When I saw the gorgeous mound of bright yellow quinces at the fruit shop, my first response was to caress the fuzzy skins (please don’t judge me). Then I picked them up and sniffed the glorious perfume. Next I took some home, and painted them.
Mixed media and acrylic
I popped them in a bowl so I could admire them whenever I walked past, and then the days whooshed by until I realised I had better use the fruit before they turned into worm food. So I peeled, cored, sliced and cooked them over low heat, with a vanilla bean, a couple of tablespoons of water and some sugar (I had four quinces but I can’t remember how much sugar I used. The finished product wasn’ t too sweet so I’m guessing I used about half a cup or so.) The longer quinces are cooked, the more they colour. I left this batch on really low heat in a covered, heavy bottomed pan on the stove for about 3 to 4 hours. Every once in a while I gave them a gentle stir to make sure nothing was sticking to the bottom, but the rest of the time I left them alone. I even managed to duck out to the gym and back while Mr. Kitchen Hand babysat the pot.
The cooked quinces then sat in the refrigerator for a few more days while I decided what to do with them. I didn’t have much time, so I needed something not too fiddly. A recipe for a lemon yoghurt cake (by Matthew Evans - found here) sounded perfect and my hunch was soon proved right. I arranged some quince slices on the bottom of a lined springfrom pan, topped it with the cake batter, and with almost minimal effort, we were rewarded with the most amazing cake. Seriously, this cake is good. Even without the quince, it would have been tasty, but the extra layer of fruit added great texture and of course, looked impressive. I have never seen a cake disappear so quickly. MC Junior is not much of a cake eater, but she kept begging for more. I even had to give up my last slice and divided it between the two MCs who had been making puppy dog eyes and casting meaningful looks in the direction of my plate!
The only change I made to the recipe was to use the zest of a whole lemon instead of half. I hate having half-nude lemons on hand ;P
But wait, there’s more! I had barely made a dint in the stewed quince levels. The bowlful of fruit just sat in the fridge reproachfully and gave me the guilts every time I opened the door. Then another bolt of inspiration struck. Pate de fruits has been playing at the back of my mind ever since I read this post on Tartelette. An attempt with some apple puree last year produced a reasonable batch but nothing to write about. At the time, I thought I’d failed badly because I wasn’t sure what the texture of pate de fruits should have been like (I assumed they were meant to be chewy, like gummy lollies). This time, a post here on Pastry Methods and Techniques, explained what to expect. I didn’t have access to liquid pectin but figured since quince has such a high pectin content, I could probably get away with not having to use any.
Yay! Another success (how I did it below).
There was still a tiny bit of quince left. Hmmm, could I pull three from three and get a perfect quince dessert score? This time, I decided to make shortcake. The thought of a biscuity-cakey base, layered with cream and stewed quince sounded very promising. And it still sounds very promising because the dessert tasted fantastic. Only thing is, I was rushing when I baked this and forgot a very, very important ingredient in the process. Can you guess what it was? If I say the words “hockey-puck” texture, will that help? Yup! I completely forgot the raising agent, in this case, baking powder. And instead of feather light scones, this was a dense cross between shortbread and shortcrust pastry. But it was still delicious and I will try the recipe (from Joy of Baking.com) again, hopefully while not multi-tasking.
And now my quince cravings have been sated, I can move on to the next obsession. What will it be?
Hope you have a great weekend pursuing your own obsessions (do tell!) :). We’re heading off on a mini-break over the long weekend, so Malaysian Monday may be a little bit late.
Quince pate de fruits.
This isn’t a proper recipe, just how I managed to make my fruit paste. I suppose this is pretty similar (or the same thing?) to quince paste that’s served with cheese. Before I started, I consulted this post (Tartelette), and this post (Married with Dinner) and this post(Pastry Methods and Techniques).
2 cups stewed quince
1 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of half a lemon
(First prepare a suitable heat proof container in which to set the paste. I used a ceramic baking dish lined with baking paper. I didn’t bother to oil the sides as I figured the shiny glaze on the dish would prevent sticking. It worked.)
(The recipes I consulted say to use equal parts fruit juice/puree and sugar but my quinces were already slightly sweetened)
First I placed the quince in a pot and blitzed it with the stick-blender until smooth. Then I stirred in the lemon juice and sugar and started cooking on medium heat (gas stove). Here came the fun part, how long to cook and when do I know it’s ready? The experts use sugar thermometers.
I figured I could wing it without the thermometer since my quince had already been stewed for a while, it wouldn’t take long. Having decided on the arbitrary time of 20 minutes, I stirred away and recorded my observations (very scientific - not!).
When the mix started to simmer, it looked like a hot mud pool, you know, the stuff you see on nature documentaries about volcanic activity? Slow bubbles started to appear on the surface and pop, making lazy bloop, bloop noises. Keep stirring.
Then the mix started to bubble more frenziedly, with faster, more hysterical bloop, bloops. Stir and do not stop. At this stage, I wish I’d used a wider pan because every time I stopped stirring, a bloop would send splashes of hot quince onto my extremities.
After about ten minutes of stirring and blooping, my mixture looked like thick tomato sauce (ketchup). Exact same colour and consistency too. At about 15 minutes, it wasn’t so much blooping as zzhshing. Every time I scraped the edges of the pan, it sounded like pulling apart strong velcro. I could also see the bottom of the pan when I dragged the spoon across.
The mix kept thickening and I think it was ready around the eighteen minute mark but I kept going until the twenty minutes I’d set myself were up.
Pour the mixture into prepared container, leave to set and cool completely. Cut into shapes and dust with caster sugar. I tipped the whole thing out onto a cutting board lightly dusted with sugar. Overall, I needed under 2 tablespoons of sugar to coat the lot. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. At first I stored it on the benchtop but overnight, the sugar seemed to get absorbed.