caller: Can you please come for them?

Me: Of course…gosh, I’m terribly sorry…can I…ummm…offer you some milk for your trouble? 

Caller: See you soon.

Me: Righ

Caller: Click.

Me: t.

And, so are the days of our lives.

But, this post isn’t about cows breaking into other people’s gardens. Of course not. It is about a sweet gooey classic Irish pastry. The more I research traditional recipes that originated in either Ireland or the UK, I am struck by the dimension of flavour that can be achieved with the simplest of ingredients. I like to imagine how some of these historic recipes may have been created. Close your eyes and picture a merry young woman in a pretty pinafore while standing in a kitchen circa 1800s. Or, if it’s easier, perhaps she looks a bit like Miss Patmore from Downton Abbey. She stands staring at a loaf of bread, a basket of eggs, some flour, sugar and jam, like a Master Chef contestant trying to crack what she can create for pudding that night. She decides to meringue the egg whites, crumble the bread and open the jar of freshly potted raspberry jam, and voila, she appoints a beguiling “Queen of Puddings!” The following week, she uses more breadcrumbs and a tin of golden syrup to make a treacle tart. For more variety, she swaps some black treacle from a neighbouring farm to make her treacle tart even darker and richer…macabre, if you  will.  Many years later, if she’s American, she’ll add a drop of bourbon to it…just for good measure.

Treacle tart is basically bread crumbs soaked with golden syrup and/or black treacle (molasses), poured into a sweet pastry case and baked. Apparently, Shoo-Fly pie from the American south was derived from treacle tart. We like to nibble on fingers of it while sipping a cup of strong espresso with a lemon twist. It’s very rich. And, with the black treacle, black licorice notes come through. The bourbon doesn’t make it boozy, it just knocks the sweetness back a bit. Geoffrey prefers the golden-syrup-only version as does Harry Potter.

I was inspired to make this treacle tart by a letter I received from an Irish Country Living reader. She spoke of a treacle cake that I must have mentioned in my column, but could not recall. It could have been my description of the hijinks that ensued when I attempted a steamed pudding made with golden syrup, which came out a bit lopsided (to be conservative). I never did send her a recipe, but I am sharing here and will send her this recipe as well. Here’s hoping she will like it. And hopefully you will too.

Here goes:

Bourbon Treacle Tart


Sweet pastry of your choosing

300g golden syrup (you can order from Amazon or other online retailers)

50g dark treacle (sub molasses)

25g Kentucky bourbon (I use Buffalo Trace, but any bourbon will do the trick)

150g fresh bread crumbs (whatever you have around)

zest of 1 lemon

a pinch of salt


Heat the oven to 160°c.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of about ½cm.

Line a 20cm flan ring or flan tin with a detachable base with the pastry.

Line the inside of the pastry with greaseproof paper, then fill the greaseproof paper with baking beans or rice, making sure they are into the corners, and put it into the oven for 20 minutes.

While the pastry is baking, put the golden syrup and treacle into a pan over a medium-low heat and warm it for about 3 minutes, until it becomes runny and easily pourable.

Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling to the syrup and stir them in.

When the pastry has baked, remove it from the oven, take out the greaseproof paper containing the baking beans and allow it to rest until it is cool enough to handle.

Pour in the filling mixture.

Put the tart back into the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before removing it from the flan ring or tin.

Cut into portions and serve.

A dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream is lovely with this…or just a strong coffee with a twist.

The winner of Catherine Fulvio’s Eat Like An Italian is:  Emily O’ Regan. Congratulations Emily! Please email your mailing address to Thanks to all who left a comment, Catherine’s book is well worth the asking price and is available at Eason’s and on

Slan Abhaile


Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2012





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The Queen of Puddings

18 Aug 2010

I know, right? And yes, it tastes as divine as it looks…especially right out of the oven. Mmmmm.

Last week I was graciously given an old Irish cookery and home economics book that was used here in Ireland during the 1940’s and 50’s.  It is called “All in the Cooking, the Colaiste Mhuire book of Household Cookery”. Steeped in tradition and an absolute true gem to add to my cookbook collection, I had been pouring over it’s pages for days looking for the perfect first recipe to feature on my blog.  There are so many fascinating and historical recipes to choose from; from sweet puddings to savory sauces, a muriad of potato preparations to special “invalid cookery” dishes and the list goes on. But when I came upon the gorgeous and aptly titled, “Queen of Puddings” recipe, in all it’s glory….marked up and checked off as if it had been made a dozen times, I instantly {and giddily} decided that this would be the one.

Using meringue in Irish desserts was very common years ago as eggs were easier to come by than other more elaborate ingredients at the time. The same could be said for using jam and other conserves for sweet treats as well. Whatever the reason, this bread-ish pudding is utterly delicious.

I did a little research to see how many of my Irish friends had ever tried this and recieved a smattering of responses, a few who never had and many whom it brought back the fondest childhood memories. One of which, Tom Doorley, former Irish Times food writer and current Irish Daily Mail food columnist, commented via Twitter that this was a favourite of his when he was growing up, his mother had mostly used orange zest, but he prefers the lemon as prescribed in the forthcoming recipe.

Sweet, but also very light in flavour and texture…the perfect dessert to end a lovely Sunday family lunch or to accompany as part of a girly afternoon tea party or picnic.

I have provided the original recipe and also an updated version with oven temps and ml measurements.


Odlums Recipe:


600ml/1pt Milk

25g/1oz Butter

50g/2oz Sugar

Rind of 1 Lemon

2 Large Eggs (separated)

125g/4oz Breadcrumbs


2 Tablespoons Raspberry Jam


The Egg Whites

Pinch of Salt

125g/4oz Caster Sugar


Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 3. Grease a casserole or Pyrex dish.

Put the milk, butter, sugar, and lemon rind into a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

Beat the egg yolks and pour the heated milk onto them. Put the breadcrumbs into the prepared dish and pour over the liquid.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until mixture is ‘set’ and golden in colour. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until dry looking in appearance. Add the caster sugar and beat until shiney.

Spread the jam over the base then pile on the meringue, return to the oven until ‘set’ and golden brown.

Serve while hot.

Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

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