So there's this legend that Henry VIII loved these pastries called Maids of Honour, and that Anne Boleyn used to bake them for him. And that's one of the things that won Henry's heart.
If that's true, then that's brilliant.
I made these, as a sort of experiment - I mean if they're good enough for our King Henry, they're good enough for us, right? - and opted for the ease and predictability of a modern recipe. If you want to go the full Bake Off and do everything from scratch then there's always Prue Leith's recipe you can make for the full baker's experience.
Me? I just want to whip these up on a Sunday afternoon, using ingredients I can get in my local shop and have them on the table, all warm and lemon-scented, in under half an hour.
I think that the only reason the Tudors didn't use soft cheese from a tub and ready-rolled pastry is because it just wasn't available back then. If it was, they would have used it. That's my story and I'll stick to it, thank you very much. Would Henry VIII have swooned over one of these, getting crumbs all over his death warrants and licking his bejewelled fingers? You betcha.
These are part pie, part cheesecake and part frangipane. Crisp on the outside, sweet - but not too sweet - and soft on the inside. There's the crumble of the pastry, and the soft tang of the sweet lemon curd - the fluffy filling also tinged with a little lemon zest, too. They're filling - you'll want one with a coffee after dinner, or if you're being more authentic, pour yourself a little wine or ale to sip alongside.
Oh - one last thing. I've tried these cold from the fridge, at room temperature and also with the slight warmth of the oven still on them after they'd cooled on the worktop - and I think they're at their very best just warm. But see what you think. I hope you enjoy them!
Maids of Honour
Adapted from a recipe on the Asda website
Makes 12 pies
1 pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (or make your own, from your own favourite recipe)
6 teaspoons good quality lemon curd
25g butter + a little extra for greasing
100g soft cheese, full fat
75g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 level tablespoon plain flour
2 egg yolks (organic is best)
75g ground almonds
1 tbsp full fat milk
You will need:
1 muffin tin or tart tin with 12 holes
First of all, preheat your oven to 200ºC/180ºfan/gas mark 6. Then take out your muffin tray and rub a fingertip of butter around all the indents of the tin to grease it lightly.
Unravel your pastry and cut out holes - I used the open end of a drinking glass - and cut around them with a knife. If any of the pastry rips or breaks apart, just take pinches of the leftover pastry and press them in to cover the gaps. Gently press them into the indents of your muffin tin, pushing the pastry so it makes a shallow 'pie' shape, with the pastry coming up the edges of the indents.
Drop half a teaspoon of the lemon curd into the centre of the base of each pastry tart.
Next, make the filling. Coming the 25g butter, soft cheese, caster sugar, lemon zest, plain flour, egg yolks and ground almonds in a bowl and beat with a fork until it's well combined. Add the milk to loosen the moisture slightly and then stir again. Divide this between the pastry cases in the tin - it will rise slightly on baking, but do full to the top of each pastry case.
Slide the tin into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Once the pastries look golden brown on top and are firm to the touch, take them out and leave to cool.
Enjoy with coffee - or ale or red wine, if you'd like to be more authentic.
Liked this recipe? Let me know what you think, or share a photo of your creations on Instagram and tag me at @lovebritishhistorypics!
You might also like my recipes for Tudor Trifle, Marchpane or these Tudor Stuffed Eggs - you'll find more historical recipes on my Recipe Index here.
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