Recipe from Retro Cakes and Cookies by Wendy Sweetser (CICO Books, 2013)
Photography by Stuart West
These almond and lemon tartlets, with their crisp puff pastry crust, have been a teatime favorite in Britain since Tudor times. They are best eaten on the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container for 2–3 days
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 15–20 minutes
- 11oz (300g) puff pastry
- Flour, for rolling out
- 1⁄2 cup (115g) cottage (curd) cheese
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus extra for dusting
- 1 extra large (large UK) egg
- Generous 1⁄2 cup (115g) soft light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons light (single) cream
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 3⁄4 cup (75g) ground almonds
- 3 tablespoons (25g) raisins
- Confectioners’ (icing) sugar, to dust
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
2. Roll out the pastry very thinly on a lightly floured surface, and stamp out 12 rounds using a 31⁄4-inch (8-cm) plain or fluted pastry cutter, stacking the trimmings on top of each other, and re-rolling as necessary. It is important not to press the pastry trimmings together in a ball, as you’ll lose the layers when the pastry bakes, and it will be tough, rather than light and flaky. Gently press each pastry circle into a 23⁄4-inch (7-cm) diameter cupcake pan (tin).
3. Whisk the cottage (curd) cheese, lemon zest, egg, brown sugar, cream, milk, and almonds together in a mixing bowl until evenly combined. Stir in the raisins.
4. Spoon the mixture into the pastry cases, and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the filling is well-risen, golden brown, and feels firm to the touch. Leave the tarts to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before carefully lifting out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Dust with confectioners’ (icing) sugar and a little extra lemon zest before serving.
Variations Instead of lemon zest, the tarts could be flavored with orange zest, or a mix of the two, and the raisins replaced with dried currants, or golden raisins (sultanas).
Did You Know? -- There are various stories as to why these little cheese tarts are so named, and one legend has it that King Henry VIII dubbed them “Maids of Honor” after seeing the ladies-in-waiting attending his first queen, Catherine of Aragon, eating the sweet pastries at Richmond Palace. He was so taken with the pastries, that he imprisoned the cook, and demanded that she only bake them for guests of his choosing. She was ordered to keep the recipe secret, and reputedly even locked it up in an iron box at Richmond Palace.