Autumn. What a beautiful word, even, let alone the season. I think New York City is similarly synchronized in word and meaning: tall, short, tall, long, spaced, dotted, lined, new, old.
The thing is, I made this treacle tart, and it looked just delicious. I daresay I was proud as I sidled this crispy, Harry Potter- and fall-inspired dessert out of the oven. But, unlike ‘autumn’ and ‘New York City’, its presentation bears little resemblance to tart reality.
Nonetheless, it’s a union of peach, almond, ginger and treacle (minus one chink in the lattice). And I beseech the internet for a recreation that, like autumn and New York (subjectively, bien sur), isn’t all appearances.
I’d always wanted to go to France. Not for some childhood memory of sitting cross-legged in Grandma’s sewing room, requesting the same charming family backstory, wherein some great aunt wearing red lips and stripes once got lost in the south and fell in summer love with a true homme. I wanted to go because I love golden light, and starlight, and books and dessert and trees and, well, love. And that’s ‘Madeleine’ in a nutshell, right?
The web of romance, spun well and wide.
But I never really put much stock in New York City. In the idea of New York. I’m from another world.
Until I’m not!
Well, I can’t change the fact that I grew up where, how and with whom I grew up; it’s def. better to embrace these things than deny or color them. But there’s more to it all, to social power and justice. Perhaps: embrace to understand; understand to be humble; and be humble to live with expressive integrity and love in the truest, challenging senses.
So New York. I went almost on a whim, among other winds. I traveled alone, and I was never alone. I forgot about myself–I watched, listened, waited, went. Then I remembered and ate and danced passionately. And I was off again, among the rectangles and triangles and trees. It’s hard to describe.
It was a brief spell, carrying me from Washington Heights to Bushwick (in terms of futons, via AirBnB, which went wonderfully well). Things–people, cars, trains, pigeons–were direct and demanding but not as self-important as I thought they were supposed to be. Except for the pigeons: I remembered their Parisian cousins.
‘As I thought they were supposed to be’ being key.
Garry Winogrand’s work was exhibited at the Met when I visited (until today, in fact). He had much to do with the sepia tone in which I walked and now write about New York, in addition to the summation of family, friends, solitude, quiet, noise and love that comprise me. And to Edna St. Vincent Millay.
And the clammy, disheveled appearances that I made between the subway and the unsuspecting streets (a.k.a., Touristing by Bette Jane, from trying to find ‘Fashion Week’ to the giveaway response in face of ‘pardon-the-interruption’ speeches for spare change–to be fair, locals and visitors alike humored the latter).
In relation to tarts, and carrying on with my pondering more fruitfully, J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series has, quite genuinely, befriended me again. Movies aside. It’s really incredible reading these books with an eye open for mythology, for theology, for clever (maybe simple? Though I don’t think so) plot devices, for character, for prevailing Western culture, for subtle challenges to it, for simple goodness…soon enough, I dusted off my ‘Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook’ and indulged Harry’s favorite: treacle tart.
However! Treacle is not as obvious in the U.S. as in the U.K. Light molasses, or dark corn syrup? Because ‘golden syrup’ is truly m.i.a. from the fluorescent grocery stores near me. So I settled with dark corn syrup, wishing for the molasses almost immediately. I also opted for oats instead of bread crumbs, because goodness, how dense. My peaches were too ripe, or too small. And my top layer, as previously pointed out, was one row short of really making lattice status. I also think finely grated fresh ginger would have blended more favorably than ground.
Alas, our failures are wonderful, and just as necessary as (if a binary at all)…triumphs. Myes. And autumn and New York City and reflecting on it all.
Almond Ginger Peach Treacle Tart
makes one 9-inch tart
adapted from: Dina Wacholz’s ‘Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook’
total time involved: approximately 1 hour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
- ½ cup finely ground almonds
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) cold butter or margarine, cut into pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 large peach, thinly sliced (I recommend at least two)
- 1 cup golden syrup or dark corn syrup
- 2 cup fresh bread crumbs (6 to 8 slice fresh bread processed to crumbs in a food processor–I opted for 1 cup oats)
- ½ cup chopped almonds
- 1 tsp ground ginger (would prefer freshly grated!)
- 1 egg beaten with tbsp water, for brushing the top
- Combine the flour, ground almonds, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour until the flour is completely coated with fat; in other words, no white powdery flour remains and the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal. Or pulse in a food processor 15 to 20 times until the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal, and then transfer it to a large mixing bowl.
- Beat the egg yolk with the cream and vanilla and pour it into the flour-butter mixture. Toss with a spatula until the dough clumps together, then knead briefly. Form ⅓ of the dough into one disk and the remaining ⅔ of the dough into another. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the larger disk from the refrigerator and sprinkle both sides generously with flour. On a heavily flour-dusted work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch circle. Fit the dough into a 9-inch tart pan and press in the bottom and sides. This dough is very, very hard to work with, but it’s also very forgiving, especially if you use margarine in place of the butter (sacrificing some flavor, but oh, well). You can gather it up, knead it, and reroll several times without its becoming tough. If it gets too soft, put it back in the fridge to firm up.
- Lay the thinly sliced peaches on the bottom of the tart. Warm the golden syrup in the microwave or a small saucepan just until it’s runny. Combine the golden syrup, bread crumbs, chopped almonds, and ginger in a mixing bowl and mix well. Scrape the mixture into the tart shell and spread it evenly over the peach slices with a rubber spatula.
- Remove the smaller disk from the refrigerator and sprinkle both sides generously with flour. On a heavily flour-dusted work surface, roll out the dough ⅛-inch thick. Cut the dough into strips with a sharp knife. Lay half the strips over the tart in one direction and lay the other half over the tart in the opposite direction to form a lattice. Don’t try weaving the strips. Just laying them down will be hard enough, as the strips may break as you move them and you’ll have to keep fixing and patching.
- Brush the strips with the beaten egg and bake the tart for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with blackberry ice cream! It brings out the best in even the densest, silliest of accidents to be called a treacle tart.
From the books: Harry is having a nasty turn. It’s no fun seeing into Voldemort’s mind. About to be really sick, he gets up from the table abruptly. Kreacher, out of newfound concern for his master, offers him treacle tart (see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow, Chapter 12).
P.S. forgive the light leaks if they’re headache-inducive. I’m off-and-on about them; it depends on the picture, of course. Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @bayjane for less harangue-like instances of my ways.