A bakemeat, from the 15th to the 17th century, meant any food cooked in a pastry crust. It might be filled with anything - meat, fish, fruit, vegetables or custard. A well-known 15th-century collection of recipes, Harleian MS 279, instead of being divided into fish, meat, desserts etc. as we would expect today, is organized into three sections:
Pottages – i.e. wet-cooked food (literally, food cooked in a pot), in all degrees of wetness, from broths through stews and compotes to dishes that would set near-solid when cold, such as pease pudding and jellies.
Lechemeats - i.e. anything dry and solid enough to be served in “leches”, i.e. slices.
Bakemeats : the recipes in this manuscript include what we would now call pies, tarts, pasties and quiches. Here are a couple:
A bake Mete.
Take an make fayre lytel cofyns; þan take Perys, & yif þey ben lytelle, put .iij in a cofynne, & pare clene, & be-twyn euery pere, ley a gobet of Marow; & yf þou haue no lytel Perys, take grete, & gobet hem, & so put hem in þe ovyn a whyle; þan take þin commade lyke as þou takyst to Dowcetys, & pore þer-on; but lat þe Marow & þe Perys ben sene; & whan it is y-now, serue f[orth].
Take and make fair little coffins (pastry cases); then take pears and peel them clean, and if they are small, put three in each coffin, and between each pear lay a piece of [bone] marrow; and if you have no small pears, take large ones and cut them up, and so put them in the oven a while; then take your commade* just as you use in doucettes, and pour thereon; but let the marrow and pears be seen; and when it is [baked] enough, serve it forth.
* A mixture of strained eggs, milk, sugar or honey, coloured with saffron.
A bake Mete Ryalle.
Take and make litel cofyns, and take Chykonys y-soþe; o þer Porke y-soþe, and smale y-hackyd; oþer of hem boþe: take Clowys, Maces, Quybibes, and hakke wiþ-alle, and melle yt wiþ cromyd Marow, and lay on Sugre y-now; þan ley it on þe cofynne, and in þe myddel lay a gobet of marow, and Sugre round a-bowte y-now, and lat bake; and þis is for soperys.
A Royal Bakemeat.
Take and make little coffins (pastry cases), and take boiled chickens or boiled pork, chopped small, or some of both; take cloves, mace, cubebs, and chop all together, and mix it with crumbled [bone] marrow, and add enough sugar; then lay it on the coffin, and put a piece of marrow in the middle, and sprinkle enough sugar around it, and let it bake; and this is for suppers.
Adding bone marrow to a bakemeat filling for richness was a standard medieval practice, of which the shredded suet in mincemeat is the last echo. ( I have tried it and it’s delicious.)
Medieval pastry was called paste. (Shakespeare uses “pastry” to mean “room where pastry is made” – when the Capulet household is in a tizzy, we are told that “the Nurse [is] cursed in the pastry”.) It seems mostly to have been shortcrust – there are occasional hints, but only hints, of puff pastry . Some pie crusts were intended to act only as preserving containers for the filling, and weren’t meant to be eaten; these were made with poorer-grade flour, often rye. But many recipes for pastry specify “fine flour”, eggs, butter and other expensive ingredients such as saffron and sugar, and this pastry was certainly meant for eating.