Harry the VIII’s Shoestrings

These cute little pastries are another recipe from Charles Elmé Francatelli, who was briefly the personal chef to Queen Victoria. I can definitely picture the queen snacking on these!

Francatelli’s recipe doesn’t explain the name of these pastries, other than mentioning that they should look like bows. Presumably they’re meant to look like elaborate bows on shoes. I’m not sure what the connection is to Henry the VIII – although I searched and searched, King Henry doesn’t appear to be wearing shoe decorations in any of his full-length portraits. I did find one portrait in which his brooch and necklace somewhat resemble the shape of the pastries, though. In any case, the decadence of these pastries and the exuberant jewel-tones of the jellies do seem to fit Henry the VIII’s personality, even if they don’t literally look like his shoestrings.

Portrait of King Henry the VIII wearing a jeweled brooch and necklace.
King Henry VIII, c. 1520. National Portrait Gallery.
Original recipe for Harry the VIII's shoestrings.

Harry the VIII’s Shoestrings:

  • puff pastry (I used this recipe, but you could also just use store-bought)
  • 1 egg
  • baker’s sugar
  • red-currant jelly
  • apricot jam
  1. Roll out the puff pastry to about 1/6 of an inch thick. Cut the pastry into 2 1/2 inch squares, and use a small round cutter to cut one circle for each square.
  2. Wet the center of a square, and fold each corner into the center. Place the small circle in the center and press down with your finger to secure it.
  3. Cut a small wedge from each folded side of the square.
  4. Brush all the pastries with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, until the edges start turning golden.
  5. Take the pastries out of the oven, and turn the oven up to its broiler setting.
  6. Sprinkle baker’s sugar over the pastries, then put them back in the oven. Leave them in for about a minute, just until the sugar melts. Be careful not to let them burn.
  7. Once the pastries are cool, use a piping bag to pipe red currant jelly around each side of the pastry. Fill in the space inside the red currant jelly with apricot jam.
Fold corners into center.
Place a circle of pastry in the center and press down with your finger.
Cut a small wedge from each side.
Ready to bake!

Tasting notes:

For my very first time ever making puff pastry, I thought this went pretty well! I did get some nice buttery flakiness. The real flavor in these comes from the jam, though, so it’s important to choose some good ones. I did realize a little too late that my apricot jam was difficult to pipe evenly because it was fairly lumpy- straining the jam first would help to achieve more perfect lines. Still, I’m pretty pleased with how these turned out. The colors are lovely, the pastry is flaky, and the jam is delicious. I think these shoestrings are definitely worthy to grace a queen’s table.


Francatelli, C. (1846). The modern cook. London: Richard Bentley. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=kMlEEwk4zf0C&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA415

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