Saturday March 14 is Pi Day. For those who aren't geeks, Pi Day is so named because March fourteenth 2015 AD (in the US) can be written numerically as 3/14/15. Pi written out to 4 decimals is 3.1415. While such an auspicious occasion can normally be overlooked by even geeks such as me, this particular Pi Day is unique enough that (because of my usual non-planning and hadn't made anything more pie-ish than pizza) I felt it necessary to search for a stash of not-yet-shared pie photos and write something semi-poetic around it. Luckily I never got around to posting this deliciously sweet British tart. "What's the difference between a pie and a tart?" you might ask, Dear Reader. While there are a few minor ones, the main diff is that tarts have straight up-down sides, while pie sides slope.
But I digress ... why will this particular Pi Day astound you?
Pi is an interesting number. The decimal part can go on forever (among other fun facts), but here is the real fascinating part (but first take note of the fact when written out with a few decimals, Pi is 3.141592653). Twice on this very Saturday, once in the morning and again in the evening, you can experience the date/time of 3/14/15 9:26:53. This amazing coincidence won't happen again for one hundred years!
Okay, back to food-related musings. A co-worker and I hosted a couple of Downton Abby events for rabid fans at the local library.
|One of the fascinators created. Some participants were very talented.|
After leading the group in crafting fascinators (those hair thingys that the royal crowd wear to formal occasions), we then conducted a very British tea service, including dainty cakes and pastries, many baked by library staff.
|Tables set for the tea service, artfully arranged by my co-worker.|
Besides giving a short course in proper tea etiquette (no pinkies please), my own baking contribution consisted of treacle tarts. A treacle (pronounced TREE-cull) tart is kinda-sorta like pecan pie, but with bread crumbs instead of pecans. And with a rich buttery, shortbread crust instead of a standard pie shell.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter movies, you may already know about treacle. It is the British generic term for any kind of molasses. The most famous brand is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Larger supermarkets and specialty stores carry golden syrup, but a decent substitute can be made with corn syrup and molasses.
|Salad fork used to show perspective.|
Warning: treacle tarts are delicious, but cloyingly sweet! If you like your teeth as well as those of your guests', slice each tart into quarters and serve 1 piece per guest, graciously allowing them to
Adapted from: Downton Abbey Cooks
Yield: 8-12 small tarts, depending on size of tart pans
1 cup unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp. sugar 1/2 tsp. table salt
6 Tbl. cold unsalted butter, cut up
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 - 2 Tbl. ice cold water
1 1/2 cups golden syrup (or 1 cup light corn syrup mixed with 1/2 cup molasses)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk together flour, salt and sugar. Using a food processor, pulse in butter until mixture resembles coarse sand. Pulse in egg yolks and vanilla just until incorporated. Add water, a tablespoon at a time until a smooth dough is formed. Wrap dough in plastic and chill in fridge for at least half an hour, up to 2 days.
Unwrap chilled pastry and roll out as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into circles that fit your tart tins. Carefully pick up dough circles and place in tins, lightly working dough into the crevices of the tins. Lightly prick dough with a fork.
Bake for 5 minutes. Prick any bubbles that form on the crust, then bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the top is golden.
Heat Golden Syrup in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until mixture thins. Remove from heat; stir in zest, juice, ginger and bread crumbs.
| Two tablespoons of filling went into each tart. And, in case |
you were wondering, the mini-muffin tins are there only for show.
Pour mixture into tins. Note: the filling bubbles and tries to escape during the bake time, so fill only half way up the edges.
Bake until filling is set, about 10-15 minutes. Cool completely before removing tarts from tins.
Cut each tart into halves or quarters before serving.