Saturday, May 9, 2009
I was quite excited to find some gorgeous quinces at Harris Farm last week. I went on a shoe-shopping mission and found myself more thrilled to find fruit than boots. I had heard a lot about them and seen them used in very interesting ways, but had never eaten or tried cooking with them before. Now that they are finally in season I jumped at the chance! Quinces are related to apples and pears, but cannot be eaten raw as they have a hard texture and sour taste. However, after a long cooking time, they turn a beautiful rosy red colour, and can be used in many dishes from jams and marmalades to tart tatins, ice creams and cakes.
I decided to try a recipe I’d had my eye on for some time – the apple and quince tart from Kate Zuckerman’s beautiful book ‘The Sweet Life’, still one of my very favourite dessert books. I was tempted to make the pastry in the food processor but decided to do it by hand for a change and it turned out wonderfully. The pastry is buttery and flaky but not too sweet and it complemented the fruit filling perfectly. The quince is cooked slowly on the stove with butter and sugar, and the finished tart is layered with thin slices of apple and drizzled with brown butter before being baked.
The finished tart looked beautiful and tasted even better. The beauty of this dessert is in the simplicity of its flavours – the fruit filling isn’t overcomplicated with other ingredients and allows fruit to take center stage and shine. Kate Zuckerman is right, this tart is just perfect for autumn weather. I think quinces are now my new favourite winter fruit (sorry pears, sorry rhubarb) and I look forward to using them in other ways in the future.
Apple and Quince Tart
Recipe from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman
• 2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 170g butter, chilled
• 3 large quince
• 55g butter
• ½ cup sugar
• 4 medium apples, I used Granny Smith
• 55g butter
• ¼ cup sugar
1. To make the tart dough, combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter forms pea-sized lumps and is coated in flour. Add 4-5 tablespoons of iced water and pulse again. The mixture should not come together at this point, but look dry with a few moist clumps.
2. Empty the contents onto a bench top and, using the heel of your hand, smear the butter with the dry ingredients to marble the butter into the dough. You might need to repeat this process a few times before the dough comes together. Once the dough has formed a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and press down to form a flattened disk. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.
3. To make the quince filling, peel, core and chop the quinces into 1cm pieces. Combine chopped quince, butter and sugar in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes to make sure that it’s not sticking to the bottom. Uncover, turn the heat down to low and cool until all the liquid is evaporated and the quince is tender and darkened in colour, 40 minutes. Remove the quince from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. The quince can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out into a circle approximately 3mm (1/8inch) thick. Line a removable bottom tart pan with the pastry and trim the edges. Freeze until needed.
5. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Peel, core and quarter the apples. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice the apples as thin as possible and set aside.
6. Remove the tart dough from the freezer. Scrape the cooled quince into the shell and distribute it evenly on the bottom. Begin layering the apples around the edge, overlapping each other by half until the tart is fully covered.
7. In a small frying pan or saucepan, brown the remaining butter and gently drizzle over the apples. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sugar on top.
8. Place the tart on a cookie tray and then bake for 70 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180°C (350°F) and bake until the apples have caramelised and the crust has browned. Allow the tart to cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before removing the metal ring. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. This tart is best on the day it’s made.