Apples, pears and quinces never fail to catch me off guard when they come tumbling into season each August, interrupting my summer fruit frenzy. Stone fruit, figs, and berries can’t hang around in cold storage all winter long the way pomes can, so I try to have as much fun with them as possible during their short season. But it means I often miss out on the more delicate of the fall fruit. This can’t be a quincidence. (Sorry – couldn’t help myself..)
Luckily my friend Amelia was using her noggin last month, when the first quinces were ripe. She peeled, cored, and sliced the little buggers and roasted them with vanilla, cardamom, wine, and honey after a recipe I adapted (and posted here) from Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts a couple of years ago.
In order to be edible, quince need to have the crap cooked out of them but when they do, they turn pink and taste like magic and fairytales perfumed with roses and tropical fruit. We ate a bunch slathered on crackers with Cowgirl Creamery’s Mount Tam cheese, and she kindly left me to my own devices with the rest of the jar.
In San Francisco, we don’t have trees that turn color, or frost that coats the ground. The way I know that Fall is here is that I no longer crave nectarines or zucchini, even though they look as colorful and shiny as ever. Instead I start dreaming of baked apples, crispy potatoes, and butternut squash soup.
Luckily, the quince keep well in their syrup for a month or two. My stomach finally got the Fall memo last week, and I whipped up this tart of pureed roasted quince and sliced apples in a flaky buckwheat crust. It’s a quincessential fall dessert. (Ouch. Sorry..)
I drained the quinces, reserving their syrup, and pureed the fruit to a thick paste with a touch of lemon and honey. I spread this into an unbaked tart shell, a twist on my gluten-free pie dough made with buckwheat flour, whose nutty-spicy taste I especially love with fall fruit.
Over the quince puree went a few apples, peeled, cut off the core, and sliced fairly thin. I found a new to me variety called Belle de Boskoop at Everett Family Farm (my favorite place in the world) which hail from the Netherlands but are billed as a French culinary apple. These are crisp and tart-sweet, with a floral perfume and firm flesh that makes them ideal for baking.
Not wanting to let the rosy quince cooking liquid go to waste, I reduced it down to a thick syrup that, due to quince’s high pectin content, turns a jelly-like consistency when cool. I used this to glaze the baked tart. Baked apples can look anemic and dry, so tarts like these need a glaze to give them some shine and color.
Normally I would have parbaked a tart crust like this, but since the filling is relatively dry and the apples like a long bake, it isn’t necessary here. The sturdy crust stands up well to the filling, staying crisp for days afterward.
The finished tart has a sophisticated, barely-sweet flavor thanks to the cardamom-kissed quince, tart apples and whole grain flour. The charcoal-hued crust bakes up crisp with the rich flavor of buckwheat that I find completely addictive. These bold tastes are tempered by tender apples, which caramelize a bit around the tips. A dollop of sweetened whipped cream helps to further smooth away any rough edges, though vanilla ice cream would be nice with warm tart, too.
One year ago:
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Apple Quince Tart with a Gluten-Free Buckwheat Crust
This recipe has a few different steps: roasting the quince, pureeing them to a paste and reducing their syrup, making the dough, and assembling the tart. However, the quince can be made up to a month ahead and stored in the refrigerator in their syrup; the pie dough can be made one or two days ahead; and the finished tart keeps well for at least a day or two.
This will make enough quince for 3 tarts; they are also delicious eaten on their own with cheese and crackers, or chopped and baked into muffins or pancakes.
As for the crust, be sure to use sweet white rice flour (such as Mochiko brand), which is naturally stickier than regular rice flour. I like using the fraisage method (in which portions of crumbly dough are scraped across the counter under your palm) to bring the dough together, but if that freaks you out, you can just give the dough a quick knead in the bowl until it sticks together in a ball. This dough is a bit more delicate to roll out than a wheat-based pie dough, so be gentle with it, use plenty of flour, and keep a metal bench scraper or spatula nearby to help you turn and flip the dough as you roll it out. I like to get it started by using a pressing motion with the rolling pin. If it cracks or tears, smush it back together with your hands, or use dough scraps to repair tears in the final dough. See my original post on gluten-free pie dough for photos of the fraisage process.All ounce measurements here are by weight.
Makes one 9-10″ tart (about 8 servings)
For the Roasted Quince:
(Adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts)
3 cups water
1 1/4 cups organic sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 cardamom pods, cracked
6 large quince (about 4 cups peeled and sliced)
1/4 cup late-harvest Riesling, Muscat, or other white dessert wine
For the Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pie Dough:
about 6 tablespoons ice water
1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) sweet rice flour
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) buckwheat flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, sliced thinlyFor the tart:
1 1/4 cups roasted quince (from above), drained, syrup reserved
1 tablespoon (meyer) lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup syrup from the quince, more as needed
3 large baking apples (such as Belle De Boskoop, Granny Smith, or Pink Lady)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1-2 tablespoons sugar
lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Roast the quinces:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF.
In a large saucepan, combine the water, sugar, honey, vanilla pod and scrapings, and cardamom. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer over low heat while you prepare the quince.
Peel the quince (I like to use a T-shaped vegetable peeler), and cut them off the core (or halve and core for cleaner slices). Cut the quince into 3/4″ thick slices. Lay the quince slices in a gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with a 2-quart capacity.
Pour the boiling syrup and spices over the quince.
Bake the quince, uncovered, for about 2 hours, turning the slices over in their juices every 30 minutes (and more frequently during the end of the cooking time). When done, the quince should be tender and rosy, and somewhat translucent.
Remove the quince from the oven and pour the wine over them. Cool the quince in the their juices, pack into a quart-sized mason jar, cover with the liquid, and refrigerate for up to 2 months (or store in the freezer for longer).
Make the gluten-free buckwheat dough:
Make your ice water by filling a small cup with ice and topping it with cool water. Set aside while you get on with the recipe.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, cornstarch, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt, and stir to combine. Scatter the butter slices over the top, and work with a pastry blender until the butter is in almond-sized chunks. Tablespoon by tablespoon, dribble in the ice water, tossing with a rubber spatula and/or your hands after each spoonful, until the dough is just damp enough to hold together when you give it a squeeze. Add drops of water directly to the floury bits if needed; you may need more water, or less, depending on how warm and worked-in your butter is. When finished, the dough should look like a pile of fat crumbles. We’ll bring it together in the next step.
Dump the dough out onto the counter, and quickly fraisage it by scraping an eighth of the dough at a time across the counter beneath your palm. Scrape it up with a metal bench scraper, and gather it into a ball. Place on a piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a 6″ diameter disc, wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to use the dough, let it soften at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. The dough is a touch more delicate than regular pie dough, so it benefits from slightly softer butter. Gently roll it out into an 11-12″ round on a surface dusted lightly with buckwheat flour. Dust the pin, your hands, the dough, and the work surface with just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. If the dough tears, pinch it back together, or use a scrap of dough to patch it up.Gently lift the dough into a 9 or 10″ tart pan with a removable bottom; the dough may crack and tear, and that’s ok, just press it into place with your fingers. Trim the edges to 1″ and fold them over to make a double-thick crust, trimming the top of the crust flush with the pan. Freeze the crust until firm, 15-20 minutes (or wrap and freeze for up to a month).
Assemble the tart:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425ºF.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine 1 1/4 cups of the roasted, cooled quinces with the lemon juice and honey. Puree to a smooth paste, adding a tablespoon of quince syrup if needed to help the mixture turn over. Spread the paste evenly in the bottom of the frozen, unbaked tart shell and set aside.
Place 3/4 cup of the quince syrup in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Peel the apples, cut them off the core, and slice them about 1/8″ thick, keeping the slices together for easy fanning. (If the apples start to oxidize or turn brown, drop them into a bowl of cool water and the juice of 1 lemon as you work – some apples oxidize more than others.) Fan the apple slices out the long way with your fingers and place them in concentric circles in the pan with the round edges facing out. It works well to use the fatter slices in the outermost rings. You may or may not need all the apple slices, but you can pack them in pretty tightly; they’ll lose a lot of volume as they bake.
Brush the apples with the melted butter and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar (depending on the tartness of the apples).
Bake the tart at 425º for 20 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and brush with a layer of the quince glaze, reserving the rest. Reduce the heat to 375º and bake until the apples are tender when pierced with a knife and golden around the edges, about 40 minutes longer.
Let the tart cool slightly, then brush the apples and the top of the crust with the remaining quince glaze (re-warm until fluid, adding a few drops of water if necessary to loosen it up). Remove the sides of the pan by placing the tart on a large can or ramekin and easing off the sides. Slide the tart onto a cutting board and use a large, sharp chef’s knife to cut it into wedges.