Hard of hearing?

Say what now?

Fear not, noble subject.  Queen Elizabeth I has the following advice to offer:

“Bake a little loaf of bean flour, and being hot rive it in halves, and into each half pour three or four spoonfuls of bitter almonds; then clap both halves to your ears at going to bed… and keep your head warm.”*

Pfft, doctors.  Forsooth!

Should you care to experiment with the internal application of almonds, as opposed to clapping them over your ears upon retiring, we suggest having a go at making Maids of Honour, as the kitchen of Sir Roger North did at a luncheon for Her Majesty in the summer of 1578.  (They also made ‘Neat’s Tongue Roasted with Rhenish Wine’, but, the test kitchen is fresh out of Neat).

(*sourced from the excellent Horizon Cookbook, ed. by Wendy Buehr)

Maids of Honour

1/2 pint whole milk

2 tablespoons fine dried bread crumbs

4 ounces of butter, melted

2 ounces finely ground almonds

1/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

lemon, zested (i.e. peel of 1 lemon finely grated)

2 dozen round puff pastry shells, 1-2 inches in diameter

powdered sugar

In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the milk and bread crumbs. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine the bread mixture, butter, almonds, sugar, eggs, and zest. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill each pastry shell with a tablespoon of the filling. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve.

Recipe adapted from The Good Fare and Cheer of Old England by Joan Parry Dutton, appearing courtesy of the Gode Cookery Email Group.