This is the second Avid Baker's Challenge of 2020 and I really learned a lot from making these little pastry cups of goodness. Notice the English spelling of 'honour' on these Maids of Honour pastries. That's because it's a hoity-toity recipe by Prue Leith from the Great British Bake Off website.
The first thing to learn is making your own curd cheese. Wait - you don't want to make your own curd cheese? The instructions are quite good and basically you get whole milk and boil it lightly. Then you take it off the stove, add vinegar and salt, and let it sit until it 'curds up'. Strain it and there you go - curd cheese.
Easy and interesting, but you can also use small curd cottage cheese or cream cheese to save washing pots, strainers, and bowls.
The rough puff (made by grating the butter instead of using a slab of butter as in regular puff pastry) is time consuming because of the 3 different roll out, fold, and refrigerate sessions (60 minutes total).
OK, here's an easy one - the lemon curd. It takes very few ingredients and just a little muscle to whisk it in a pan over boiling water. The end result is an outstanding lemon curd that I could drink with a straw. All of it. I really like the lemon curd.
Besides the lemon curd, there's a filling made with the homemade curd cheese. The pastry is pre-baked and cooled. Then you put a dollop of lemon curd, pour a little filling in, and bake until set. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and you've got a special treat.
I tried to use a pretty little design stencil for the powdered sugar, but it came out ugh-ugly, so I just sprinkled powdered sugar over them. I think they look quite pretty.
I'm adapting the recipe for these Maids of Honour a little. They need more of that wonderful curd, so the recipe below reflects double what they call for in the original. Trust me - you'll want to do that.
Don't let the European weights and measures throw you off - just get out that handy-dandy kitchen scale we've been talking about for the last several months.
These Maids of Honour will be great for a fancy little dessert after that special dinner. Crispy layered puff crust, lemon curd and a cheese-cakey (but not as sweet) filling. These are quite the treat and interesting to make!
- Homemade Curd Cheese:
- 900 ml (30.4 oz) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 45 ml (1.5 oz) white wine vinegar
- Rough Puff Pastry
- 200 g (7 oz.) flour, plus extra for dusting
- pinch of salt
- 35 g (1.23 oz) cold butter, diced
- 80 g (2.8 oz) butter, frozen
- Homemade Lemon Curd
- finely grated zest and juice of 2 medium lemons
- 100 g (3.5 oz) sugar
- 50 g (1.7 oz) butter, diced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Filling (using the curd cheese from above)
- 200 g (7 oz) curd cheese
- finely grated zest of 2 medium lemons
- 100 g (3.5 oz) sugar
- 10 g (.35 oz) flour
- 2 large eggs
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- For the Curd Cheese: Pour the milk into a large pan and add the salt. Stir and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Leave pan for 7 minutes without stirring. Put a sieve lined with a damp muslin cloth or cheesecloth (I used a damp paper towel) over a large bowl and pour in the milk/curd mixture. Let it drain for at least 30 minutes, until cool. Pour the remaining curd cheese into a bowl, scraping down the cloth to get all of it. It will be just at 200 gm of cheese.
- For the Rough Puff Pastry: mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Rub in the chilled butter (not the frozen butter) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (ish). Gradually add 6 to 8 tablespoons of water - just enough to form a kneadable dough.
- Lightly flour your counter or marble and roll out the dough to a rectangle measure 30x12cm (about 12x4.75") with one of the long sides facing you. Grate half of the frozen butter over two thirds of the dough, starting from the right to left. Fold over the right edge of dough two thirds to the left, then fold the left side up over the first fold, as if you were folding a letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll it again into a similarly-sized rectangle.
- Grate the remaining frozen butter over the right two thirds of the dough as in the first instruction, and fold again (two thirds from right to left; one third from left to right, like a letter). Wrap in cling wrap and leave it to rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Repeat the rolling and folding of the pastry twice more (without any more butter), each time wrapping in the cling wrap and leaving to rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- While the dough is on it's last rest, make the Lemon Curd: Put the zest and juice from one lemon, the sugar, and butter in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water (or a double boiler). Stir constantly, until the butter has melted, then slowly drizzle in the eggs while whisking vigorously. There may be a few white pieces from the egg, but they'll get sieved out. Whisk the mixture constantly for 7-8 minutes, until thickened like custard. Pour the cooked curd through a sieve into a small clean bowl (to remove the zest and bits), then set aside to cool.
- Heat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Lightly flour your surface again and roll out the chilled pastry to about 3 mm. (.12") thick. Make sure you can get 12, 4" circles out of the rolled out dough - if not, it's not thin enough - keep rolling (you'll have scraps after 8 or 9 of the circles are cut - just gently reroll out and finish cutting the circles).
- Put the circles into the 12 muffin tin holes, pressing lightly up to the top of the cup. Cover each with a 3" square of parchment paper and put beans in each hole to weight them (so the pastry doesn't puff up too much). Bake for 18-20 minutes, then remove the pan to a rack. Carefully (it's hot) remove the paper and beans and set the muffin tin aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F).
- For the filling: While the pastry is baking, place the curd cheese, lemon zest, sugar, flour, and eggs into a medium bowl and whisk together (or better yet, use a hand mixer) until smooth.
- Place 1 ½ teaspoon of the lemon curd into the base of each pastry case, then carefully pour the filling into the cases until they are fairly full, but not overflowing the top of the pastry. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until almost set (barely wiggly). Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack and allow the tarts to cool.
- Sift powdered sugar over the top of the completely cooled tarts.
Tips and Stuff:
Read the recipe thoroughly, then get all your equipment out and ready to use.
I used apple cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar and it worked great.
If you don't want to make cheese curd, you can substitute mashed small curd cottage cheese or softened cream cheese. I urge you to make the lemon curd from scratch, though.
Be careful when grating the frozen butter - it gets slippery and you don't want to scrape your little fingers. Chop off a slightly bigger slab than you need so you'll have a little left after grating, and you don't have to grate to the nub.
Do not skip the four rolling and three resting periods. This is going to laminate your dough like puff pastry should be. Be gentle with the dough as to not mush the lamination together (or it might be tough after baked).
You'll have a little leftover lemon curd. You're welcome.
Make sure the cheese curd filling is very smooth before pouring into the muffin cups. It will be fairly thin.
DON'T forget to lower the oven temperature immediately after you finish baking the pastry. Give it 10 minutes to get back down to 350°.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g