In British cooking, “treacle” is a general reference to sugar syrups. In theory, molasses and corn syrup could be considered “treacle”, but in realistic terms it refers to Lyle’s Golden Syrup or their Dark Treacle.
One problem is that Lyle’s Golden Syrup is achingly expensive in the USA, and dark treacle is basically unheard of. (Many recipes will suggest substituting molasses for black treacle. This will work on the science of cooking, but not at the flavour level: dark treacle is different to molasses.)
As usual, the answer is “make it yourself”.. but you wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t an option, would you 🙂
Here I will show you how to make both Golden Syrup and Dark Treacle. The only difference is in the technique.
Get a deep pot and put the first two ingredients into it. Apply medium low heat and use a candy thermometer to track the temperature until it hits “hard crack”, 150C/300F. You do not need to stir this mixture, it will take care of itself.
Once the syrup hits the target temperature take it off the heat, remove the thermometer, and add 600ml / 1.25 US pints boiling water slowly, stirring all the while as the water will boil up. Once all the water is added, add 1 kg / 2.2lb of sugar and 1/4 of a lemon (or 1.5 tablespoons bottled lemon juice), squeezing the lemon into the pot before you drop the wedge into the pot.
Bring the syrup back to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes. After that, allow the syrup to cool slightly and strain the lemon bits through a sieve into hot mason jars. One batch should make about 1 quart of golden syrup.
Welcome to Golden Syrup’s evil brother, Dark Treacle (cue thunder).
You start the same as Golden, with the first two ingredients into the deep pot. You will not need the thermometer as we are going way beyond the point most candy thermometers can go!
Apply medium low heat and watch the sugar solution. You will need to watch carefully, because you are going to basically burn all this sugar. Keep watching and smelling as the solution goes through the colour stages, from golden to brown to mahogany almost all the way to black. You will see smoke coming off the sugar, which is the point at which your nerves will start to twitch: you need to get ALL this sugar solution to black, while stopping short of a fire in the pot!
Once the starter solution is jet black, take it off the heat.
DANGER: THIS SUGAR SOLUTION IS WELL IN EXCESS OF 200 CELSIUS / 400 FAHRENHEIT SO HANDLE WITH CARE
Allow the boiling syrup to cool down slightly for a minute or two, then add 500g / 1.1lb of sugar. The sugar syrup will want to seize up, but this is OK. Now add 250ml / 1 cup of boiling water and, as before, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon OR add 1.5 tbsp lemon juice to the mix. Bring the dark mess to a boil then reduce to a simmer for between 30 and 45 minutes.
This is where the technique gets tricky. With the dark molasses, you will need to test the syrup with the jam test: take a small amount of the treacle (a teaspoon) and drop it onto a very cold plate or saucepan lid. Once it has cooled down, give the treacle a poke with the spoon: if it’s too liquid, it needs more cooking. If it’s too thick (sets solid) add about 1/4 cup boiling water, stir well to integrate, then do the test again.
How can you tell if the consistency is right? It should be about the same texture as corn syrup: thick and syrupy, but not set solid.
Once you have made Golden and Dark syrups, what can you do with them? Well, they both go great on pancakes… but I have a better use for them. Watch this space!