Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Who knew a maid of honor was also the name of a dessert? According to a note in this recipe, Ann Boleyn’s maids of honor were supposedly enjoying these “delicacies” when King Henry VIII met her for the first time. Since the dessert did not have a name, Henry, being the sharp tack he was, named them Maids of Honor (or Honour, given the parties involved were English). Given those tidbits, these tarts in a puff-pastry shell do not have as much to do with weddings as they have to do with royalty, but roll with me here.
I remember when my sister got married, her mother-in-law shared an interesting tidbit that in long-ago times, the bride and the bridesmaids dressed the same at weddings to confuse any evil spirits that may have been present and meant to do the bride harm. I wonder what people hundreds of years from now will say about our modern day weddings?
In Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s time, Maids of Honor would have been filled with the curds strained from adding rennet to milk. I assume this process would be similar to making ricotta cheese, so that is what I used for the filling. I doubt they would have used puff pastry for the tart shells, but that’s what we get to use today.
The ease and speed with which these puff-pastry tarts came together was a pleasant surprise. Given most bakers will have eggs, sugar, and butter on hand, all you need is a sheet of puff pastry and ricotta cheese to whip up a quick dessert if you are craving a sweet bite. I flavored my tart filling with lemon, both zest and extract, but I see no reason why another flavor of your choice would not work. Until tomorrow, enjoy!
Maids of Honor
- 1 sheet puff-pastry
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- zest of one lemon
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- optional: whipped cream or confectioners' sugar to garnish
- Roll out the puff pastry dough very thinly on a lightly floured surface.
- Use a round cookie-cutter or the rim of a glass to cut out 12 circles.
- Place the circles in the wells of a greased muffin pan. It is best if the circles go all the way up the sides, but partially up the sides is fine.
- Prick each dough circle with a fork, then refrigerate the dough-lined muffin tin while you prepare the filling.
- Beat the ricotta cheese, sugar, lemon extract, and lemon zest until smooth.
- Add the eggs and melted butter and mix until well incorporated.
- Spoon the mixture onto the crusts in the muffin-tin wells.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. The filling should be puffed, golden, and slightly firm to the touch.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool (the filling will sink as the tarts cool.)
- Top with whipped cream or dust with confectioners' sugar to serve. The tarts are best when served warm.
To make whipped cream at home, I typically beat one cup of cream with 1 tablespoon sugar (confectioners' or granulated) and 1 teaspoon of vanilla or other flavor extract.