EMOTIONAL EATS

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Harry Potter’s Favorite Treacle Tart

I’d been having trouble writing. Big transitions can do that. Distractions, adjustments, change. And, in all (though good to very good) recent life modifications – the risk of getting lost in another. The fear of forgetting what I’m about.

To maintain a firm sense of self, it helps me to go back to the basics of the things I like, the things I love.

Back to history.

Back to Harry.

I’ll do both here.

Each time I reread Harry Potter and The Whichever, I am always surprised to find or, perhaps, remember things I had forgotten. As a food blogger and Potter fanatic, I am thrilled by any food reference, of which there are many – Hagrid’s Rock Cakes, Petunia’s Pudding, Dumbledore’s affection for Lemon Drops and one I recently rediscovered – Harry’s favorite – Treacle Tart.

Naturally, I had to know its history. What’s a treacle? How do you make one? What’s so great about it, that it would be the Chosen One’s chosen one?

Here are my findings:

As it turns out, “treacle” is a general term used to describe any syrupy byproduct that is the result of grinding sugar. Perhaps the most famous treacle (and the one I used in my recipe) is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. So let’s start with him.

In 1881, Scotsmans Abram Lyle and his five sons started a sugar refinery business in London. In those days, part of the process was beating the heck out of large mounds of sugar cane rendering a more manageable sugar situation. A byproduct of the sugar smack down was a thick, sweet syrup. An entrepreneurial man, Lyle refined the syrup and sold it, at first to his workers and later, as the product grew in popularity, to England at large. In 1883 Lyle’s Golden Syrup was packaged in its signature tin with Samson’s bee-filled lion as its mascot. Missing the biblical reference? Don’t worry, the whole thing was lost on Samson’s friends and family as well in the Old Testament.

“And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.” Judges 14:14. 

Apparently, Samson killed a lion, some bees made a hive in that lion, and Samson gathered their sweet nectar. Weird, I know…

What’s even weirder is the multitude of “treacle tart” recipes that look nothing alike. Though they all involve some form of “treacle,” that’s about the only common ground. Dried fruits, spices, bread crumbs, lemon, cream, black treacle, corn syrup (an American abomination…I mean interpretation), molasses – the varieties for filling are seemingly endless.

Though, the most commonly referenced and, more importantly, referenced by British cooking authority Heston Blumenthal is the “tart of bread.” In this rendition, a pastry crust is filled with a mixture of treacle (only Lyle’s Golden will do), breadcrumbs, heavy cream, egg, and lemon.

The result? An intensely sweet, crunchy crusted, gooey interior-ed tart that I think Potter would definitely pig out on or at least find some solace in as he does with this treat in Order of the Phoenix.

I hope you will too.

Here’s my recipe:

First get your crust ingredients out. It’s the usual suspects for pie crust with a few razzle-dazzles.

Place the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cold, cubed butter.

Pulse 12 – 15 times until the butter is the size of peas.

Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. Run the motor until the mixture comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and pat into a disc. Wrap with plastic and place in the fridge to chill for an hour.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface. It should be slightly larger than a 9 inch tart pan.

Press the dough into your tart pan and prick all over with a fork. Blind bake the tart shell by placing a sheet of buttered parchment (butter side down)  in the tart and filling it with pie weights or dried beans. Place in a 375°F oven and bake for 20 minutes until the crust starts to brown.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk together the golden syrup, bread crumbs, cream, egg, and lemon zest.

After 20 minutes, take the crust out of the oven and remove the parchment and pie weights.  Fill with the treacle filling and return to the oven.

Bake for an additional 30 minutes until the crust is a deep brown color and the filling has set. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Cozy up with your favorite Harry Potter book. Mine is the Sorcerer’s Stone…oh, and The Camber of Secrets. Or is it Prisoner of Azkaban? It’s definitely Goblet of Fire. Unless it’s Order of the Phoenix. I’m pretty sure it’s Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows read simultaneously – one in my hand and one as an audio book. Is it overkill to have the movies in the background?

If you can put your book down for a second, enjoy Harry’s favorite treat. Maybe it’ll become yours too!

Harry's Favorite Treacle Tart

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of butter, cold and cubed
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

For the filling:
1 cup of Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I bought it on Amazon)
6 tablespoons of plain bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 egg
the zest of 1 lemon

Directions: 

To make the crust, place the flour, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the cubed butter and pulse 12 – 15 times until the butter is the size of peas.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, heavy cream and vanilla.

With the motor running, drizzle the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until the dough comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough out on a generously floured surface (dough will be sticky!!) and pat into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

After the dough has chilled, roll it out so it is slightly larger than a 9 inch tart pan. Ease it into the pan pressing it into the fluted edge. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place a piece of buttered parchment into the tart shell and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake the tart for 20 minutes until it starts to brown.

While the tart shell is baking, make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the golden syrup, bread crumbs, heavy cream, egg, and lemon zest. Set aside.

When the shell has baked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven and discard parchment and pie weights. Fill the shell with the filling and return it to the oven to bake for an additional 30 minutes until the filling is set and the tart is a deep golden brown color.

Let cool slightly before enjoying with your favorite Harry Potter book or all of them. Or the movies. Yes, definitely those.

Avada Kedavra my day’s, week’s plans, am I right? You know where to find me!

My sources:

British Food: A History – Treacle Tart

In Search of Heston – Treacle Tart 

The Black and White Cookie

During my brief stint as a New Yorker, I became obsessed with the black and white cookie. The delicate crumb and double glaze were only part of the appeal. The rest was my huge (and still thriving) crush on Jerry Seinfeld who made the cookie famous in 1994. In “The Dinner Party,” Jerry munches a black and white while musing about race relations. “If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved,” Jerry says. As a firm believer that baked goods are the key to happiness and harmony, I get it.

But where did this iconic cookie come from? And more importantly, will I ever meet Jerry Seinfeld?

For now, I can only answer the first question but I’ll keep you in the loop of updates on the second as they come to me.

The cookie’s history – like a lot of food history – is a little unclear.

Some argue it was invented in 1902 at Glaser’s Bake Shop in Yorkville, NY. In a 1998 New York Times article “Look to the Cookie: An Ode to Black and White”  by William Grimes, Herb Glaser of Glaser’s bakery remembers the treat being available in the Bavarian immigrant-owned bakery since it’s inception, 96 years ago. If my calculations are correct, that means today the Black and White cookie is 115 years old. Woof – that’s an old cookie!

Others claim that there exists an equally long cookie lineage that traces back to Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica. This theory states that the B&W is a descendent of the “half-moon” cookie, one of Hemstrought’s specialities.

While their place of origin is up for debate, almost all cookie scholars seem to agree that they aren’t even cookies…not really. Instead, the black and white cookie is a cake! A drop cake. It makes sense. The batter is wetter than a cookie’s, the texture more moist. I’d classify them as a cross between cake and cookie. Like a…uh…cakie…or some other clever name I haven’t come up with yet.

So there’s the history but what about Jerry’s request? “Look to the cookie.”

Fast forward to 2017 and, if you ask me, I’d classify these as troubled times. I’d argue we have a president determined to divide us rather than unite us. On the news: Mass shootings. Police brutality. Wildfires in California. Sexual harassment. Global warming. North Korea.

Maybe it’s too much to be solved by a cookie but maybe not. I think what Jerry was getting at in line at Royal Bakery, is that we are at our best when we work together, like the vanilla and chocolate frostings. “Black and white. Two races of flavor living side-by-side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing.” Yes. Harmony. All people, of all sorts, together and moving towards one goal. Wouldn’t that be something?

Are we too far gone? As I sit and eat my cookie down the middle, a little chocolate and a little vanilla coming together, I don’t think so.  Maybe you don’t either.

Here’s my recipe:

These cookies or cakies or whatever you want to call them are super easy and use ingredients you probably already have on hand.

First, cream together the butter and the sugar.

Next add the milk, eggs, vanilla and lemon extract.

Whisk together the dry ingredients then add them, a little at a time, to the wet.

Once the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are combined HARMONIOUSLY, use a 1 1/2-inch scoop to portion the dough. Make sure the cookies are 2 inches apart so they don’t run into each other when baking.

Bake for 18 minutes until lightly golden.

To make the glazes, whisk all ingredients for vanilla glaze in one bowl and all ingredients for chocolate glaze in another bowl. Put the cookies on a rack above parchment and glaze as you see above.

Let the glaze set for 20 minutes.

Isn’t it great? Two different flavors coming together to make a whole that is beautiful and tasty. Look to the cookie indeed!

The Black and White Cookie

  • Difficulty: easy
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Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of cake flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt 

For the vanilla icing:
1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 – 3 tablespoons of water

For the chocolate icing:
1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
3 – 4 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup of cocoa powder

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Measure out all of the cookie dough ingredients.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and lemon extract. Mix until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry to the wet in small batches. Mix until all the dry is incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, portion out the dough onto cookie trays leaving 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes.

While the cookies are cooling make the frostings.

For each individual frosting, place all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until you have two smooth, spreadable, frostings.

Once the cookies have cooled completely, glaze one half in vanilla and the other with the chocolate.

Let the icing set for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

My research:

“The Black-and-White Cookie’s Curious History.” By Robert Sietsema – Eater.

“Look to the Cookie: An Ode to Black and White.” By William Grimes – New York Times. 

Rainbow Cookies

The rainbow cookie’s background is as difficult to trace as the cookie itself is to resist (I just ate six). While some believe the cookie was first invented in Italy and brought to New York, others maintain it is the product of Italian immigrants already in America in the  early 1900s, thus making it an Italian-AMERICAN invention. This more popular version of the story states that Italian immigrants missing home designed a cookie to resemble the Italian flag – green, white, red – makes sense. In addition to having a boatload of vague and difficult to confirm origin stories, the cookie has just as many names. The Rainbow Cookie, The Seven Layer Cookie, The Venetian, The Neapolitan, the list goes on.

Living in New York, frequenting Jewish delis and bagel shops, I had only ever heard it called the rainbow cookie and had wrongfully assumed it was a Jewish creation. As the cookie is usually wedged between hamentashen and rugelah in the display case, it is an easy mistake to make. So how did the rainbow cookie, an Italian cookie, find itself in Jewish company? Again, we are working in the world of guesswork; but, one idea is that the cultural treat transfer is simply the result of proximity. Jewish immigrants and Italian immigrants living in New York were often neighbors with neighboring businesses (bakeries) – again – makes sense.

Although my research left me disappointed by lack of a clearcut origin story, one thing agreed upon across the board is that they are a celebration cookie. Christmas, birthdays, housewarming gifts, new babies, anniversaries – these bright bites are often found on tables of joyous occasions.

Let’s review what we know.  We know they were invented sometime in the early 1900s, probably by Italian immigrants living in America. We know that they are often given as gifts and present at celebrations of Italian-American families. And finally, I know, and I hope you are about to discover, that they are delicious. I mean really delicious.

Here’s my recipe:

Measure out all ingredients – but you know that already.

Cream together butter, almond paste, and sugar being careful to break up all the almond paste. Add the egg yolks and almond extract.

Add the flour.

The dough will resemble sugar cookie dough. It will be thick and sticky.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they form stiff peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the batter a little at a time. Be careful not to deflate them.

Divide the cookie dough into three equal portions and dye one bowl green and another red.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 9×13 inch cookie sheets, line them with parchment paper and then grease the parchment. Spread each color onto its own cookie tray. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Let each layer cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the red and white layers from their pans and transfer to cooling wracks to cool completely. Leave the green layer in its pan to cool completely. Once cool, slather the green layer with apricot jam. Slide the white layer on top of the green and press down lightly. Remove the parchment from the top of the white layer and cover it with apricot jam. Place the red layer on top. Wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap. Place a cutting board or cookie tray on top, weigh down with heavy plates or cans, and place in the refrigerator to press for eight hours or overnight.

Once the cookie has set, trim the edges to make clean lines.

Cover the top with melted chocolate and use a fork to make the wave pattern. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Once the chocolate has set, flip the cookie and repeat the chocolate process. Place in the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.

Cut that big cookie into cute little squares, about 1×1 inches.

There you have it – The Rainbow Cookie. I hope you’ll bring some to your next event and if someone asks, “What the hell is this?” you can tell them…kinda!

Rainbow Cookies

  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients: 
One 7 ounce tube of almond paste
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of almond extract
2 cups of all purpose flour
red food coloring
green food coloring
1/2 cup of apricot jam
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together the almond paste, butter, and granulated sugar.

Beat in the egg yolks and almond extract.

Add the flour and mix until just combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the cookie dough a little bit at a time.

Once the egg whites are incorporated, divide the batter into three bowls. Using the food color, turn one bowl of batter green and another red. Leave one bowl uncolored.

Grease three 9×13 inch cookie trays. Line each with parchment paper and grease them again. Pour each batter into a separate tray and place the trays in the preheated oven.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes.

Let each layer cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the red and white layers from their pans and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Leave the green layer in its pan to cool completely.

Once cool, slather the green layer with apricot jam. Slide the white layer on top of the green and press down lightly. Remove the parchment from the top of the white layer and cover it with apricot jam. Place the red layer on top.

Wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap. Place a cutting board or cookie tray on top, weigh down with heavy plates or cans, and place in the refrigerator to set for eight hours or overnight.

After chilling, remove the cookies from pan and trim for a clean edge.

Melt the cup of chocolate chips and slather half of it across the top of the cookies. Use a fork and make small waves in the chocolate to create a pattern.

Place the cookies in the fridge so the chocolate can set. This will take 10 – 20 minutes.

Once the chocolate is set, flip the cookie over and repeat the chocolate process on the other side.

Return to the fridge to set again.

When you are ready to serve, cut the rainbow cookies into 1×1 inch squares.

They will keep for one week in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

 

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