Individual puff pastry tarts filled with a soft confection, usually with citrus and almond flavours.
An adaptation of traditional English cheesecake, the filling is most commonly made up with soft cheese, but might instead use soaked breadcrumbs or, in T.F. Garrett's 'Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery' (1892), mashed potato.
Maids of Honour - from the 1892 receipt
Original Receipt from The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery by TF Garrett, 1892
Maids of Honour Tarts
Beat the yolks of six eggs in a basin, mix in 10oz of powdered sugar, 1oz of bitter and 2oz of sweet almonds, blanched and pounded, the finely-grated rinds of four lemons, the strained ice of two, and two large potatoes, boiled and mashed. Put1/2 gall.of milk into a basin with a piece of rennet, and let it remain until it curds; place the curds in a sieve to dry, crumble up, pass them through a sieve into a basin, and mix in 9oz of warmed butter. Work well until the mixture is quite smooth, then add the sugar preparation and 4 tablespoons of brandy. Put the mixture into tartlet-pans lined with rich puff paste, and bake in a quick oven until of a good colour; take them out, turn the cheese-cakes out of the pans, and serve either hot or cold.
Original Receipt from Richmond Council
1 pint of fresh milk
1 teaspoon rennet
1 standard egg
1oz ground almonds
1/2 level teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1oz castor sugar
1 small (7oz) packet of frozen puff pastry, just thawed
1/2 oz currants
Make junket, using milk and rennet, but omitting sugar, as directed on bottle of rennet; leave in a warm place to set (if it does not set, move to a warmer place). Pour into a large plastic sieve placed over a basin; cover and leave in a cool place for at least 4 hours or overnight. This should make 1 quarter pint curds; discard whey.
Prepare a hot oven (425 degrees F, Gas Mark 7). Press curds through sieve into a bowl; melt butter.
Beat egg and add to curds, together with ground almonds, lemon rind, sugar and butter. Mix well.
Roll out pastry thinly on a lightly floured board. Using a cutter1/2 inch larger than top measurement of tartlet tins, cut pastry into 12 to 15 rounds. Place rounds centrally over tartlet tins and ease into tins; press pastry well into base of tins, but avoid stretching pastry or tarts will become oval on cooking.
Place a teaspoonful of filling into each pastry case; sprinkle a few currants on top of each.
Bake just above centre of oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until pale golden brown.
Leave in tins for a few minutes, then lift out and leave to cool on a wire rack. Serve cold.
There are assorted stories of Maids-of-Honour having been invented by, or for, Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn or Catherine of Aragon, or Elizabeth I, that the receipt is kept in an iron box in Richmond Palace, that the maid who invented/discovered/stole them was imprisoned for life, and so on. In the same sort of way, the present 'Original Maids of Honour' Shop in Kew, splendid as its tarts may be, is in fact at least the third 'Original' Maids of Honour Shop.
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