Today: The secret to taming quince? Bake it into a tarte tatin.
Quince are funny little fruit. They look a bit like lumpy pears -- and depending on when during their season you find them, they can be light green and covered with a thin layer of fuzz or bright yellow and smooth. Uncooked, their perfumed yellow flesh is hard and acidic, they have tons of seeds, and they are pretty inedible. But when they are peeled, cored, and cooked something amazing happens.
More: Curious about this fickle fruit? Get the lowdown on quince.
The quince soften, turn a lovely rosy red color, and can be used in a number of preparations: from preserves (like Spanish membrillo to serve with cheese), to desserts, or simply poached and eaten with yogurt or ice cream. Also, their sweet floral fragrance makes excellent natural air freshener -- and I often buy a couple just to have around to sniff every time I walk by. Here they are simmered with a bit of honey and vanilla bean, then topped with puff pastry and baked to make a quince tarte tatin, a riff on the classic French apple tart that makes the perfect end to a fall meal.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Quince have a tendency to brown very quickly once cut, so make sure to put them directly into the poaching liquid as soon as they are peeled and cored.
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar or honey
One lemon, cut in half and juiced
1 vanilla bean, split
6 to 8 quince, depending on size
Add the sugar and water to a pot and cook gently over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add in the lemon, lemon juice, and vanilla bean. While the liquid is heating, peel, quarter and core the quince, making sure to remove any of the fibrous core. Once cut, put the quince directly into the simmering poaching liquid and gently cook until tender. The quince quarters should be fully submerged in the liquid while cooking to avoid browning. This can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the size and density of your fruit. Cool and store the quince in the syrup for up to one week.
Quince Tarte Tatin
Adapted from David Lebovitz. Serves 8 to 10.
I like to make my own puff pastry because it's nice to have around for spontaneous baking around the holidays. If you’d prefer to buy frozen puff pastry, that works too. Just make sure to buy one that uses butter, not shortening or hydrogenated oil. Dufour brand is nice. If puff pastry isn’t your style, any single pie crust recipe will do the job just as well.
1 pound puff pastry; I use this recipe
4 poached quince, cut into quarters
1 1/4 cups reserved and strained quince poaching liquid
Preheat oven to 375° F. Pour the quince poaching liquid into a 9- or 10-inch skillet and reduce the liquid over moderate heat until thick and syrupy. You should have about 1/4 cup liquid left in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and line with the poached quince quarters, rounded side down. The quince should fit snuggly in the pan as the slices will settle while cooking.
On a lightly floured surface, gently roll the pastry into a circle roughly the size of your skillet. Lay the dough over the fruit and tuck in the edges.
More: Craving more tarts? Make it a meal.
Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden brown and fully cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a rack. Then, carefully invert the tarte onto a rimmed serving dish. If any of the quince quarters stick to the pan, just gently remove them and put them back into place on top of the tarte. Serve the tarte warm, the day it’s made, with a bit of creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream if desired.
Photos by Yossy Arefi