Quince Tartlets And One Happy Tartelette
I am telling you I am truly spoiled. Right before my parents got here with suitcases full of pans, molds, chocolates, nut pastes, extracts and other baking ingredients, I received a box filled with quinces, freshly picked by Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms. Back in June, I had a sudden craving for quinces and for some reason stores here carry them year round, regardless of the season and for the whopping price of $1.99 a quince (price does not change either!)…Ouch!! I was nostalgic enough of my mother’s quince jelly that I caved in and bought one little quince and tried to make the most out of it. A couple of days later, Elle sent me an e-mail telling me that she would be happy to send me some from her own backyard as soon as they were in season. I let a little "yippee" of joy and started to wish for September already! Kept busy by other baking project I kind of put the mighty quince out of my mind, although tempted to sneak one in my apple basket at the store…Yes, I admit I sometimes planned an escape route for my beloved fruit, free of being set on the back of the exotic fruit stand because no one knew what it was or what to do with it.
My mother makes the best jams…really hands down the best, and I am not saying that because she is my mom. Her method is at the complete opposite of all the recipes you read about lately, where the fruits may be marinated for a while but cooked rather briefly. My mom cooks her jams until it is almost caramel fruit. Hours of foaming and skimming, followed by days of the greatest scented house on the block. What does this have to do with Elle’s quinces? Well, one of my earliest food memories is of my mom perched high over a big copper jam and jelly pot, stirring quinces for hours on end, filling long stockings with the mixture and letting those drip until the coveted jelly is ready to be canned. The lengthy process, the pervading aroma, and to see the final product….my mother was a magician, a goddess, an artist (she really is but that’s for another post)…and I was so lucky that someone thought about using all of earth’s bounty and share it with the rest of her acquaintances, much like Elle when she remembered to send me the quinces. I aim to be as generous in sending "thank you’s" and "how are you’s", and trust me if it seems to take me forever to do so it has everything to do with the state of my pocket book and nothing with the gratitude of my heart.
Back to quinces and the tartlets…. You can’t expect to serve a dessert with quince in 30 minutes. First reason being that raw the fruit is reallytough and sour, then you would be missing on the deep amber colour you get after cooking it down. The natural high pectin content allows the fruit purees, jams or jellies to set very well on their own, require very little from you other than stirring…and stirring.
I had already used two of the quinces to make baked quinces, much like "baked apples" filled with nuts and cranberries. I originally thought about an quince tarte Tatin (upside down tart) but was afraid that the caramel would burn before the quinces had the chance to cook through. Instead I looked at the 8 remaining and decided to make "compote" with 4 of them and dice and slice the last 4 and caramelize them on the stove. The crust is inspired from an olive oil dough recipe found on a French blog I read daily, Eggs and Mouillettes, to which I added a pinch of cardamom…because I put this spice anywhere I can since I love it so much!
I have so many mini, medium and big tart shells, homemade (it is amazing what I have B. do with leftover Lowe’s materials, as well as cardboard and foil!) bought and borrowed that I took the liberty to play around with shapes and sizes of both the tartlets and the fruit.
Makes 6 3.5-inch tartlets plus 2 4-inch tarts
For the crust:
200 gr. all purpose flour
50 gr. ground almonds
10 cl. cold water
10 cl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. round cardamom
75 gr. sugar
In a food processor, mix all the ingredients together and pulse until the dough comes together. Take the dough out of the mixer and knead a couple of times, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out shapes for your molds as desired.
For the quince compote:
4 medium sized quinces
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup of water
Peel, core and dice the quinces. Put them in a heavy saucepan with the sugar and the water. Cook, covered over low heat until the fruit becomes all mushy and almost red, about an hour. Add more water if needed and watch that the fruit does not attach to the bottom of the pot.
Let cool to room temperature. When cooled, divide the mixture evenly among the shells.
For the caramelized quince:
4 medium sized quinces, peeled and cored
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter
Cut 2 of the quinces in small dices and slice the remaining two very thin.
Heat the butter and the sugar in a large heavy saute pan until the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down and add 2 quinces that have been diced. Cook until soft and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and divide them evenly among the shells of your choice.
Cook the remaining quince slices in the same fashion, adding a little sugar and butter if necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon, layer them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and let cool a couple of minutes before you handle the slices to make the rose pattern on the tartlets.
Starting from the outside, layer the slices overlapping the edges slightly, working your way to the the middle of the tartlets. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes until the pastry shells are cooked through.
Thank you Elle! I spend the afternoon with mom in the kitchen again, except that this time I was the one doing the cooking and stirring! Ah, to be a kid again!!