Need A Substitute For Black Treacle? Try This
Black treacle is a delicious, if often expensive, ingredient. You may know it from use in scones, tarts, cakes, and dark breads, as well as sauces and just about anything your heart desires. While its flavour is loved by some, black treacle does have a slightly bitter, burnt taste that some find unsettling. If you want to find a suitable substitute for black treacle with a similar (but less divisive) flavour, there are some good alternatives out there.
The best substitute for black treacle will vary depending on your recipe, though molasses, maple syrup, and dark corn syrup all work well as replacements.
Let’s get into it, shall we? This is going to be sweet! (Okay that one hurt even me – I can’t stop the puns, send help.)
Black Treacle 101
Let’s start with the basics. What is black treacle, what does it taste like, and why would you use it?
History & What Is It?
Black treacle has been around for a while. Prior to the 17th century, black treacle was used as a folk remedy for a number of things, including snake bites and poison, though one questions the effectiveness of this treatment. This is because black treacle is, for all intents and purposes, burnt syrup.
Black treacle comes from the process of refining sugar, using the uncrystallised syrup that remains after cooking. While the term treacle has, in recent years, been used to refer to a number of various syrups, black treacle is most closely related to molasses in both flavour and use. It generally comes as an extremely thick and dark syrup with a slightly bitter and powerful flavour.
There are a lot of things you could use as substitutes for black treacle, though it depends on whether or not you actually enjoy the flavour of treacle in general.
If you do, molasses is by far the best substitute, as it’s extremely similar, often being referred to as the American version of treacle.
If, however, you dislike the taste of black treacle there are many things which could replace it. The two immediate replacements that come to mind are maple syrup and dark corn syrup, though any sugar syrup with a similar consistency can work. Agave is a personal favourite of mine, though I prefer a slightly less bitter form of sweetener so your mileage may vary.
How to Make Molasses
Let’s assume you need to make a recipe involving black treacle. If you don’t have immediate access to treacle, you can make molasses at home. Be warned, however, that molasses takes a long time to make, just like treacle. This is a relatively easy process, but it takes a good eye and strong attention to the burner.
Now there are a lot of things you can use to make molasses. Traditionally you’ll use sugarcane or sorghum, though you can use anything with natural sugars. Surprisingly, that includes beets!Source
Because sugarcane and sorghum are a bit hard to come by in most places, we’re going to talk about using sugar beets or fruit to do so as well:
Begin by preparing your fruit or vegetables. This step will change depending on what you’re using:
- If using sugar beets, wash and trim them. This includes cutting off all foliage and ensuring they’re devoid of any dirt. Finely slice or shred them. You can either use a knife to do so if you’re confident in your knife skills, or just use a food processor like I do.
- Cook the shredded or sliced pieces, covered in water. Cook them until tender on medium heat, stirring to prevent anything from sticking or burning. Strain to make a juice and keep the beets for a tasty snack later on.
- If you want to use fruit I recommend simply using their juice, though you can juice the fruit yourself if you want. I personally enjoy pomegranate molasses, though your choices are as varied as fruit is! Add 100 grams of sugar and 50 mL of lemon juice to 1 litre of juice. This makes the flavour more close to molasses and helps preserve it.
- If you’re using sorghum or sugarcane, you’ll need to buy it prepared – this is not the same as your everyday processed white sugar. Check local markets, especially during late September and October, as this is the harvesting season. You can prepare it yourself, but it takes specialized tools that most people simply don’t have.
Strain whatever juice you’ve chosen to use (sorghum, sugarcane, fruit, etc.) to ensure there aren’t any bits left in the juice.
Cook your juice until it’s darkened and thickened to your liking. Taste to make sure it’s where you want it.
- Sorghum or sugarcane will take upwards of six hours, while fruit or beet juice will take roughly 1-2 hours.
Cool and store in a mason jar. This will keep for a long time as long as it’s not exposed to heat or moisture. Be sure to heat the mason jar before pouring hot molasses inside – if you don’t the glass will shatter.
What to Do With Treacle?
Now onto what you can do with your treacle substitute! Beyond baking, I have a personal favourite thing to do – cocktails! A personal cocktail I enjoy is very easy and will be tasty as all getout. It’s a spin on the “Mahogany” cocktail, which is a favourite of both Cornish fishermen and Canadian lumberjacks – really, it’s a working man’s drink.
- Combine two parts gin (I prefer a non-dry gin here) with one part treacle.
- Dry shake (shake without ice).
- Add half of one orange’s zest, shake with ice.
- Strain, garnish with a peel of orange and a shake of nutmeg and/or cardamom.
I personally love the taste of this same cocktail, but made with bourbon. The smoky, hardy flavour of bourbon is brought out by the slightly sweet, balancing bitterness of treacle. If you choose to go this way, it’s a twist on an old fashioned – though I would do away with the cherry.
Black treacle is known for its slightly bitter and sweet flavour, as well as its syrupy consistency. When added to breads, it can add a nice, dark colour and a hint of sweetness that’s accompanied by a balancing bitterness. It can be used in scones, cakes, and all sorts of other baked goods to the same effect, and works wonders in particular cocktails.
If for whatever reason you don’t have access to black treacle, you can buy (or make) molasses as a wonderful substitute. Other good replacements include dark corn syrup for a cheap remix, maple syrup for a sweeter and less bitter flavour, and agave for lighter flavoured dishes that would be overtaken by black treacle. Now go wild!