Poached Quince Galette

Some hunt for the elusive pair of shoes; come the colder months I keep my eyes peeled for quince.

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Besides the rarity (which we all know significantly increases attractiveness–sort of a “playing hard to get” theory), quince have a good backstory. The Romans would stuff them into jars and pour over honey, where their tannic, acrid fruit would soften over time, producing both a candied fruit and a fragrant syrup.  I’ve even read that they may have been the fruit that got Adam and Eve cast out of the garden of Eden (though since you can’t eat quince raw, that story may be, perhaps, apocryphal.  Straight off the tree, in fact, I doubt it would have been all that tempting). Quince are also, surprisingly, the fruit that originated the marmalade (the Portuguese name for the fruit is marmelo) and you may have seen it at the cheese counter in the form of membrillo, which pairs perfectly with manchego. (Yes, this may be ringing a bell: I blogged about making membrillo two years ago. I’ll spare you my reminiscing about Spain right now, which membrillo always induces).

Nonetheless, perhaps the extra work to prepare quince today, vis-a-vis other fruits, has made them fall out of favor, or perhaps it’s that they are not so photogenic. If you saw it in a fruit bowl, you’d probably leave it there. I showed one to my son, who guessed it was an apple or pear, which is not far off, as they are in the same family.  But I had to stop him when he tried to filch an uncooked slice and was put off the fruit for good.

Poached Quince Galette (1 of 12)

Poached Quince Galette (2 of 12)

So yes, you’ll often find that you need to poach quince before using it.  While this is a dreaded extra step, it’s quite easy:  just put in the oven for a few hours and relax while your home fills with a warm perfume.  The poached slices keep in their fragrant syrup for around two weeks in the fridge, so you can really space things out.  Prepping the quince is a bit tricky–while much like slicing apples, the seeded core of the quince is hard and must be cut out.  This, along with the slicing, must be done gently–not surgery here, but not as quick as slicing apples for pie.  The flesh is slightly grainy (only when raw) and the slices otherwise have a tendency to break on you.  Imagine a very dry apple.  Nonetheless, this is mainly an aesthetic consideration, and isn’t meant to scare you off!  The fruit is sweet, supple, and a lovely rosy hue when cooked.  It’s going to look pretty, and taste great, no matter what.

Poached Quince Galette (3 of 12)

Poached Quince Galette (7 of 12)

I simply spiraled the quince slices on a rolled out piece of pie dough, and folded the edges over to make a rustic galette.  (Galette:  the fancy sounding but much more relaxed version of pie–herehere, here, and way back here).  We brought this to a friend’s for brunch where it was happily received.  While you might have to explain again what quince is if you do the same, you’ll find that while unusual it’s readily approachable and easy to love.  Extra poached quince could be spooned over oatmeal, eaten straight, or used in other recipes–such as this Gingerbread Quince Upside-Down Cake from the lovely Apartment 2B Baking Co., which I made for New Year’s Eve.

Poached Quince Galette (9 of 12)

And on that note, Happy New Year!

Poached Quince Galette (12 of 12)

Poached Quince Galette
Ingredients
  • Poached Quince (makes extra)
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 3c water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1t vanilla extract
  • 4 medium quinces (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced.
  • Galette
  • [url href=”http://threecleversisters.com/2011/07/22/perfect-pie-crust-by-hand/”%5D1 disc of pie dough[/url]–use your favorite. (I used spelt flour mixed with all-purpose here).
  • Poached quince (from above)
  • 2T sugar
  • melted butter or half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 T sugar (preferably sanding or turbinado sugar)
Instructions
Poached Quince
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Put all ingredients into a baking dish and cover with foil or a lid, and bake for 1 1/2 hours until rosy and tender. Your kitchen will be warm and perfumed.
  3. Let cool and store the quince in its poaching liquid.
Galette
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Roll the pie dough into a 14-inch circle. Starting in the middle, arrange the quince slices in a spiral. When you have a rough 1 1/2 to 2 inch border, fold this over. (It’s going to overlap here and there and double over itself–that’s fine).
  3. Brush the crust with melted butter, cream, or half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake on the bottom of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

 

Gooseberry Tart

For me, gooseberries are one of those quintessentially British fruits, like damson plums or sloes, that I nonetheless never managed to try while I lived in London.Gooseberry Tart

To rectify this, I’ve been on the lookout for them  for the past several years, only to be disappointed.  But this year’s fruit crop in Massachusetts is proving to be amazing–tons of sour cherries have now given way to red, black, and even golden raspberries, along with red and black currants and yes, gooseberries.

Gooseberry Tart

The price, unfortunately, reflects the fact that these gooseberries are so hard to come by.  So even though I splurged on two generously filled half pints at the farmer’s market, I came home to find I didn’t even have the four to five cups required for a pie.  Fortunately, I had enough for pie’s rustic French cousin, a galette.

Gooseberry Tart

While you thankfully don’t have to chop gooseberries (which must be as tedious as cutting up grapes or cherry tomatoes for toddlers) they do require a bit of prep work–they need to be topped and tailed, which is really just removing the stem from one end and the blossom from the other.  It’s easy enough to do, but given how these tiny bits tend to stick to your fingers, and then rub off on the next gooseberry you reach for, you’ll want to wash your berries after this process.  Once done, the gooseberries look much like grapes, albeit rather veiny ones.

Then it’s just a matter of assembly.  It’s easy to find helpers who will enjoy sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the berries and the crust.

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberries are surprisingly tart, and are said to taste a bit like strawberries–which is true, but not something I would have noticed had I not already been aware of the comparison.  They cook down into a juicy filling, and have a surprising richness–making it easy to see why gooseberries complement savory dishes so nicely.  For dessert, however, a tart yogurt ice cream or dollop of creme fraiche would nicely accompany this galette, with the fruit’s juices swirling together with the melting cream.

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberry Tart
Author: Adapted from Lindsey Shere, via [url href=”http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/gooseberry-tart”%5DFood and Wine[/url]
Ingredients
  • Pastry
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
  • About 3 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint gooseberries (about 3 cups), stems and tails removed
Instructions
Make the crust.
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender (or two knives or forks) or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until the mixture resembles a mix of coarse cornmeal with larger particles the size of peas. (I.e. you’ll still have a fair amount of larger chunks of butter). Stir in the ice water with a fork. When the dough holds together, knead it a few times against the side of the bowl to smooth it out. (If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a few more drops of ice water.) Pat the dough into a disk, and wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Flour a surface and roll out the dough into a round about 14 inches in diameter. (You may have to wait a few moments for the dough to soften). It need not be perfect around the edges as this gives it its rustic look. Lay it on a large baking sheet or pizza pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate briefly while you prepare the filling (but no longer as the crust will get to hard to fold over the filling later).
Make the filling and assemble the tart
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Mix 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar with the flour and sprinkle this mixture over a 9-inch area of the pastry. Spread the prepared gooseberries on top. (I rolled out the dough before prepping the gooseberries; the dough chilled while I topped and tailed the berries). Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cinnamon-sugar and sprinkle the remainder over the gooseberries. Fold the edges of the pastry up over the berries to form a 9-inch free-form tart, making pleats and pressing them together lightly. Brush the pastry with water and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon-sugar.
  2. Bake the tart in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the gooseberries are bubbling and lightly browned and the pastry has caramelized in spots and is well browned on the bottom. Cut the tart into wedges with a sharp knife and serve.

Gooseberry Tart

Crabapple Pie

I’ve long thought that crabapples weren’t good for much of anything, figuring they were one of those ornamental fruits that tastes horrible–or worse.  I remember being disappointed when I was told that the crabapple trees in our hometown weren’t going to produce anything worth eating, much as I found the native tree, the so-called Osage Orange, a bit of a letdown (at least from a culinary perspective.  The big green fruits were fun to stamp apart on walks home from the local playground, and on a more serious note were planted to combat the terrifying clouds of the dust bowl).

Crabapple Pie (7 of 7)

Back on topic, I realized I was wrong about crabapples when I started noticing them at the farmer’s markets here, alongside the charmingly named heirloom apples:  winesaps, sheepnoses, Roxbury russets, Cox’s orange pippin, and more.   Though I still didn’t know what to do with them, being told that they were very sour.

When in doubt, make pie.  I saw a recipe for crabapple pie a few months back while paging through Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies and made a mental note.   No sooner had these smaller fruits appeared at our farmer’s market, and I had already snatched up several pounds of Hyslop crabapples.  I don’t know how many people buy crabapples at the farmer’s market, but the vendor did seem a bit surprised, especially when I said “these are sour, right?”

Crabapple Pie (3 of 7)

Crabapple Pie (2 of 7)

Crabapple Pie (1 of 7)

Sour is just right for this pie though–tart apples, such as Granny Smiths or Ginger Golds make an excellent apple pie, and pucker-inducing crabapples are no different.  The sourness is of course muted by a generous cup of sugar, but the tart notes still shine through, much as they do in a good lemon pie.  Meanwhile, dribbling in vanilla rather than the usual cinnamon and nutmeg added an unexpected richness. Apples either hold their shape or melt into an applesauce when baked, and the Hyslops at least fall into the latter category.  Therefore my decision to not peel, born of laziness, ended up also contributing a nice contrasting texture (as well as a glossy, ruby color to the entire filling).  My decision to ignore the original recipe’s directions to finely chop was also happily ignored with no ill effect.  You could swap in some firmer apples for some of the crabs if you’d like something more to bite into, but not too much to mute the special flavors of the crabapples.

Crabapple Pie (5 of 7)

Besides pie, the most traditional uses of crabapples are for jelly (which of course I’ve also tried, and hope to manage a blog post on soon) and cider (which I haven’t–no home distillery going on just yet).

Adapted from Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies

Use your favorite pie crust recipe–for our method, just click here.

Crabapple Pie

Ingredients
  • 6 cups of unpeeled cored and quartered tart crabapples. (A generous 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1c sugar
  • 1T all-purpose flour
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1 1/2T lemon juice
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1/4c water
  • 1T milk or cream
  • One prepared recipe of double-batch pie crust, divided into two discs.
Instructions
  1. Have your pie crust prepared and chilling in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450F. Roll out half of your pie dough and place it in your pie pan. Return to the fridge or freezer to chill while you prepare the filling.
  3. Toss crabapples with sugar, flour, salt, and lemon juice.  Pour this filling into your pie pan. Stir the vanilla extract and water together, and then sprinkle over the filling.
  4. Spread filling in crust, sprinkle with vanilla lemon juice water  Roll out the second piece of dough and cover the filling.
  5. Pinch or crimp the two crusts together, paint with the milk or cream, and then make several slits in the top layer of dough.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, then lower the heat to 375F and bake an additional 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.
  7. Cool 1-2 hours before serving.
Roman Almond Pine Nut Tart Cooling II

Modern Baker: Roman Almond and Pine Nut Tart

I thought I would be a much more active participant in this chapter of the Modern Baker Challenge:  Sweet Tarts and Pies.  Certainly more than the prior chapter, Savory Tarts and Pies.  Sugar!  Yet, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s not come to pass.  I like to offload much of my baking at work (sort of as a self-preservation strategy–I don’t trust myself with all those calories around) and considering I walk to the commuter rail and then have to switch to the T (Boston’s name for the subway), taking in pie is a bit of a pain.  And probably would turn to a crumble by the time I get there.   I should just take a cue from Abby and Renee–they’ve been making mini-versions of all the recipes in this chapter (and it’s not like I haven’t done the relatively easy math to figure out how to downsize myself either).  Who knows.

It might seem odd that one of the few tarts I’ve made, then, is the Roman Almond and Pine Nut Tart.  As opposed to say, a rich chocolate tart or a classic and homey apple pie.  But we know I’ll always go for something with an international pedigree.  Especially if it’s Italian.  The combination of Roman and pine nuts brings up memories:  my friend Raffaella, who lives in Rome and whose family has a small vacation home south of the city.  I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a few days there with her and her father one summer when I was visiting, and we sat on the steps of the rear patio in the waning evening snacking on pine nuts we plucked out of cones from the pine trees growing in the backyard.

I still hadn’t really appreciated don’t think most of us usually think of pine nuts as a dessert ingredient–it’s more associated with savory dishes, and in particular pesto.  But if you google a bit, it turns out they have their “sweet side” so to speak–make a cookie rolled it in pine nuts; make a cake or two or three; use it to enhance a crumble, or if you’re still sceptical, try a dessert with chocolate (on the undisputable theory that it’s got to be good if it has chocolate).   Have I, uh, made my point?

But enough about other desserts, and back to the task at hand!   Verdict is I loved this tart as much as I expected to.  The toasted nutty flavors, the sweet crust, the satisfying bite.  While the almond filling is the star player in this tart, the pine nuts play an important role–they provide a nice contrasting texture, as well as dressing it up a little.  (Frankly, this pie is a bit monotone, and a monotone tan at that.  I know looks aren’t everything, but tan isn’t exactly the most exciting of hues).

Probably because the filling is egg and nut based, this bakes up quite firmly, almost like a very moist cake (and very easy to transport to work, where it was well received despite a few questions as to exactly what it was.  Probably those pine nuts, and the fact that I forgot to sprinkle with powdered sugar).  I used canned almond paste (Solo brand, which was on special at Christmas, though you can make your own too) which is an attractive off-white gel with little brown specks in it.  Yes, lovely.  It’s almost pourable, so I didn’t know how it would turn out given that the recipe directs you to “chop” your almond paste.  Fortunately, it turned out perfectly.  As a bonus, I had 4 ounces left over, which is exactly what is needed for the raspberry almond mini-tarts later in this chapter.  That leftover waits to be used in the freezer.  And waits…

One final note–you may have been with me the whole time on this pine-nut-in-sweets concept, but were thinking to yourself, “has she seen how much pine nuts cost lately?”  I know:  $21.00 a pound is the most recent price I saw in the bulk bin.  But despite appearances, the amount of nuts you need isn’t all that much.  But if you’d prefer a substitute, I’d suggest slivered almonds.  They are similar in size to pine nuts (perhaps about twice as long), will clearly harmonize with the almond filling, and still provide the tender, toasty, contrasting bite on top.

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Downsized Recipe for Mini-Tarts

I hate throwing food out.  Every week before our trash comes, I go through the fridge figuring out what’s gone bad, and guiltily throw it away. (How much food do most Americans throw away each year?  How many resources were used to grow that food, transport it, package it?  How much money am I wasting?  How many starving children are out there?  etc etc).  I love to stick things in the freezer sure that I’ll get to it later.  (My worst incarnation of this was when we lived in London and I was saving bones for soup stock–my friend Liz referred to our freezer compartment as “the morgue”).  But my good intentions are often no more than that–periodically I have to go through the freezer and toss frosty blocks of things that are, by that point, really old.

Nevertheless, whenever I make pie dough, I always save the scraps.  If I were a more expert roller of pie crust, I’d probably hardly have any trimmings, but I always have some rough-edged, slightly uneven, Pangaea-shaped mass that I’m putting into the pie pan.  I have this hope that I”ll later use the scraps to make a cute little mini-pie or tartlette.  But, I never do, because I’ve never taken the time to figure out the ratios; i.e. how much to reduce the quantity of filling.

Perhaps in a burst of New Years inspiration, I finally did something with the two tartlettes in my freezer.  The dough was six months old.  I know this precisely because it was leftover nut dough from making this (mmmmm).  I decided to keep things simple and make a chocolate ganache filling.  Easy-peasy, (despite the French name) especially since I already had the crust!  I poured my pie weights into the two tart tins, and calculated the volume (two cups, if you are wondering).  I roughly compared this to the volume of filling for a regular-sized pie or tart, and decided that 1/3 a recipe would give me enough for two tarts.  I melted dark chocolate from Santa (or, my father in law) in sweet cream, butter, and sugar, and added a splash of espresso brewed coffee to round out and intensify the chocolate flavor.  I pre-baked the pie crust, poured in the ganache, and allowed it to set until it was soft yet still solid.  And, voila, my husband and I had individual chocolate tarts for our New Year’s Eve meal.  And our New Year’s meal.  Glossy, smooth, rich, elegant–they may be small but they are more than enough for one sitting.  I’m not sure an over-the-top chocolate dessert is the expected conclusion of a post on kitchen thrift, but, then again, why not?  (Don’t mention anything about New Year’s Resolutions to me, on the other hand).

Chocolate Ganache filling (for two 4-inch tartlettes; triple this for a regular-sized tart)

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about one bar)
  • 1 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • Pre-bake your pie crust.  While it cools, prepare your ganache:  Place chocolate and butter in a medium bowl; set aside.  Combine cream, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves and liquid is just at a simmer, about 4 minutes.   Pour cream mixture over chocolate and butter and let sit until melted, about 4 minutes. Gently stir until smooth.  (If you still have some lumps, you can microwave briefly on very low power.  I’m sure there’s a reason this is verboten, but I had no problems).  Pour ganache into the cooled tart shell and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill until set, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  I think this is best served at room temperature, so that the filling is lighter-tasting and the chocolate flavor more intense.

    Blog-worthy Apple Pie

    Grandmothers, County Fair Blue Ribbon Holders, Jennifer McLagan you are right!  Lard does make a pie crust taste better!

    I’ll begin by showcasing the star ingredient.  I’m not sure if I would have ever bought lard if it wasn’t for Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds.  They have stashes of “pastured pork lard” in their freezer, and given that it’s really just pure fat, even for a pastured/free-range product, it’s not all that expensive.  (Pork fat may have been the “king of fats” and throughout most of history pigs bred for fattiness but times have changed…)  I don’t even know WHERE I would find lard otherwise–do you ask at the butcher counter at the supermarket?  Is it stuffed in some obscure corner in the meat refrigerator case?  Beats me.  I wasn’t necessarily even looking for it but figured I’d give it a try when I saw it at Pete and Jen’s, as I knew it would be top quality.  (Note–they also have suet!  Which according to Jennifer McLagan, is also vastly underappreciated, and definitely not just for birdfeed!)

    By the way, while it’s obvious, lard is no more fatty than butter.  So you’re not saving any calories there; a calorie is a calorie.  If you’re eating a pie, it’s going to have a lot of fat, and that’s that.  Lard is also natural and is made up of healthier fats than trans-fat hydrogenated etc. shortening.  Like butter, and unlike shortening, its melting point is lower than body temperature, so you don’t get that unpleasant filmy coating on the roof of your mouth that is a hallmark of Crisco.  (That alone knocks shortening out of the running.  Once I made that realization, I couldn’t go back.)  Why am I going through this long apologia?  I suppose that lard has such bad connotations that I feel the need to set forth an initial defense of this whole enterprise!

    Moving on:  Here it is, or at least what remains after making a double batch of pie dough.

    Even though I used it directly out of the freezer, it almost seemed to melt the minute I touched it.  I only substituted half of the butter for lard (even Jennifer McLagan cautions that for a sweet pie, you shouldn’t make all lard crusts as it can taste too “piggy”), and I wouldn’t necessarily want to dispense with butter entirely.  After all, butter has its own lovely aroma and flavor, and contributes to a lovely golden color when baked.

    Butter, lard, sugar, flour, salt:

    Whirred up in the food processor to pea-size balls:

    After adding ice water–just enough to bring it to form a ball:

    and formed into a disk for further chilling.

    It was forming that disk that those wonderful properties of lard immediately became apparent.  Never with an all-butter crust have I gotten a smooth-edged, perfectly shaped disk.  It’s always been rough around the edges, and struggling a bit to hold together.  In fact I started to worry that maybe, just maybe, I had over-mixed (very easy to do when making pie dough in the food processor) or added too much liquid (again, easy mistake).  Was my liquid too warm?  No.  Were my fats not properly chilled?  Certainly not–they were straight out of the freezer!  In addition, I noticed that the dough smelled a bit different than other dough.  Vaguely familiar but not totally recognizable.  Not bad, just different.  I figured I must have encountered this smell before while studying abroad in Spain (where some of my favorite cookies, polvorones, are made with lard), perhaps at Chinese pastry shops, and during travels in Italy (where I had lard sliced paper-thin and served, bruschetta style). 

    Enough with initial impressions.  A day later, when I rolled out the dough later on, I was pleased to see that it was similarly easy to work with.  There was no battle to get even very chilled dough started and it rolled out easily and smoothly.

    In fact the only problem I had with the dough was trying to make a fluted crust edge.  The dough was SO soft that it didn’t stand up to my pinching around the edge.  Again, this dough had been sitting in the fridge for over a day and rolled out faster than other dough I have made, so I suppose it’s just the nature of the product.  I fell back to the easy fork-tine seal of the top and bottom crusts.

    Here’s the baked pie.  Little E about went crazy when he saw it coming out of the oven and kept trying to climb on the table to get it.  I was surprised as he’s never had pie before, and has certainly rejected things like quiche (real men, etc, yeah yeah yeah…).  But hey, the smell of warm apple pie?  Need I wonder?

    I am now just going to spend the next few lines raving about this pie.  The crust was delicious.  Flaky, not soggy, no “piggy” flavor if you’re wondering.  Vastly superior to any other pie crust I have made.  So good I really didn’t want to eat anything else, and this was on Thanksgiving day. 

    Count me a convert to the virtues of lard!