Sam’s historical recipe corner: Marlborough pie

  • Difficulty 5/10

In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates marlborough pie – a tasty pie that travelled to America in the 17th century

Marlborough Pie. (© Jessica Hope)

English chef Robert May created this apple custard pie when compiling dishes for his 1660 recipe book The Accomplisht Cook. As the English established colonies in the New World during the 17th century, settlers took the pie recipe with them. Since the 19th century it has become a favourite dessert in the US during holidays such as Thanksgiving.

The original recipe includes equal quantities of egg, apple and dry sherry. I used a modified recipe to ensure the right taste and cooking time.



For the pastry

  • Strong bread flour 180g
  • Granulated sugar 1 tbsp
  • Table salt 1/2 tsp
  • Chilled unsalted butter 125g, cut into cubes
  • Ice cold water 3 tbsp

For the filling

  • Bramley cooking apples 1 1/2, (peeled and grated)
  • Lemon juice 3 tbsp
  • Dry sherry 3 tbsp
  • Salted butter 30g
  • Granulated sugar 140g
  • Eggs 3 large
  • Single cream 240ml
  • Ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp
  • Grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp
  • Table salt 1/4 tsp


  • Step 1

    Put the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Work the butter cubes into the flour with fingers until the mixture looks crumbly. Add water to make dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll into a ball and cover in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

  • Step 2

    Pie filling: Place the grated apple in a bowl and stir in lemon juice and sherry. Melt the butter in a pan and add apple mixture and sugar. Allow the liquid to boil. Reduce heat and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cool for 10 mins.

  • Step 3

    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 9 inch pie tin with baking parchment. Roll the dough into a 10 inch circle, 1/8 inch thick. Place in the pie tin and fold excess onto edge of tin to make a crust. Prick the dough and blind bake for 10 mins. Remove weights and parchment and bake for another 5 mins.

  • Step 4

    Reduce oven temperature to 180°C. Whisk together the eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and add apple mixture. Pour the filling into the pastry. Bake for 35 mins until the custard is set but not too brown.

BBC History Magazine team verdict: "The spices really complement the creamy filling."

For more tasty treats from the past, visit our historical recipes page here, including:

Not doughnuts, not profiteroles but semlor - creamy treats to beat pancakes. (Credit: Sam Nott)