Ok, so I don't really know if this was actually what Anne Boleyn's pie would have looked like, or even if she ate pie. But honestly, I bet she did.
In early 1533, Anne talked of a craving for apples, being that she was now pregnant with her daughter Elizabeth. So an apple pie doesn't seem too far out of the equation, right?
The clotted cream in the bowl alongside is a bit (but only a bit) of artistic licence. Clotted cream is thought to have been eaten in Britain since at least the eleventh century, when it was mentioned in sources relating to Tavistock Abbey in Devon - and Thomas Dawson's late sixteenth-century cookbook The Huswife's Jewell mentions clotted cream too, as an ingredient in a cake recipe, which sounds incredible. It's not unbelievable then that she could have eaten apples (or apple pie) with thick, sweet clotted cream in 1533.
Because I wanted to create an apple recipe to honour Anne Boleyn, I wanted to find the earliest concise Tudor recipe I could, as of course, she died in 1536. There are fewer recipes dating from Henry VIII's reign as there are, say, for Elizabeth's at the end of the period - but I found 'To Make Pyes of Grene Apples' in A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye published in 1545, which was close enough for me.
"Take your apples and pare them clean and core them as ye wyll a Quince, then make youre coffin after this maner, take a lyttle fayre water and half a dyche of butter and a little saffron and settle all this upon a chafyngdyshe tyll it be hoate then temper your flower with this sayd licuor, and the whyte of two egges and also make your coffyn and ceason your apples with Sinemone, Gynger and Suger ynoughe. Then putte them into your coffyn and laye halfe a dyshe of butter above them end so close your coffin, and so bake them."
So, In modern terms, we're making a butter-based hot water pastry flavoured with saffron and rose water, and baking the raw apples, seasoned with cinnamon and ginger, inside it. As I understand it, The Tudors wouldn't have used cake tins or pastry cases to mould their pies, and so I decided to keep it rustic and build mine up by hand, too.
The pastry is easy to make - it stands up to quite a bit of kneading and forming and takes minutes to put together. But it isn't solid enough to make a built-up free-form case and then just strew the apples in. I found the easiest and most effective way to work with this pastry was to roll out a circle on the greaseproof lined baking tray and then pile up the apples in the centre, moulding the edges up like you would for a galette. Then I rolled out the circular lid and pinched it to seal around the the edge. That would be the way I'd suggest you make this, if you would like to make your own Tudor pie. And my crust turned out a little thick. I'd take more care it rolling out thinner next time. I think I was being too cautious about handling the pastry. But I needn't have been.
I have said to add more flour if the pastry doesn't seem firm enough. Every time I make this pastry to the same recipe, it turns out slightly different each time. I guess it depends on the heat in the kitchen or the time spend chilling the dough - so a little extra flour might or might not be needed.
The pastry is rich, but it isn't sweet - I couldn't get hold of any saffron (hello lockdown shopping) so went ahead anyway, but if you can, do add the saffron when you heat the water and butter together.
Anne Boleyn's Tudor Apple Pie
85g butter, cut into cubes
a pinch of saffron (optional)
a drop of rosewater syrup
225g plain flour (you might need extra)
pinch of salt
2 eggs (divided)
2 medium to large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
half a teaspoon cinnamon
half a teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
First, make the pastry. Put the butter, water, saffron (if using) and rosewater syrup into a small saucepan and heat gently until warm and melted together.
While that's melting together, sift your flour and salt into a bowl and pour your hot water/butter mixture into it, stirring to combine. Once it's just come together, crack in one of the eggs and stir again. Put to one side to cool. Better still, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
While the pastry's cooling, you can peel and core your apples and chop them into chunks. Don't prep them too far in advance as they'll start to turn brown. Sprinkle them with the cinnamon, ginger and sugar and stir to coat.
Once the pastry is cooled, break off one third of it for the lid, and roll the larger piece out on a floured board, quite thin but not too thin that it will break. If the dough seems too soft, add a little flour and roll again. Roll into a circular shape and lift up onto a greaseproof lined baking tray. Dump the chopped, spiced apples in the centre and start to lift up the dough to form a rough bowl around them. Add the tablespoon of butter on top.
Break off a small piece of pastry you reserved for the lid, and put that to one side. Then roll the rest of the lid pastry out into a circle big enough to cover the pie. Pinch it together, using your thumb and forefinger of your right hand, and your index finger of the left, continuing around to rest of the lid, until it's all fully sealed and pinched together. You can use the small piece of pastry you just broke off to make a pattern to go around the pie - cut out shapes like leaves, flowers, a Tudor rose (I made a little crown by cutting out a star shape and then lifting up the pointy bits). Then make a hole in the top for the steam to escape. I used a chopstick for this, just poking it through the centre.
Beat the remaining egg and brush the pie all over, to glaze.
Slide into a preheated oven at 180ºC for around 30-35 minutes, or until the pie crust is cooked and well-golden. If your sticky-up bits (technical term) of the crown start to burn, just cover the tips with a little foil and slide back into the oven for the remaining time. You might even see the apple juice bubbling up around some of the pie crust on the top. This is a good sign.
Expect the pastry to look quite firm and dark in colour. Serve warm or chilled. Clotted cream is always a good idea.
Made this? Let me know in the comments below or share your photos and tag me @lovebritishhistorypics on Instagram.
You might also like my recipes for Tudor Marchpane and Maids of Honour Pastries - the legend is that Anne made Henry batches of these and that's why they're called Maids of Honour.