Maids of Honour

These little cheesecakes originated in Richmond, Surrey. The story goes that when Henry VIII lived in Richmond Palace, he was inspecting the kitchens and saw someone trying a new recipe for cakes. He tasted these and liked them so much that he asked the maid of honour to continue making the cakes. Eventually, the secret recipe was given to a baker who had a shop in Richmond and so Maids of Honour cakes became famous. Although the old shop was destroyed, the recipe was passed on to another baker and this shop is now in Kew, Surrey.

8 oz. plus

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

8 oz. flour

½ teaspoon salt

5 fl. oz. iced water

4 oz. curd cheese

4 oz. butter

4 oz. sugar

4 egg yolks medium-sized potato, cooked and mashed

1 oz. ground almonds grated rind of

1 lemon

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

3 fl. oz. brandy

With the 2 teaspoons of butter, grease 12 patty tins. Set aside.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl. With a knife, cut 2 ounces of the butter into the flour.

With your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and mix to a firm dough. Cover the dough with greaseproof or waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.

Put the remaining butter between two pieces of greaseproof or waxed paper. Beat it with the back of a wooden spoon or mallet into a flat oblong about f-inch thick.

On a floured board, roll out the dough into a rectangular shape J-inch thick. Place the oblong of butter in the centre of the dough. Fold the dough over it to make a parcel. Cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.

Place the dough, with the folds down-wards, on the board and roll it out away from you into a rectangle. Fold the rectangle in three. Turn so that the open end is facing you and roll out again. Cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes. Repeat this rolling and folding twice more.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 400°F (Gas Mark 6, 200°C).

To prepare the filling, in a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the cheese, butter and sugar with a wooden spoon.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk or rotary beater until they are thick and creamy. Pour the egg yolks into the cheese mixture and mix well. Add the potato, ground almonds, lemon rind, nutmeg and brandy. Stir well until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Set the filling aside.

On a floured board, roll out the dough until it is about J-inch thick. With a 4-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into twelve circles. Line the bottoms and sides of the prepared patty tins with the dough circles. Fill each dough case with a spoonful of the filling.

Place the patty tins on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Carefully remove the cakes from their tins and set aside on a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Vanilla

Vanilla is a perennial climbing orchid which ivas first cultivated in central America. The plant produces pods which are either dried or made into a liquid extract. Pieces of vanilla pods may be infused into milk in the making of cakes, custards and icecreams. Vanilla pods can be used several times and they should be washed and dried each time. Vanilla extract is more concentrated and should be measured out in drops.

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