Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quince is not a number...

...it is a fruit. Well, so it IS a number also - the number 15 to be exact. In Spanish. As my [actually, not Spanish] coworker, Chinmayi confusedly thought when I typed to her that I had brought a "quince tart" into the office. It was sorta like that Abbott & Costello routine:

Bossy Lisa: "I brought in a quince tarte tatin!"
Chinmayi: "Does it have 15 slices of fruit on it? What kind of fruit is it?"
Bossy Lisa: "It's quince. Why 15?"
Chinmayi: "Quince is 15. What kind of fruit?"
Bossy Lisa: "Quince..."

The beauty of a simple tarte tatin always amazes me

Yes indeed, quince (rhymes with "wince" in English and sounds like "keen-sey" in Spanish) means 15 in Spanish, so Chinmayi thought I had put 15 slices of some elusive fruit on the tart. It was really pretty funny. Most people in the office hadn't heard of quinces. And I suppose, were I not the Michelin-star restaurant dining über foodie that I am, I too might not know what quinces are. But it seems like SO OFTEN I'll get some type of quince compote served to me with foie gras as one of my 8+ chef's tasting menu courses when Michelin-star dining. *DROOL*

Apple? Pear? Asian Pear?

So, when a different coworker brought a box full of quinces into the office in early December, I pounced on them. Seems most people weren't taking them that day anyway... likely because they didn't know what they were!

They turned brown before I'd even finished coring each piece!

I surfed the web looking for a tasty sounding recipe for these quinces and finally settled on this quince tarte tatin on epicurious. The ratings from those who had reviewed it were high, though it wasn't heavily reviewed to begin with. But I was gonna try it anyway.

Notice the sugar becoming...caramel colored

Butter/cream (dairy) is what turns cooked sugar into caramel...

You wouldn't believe what a strong perfume these fruits emanate. I had them at my desk for the afternoon and was overcome by the powerful fruity scent. Then once I had brought them home, they kept reminding me of themselves from my kitchen counter!

Cool that caramel quickly by placing the pan into a larger pan of ice

I'd never worked with quinces before but I assumed they'd be something like a pear or apple. But they really weren't. I'm not sure if the quinces I had were overly ripe or if they were normal, but they were sort of soft and not crisp like I'm used to apples/pears being. They were difficult to core because I felt like the core was rather wide, so I had to dig into each slice a bit deeper to get the core out. They turned brown almost immediately after peeling too. Good thing they were just going to be baked anyway!

My cast iron skillet was the perfect vessel for the job

The other way quinces are different from apples and pears is their flavor. While I consider both apples and pears to have a rather mellow flavor, quinces are tangy. Not as tangy as citrus, but definitely a standout taste. I hesitated before putting in the tablespoon of honey but was so glad I did afterward. It complimented the tangy quince flavor so nicely.

A simple food-processor crust

I followed the recipe precisely as it was written, with no problems. However, it's worth noting that I think I only used about 1 ½ pounds of quinces (weighed before coring & peeling). And I only baked the tarte for about 50 minutes before checking -- the quinces were nice and soft already, so out it came.

I probably could have rolled this thicker so as to fit the skillet perfectly
instead of having to tuck the sides down

It's always a scary moment when you overturn that upside down cake / jello mold/ bundt cake / tarte tatin. One holds their breath while praying that the whole thing has actually landed on the serving plate as opposed to merely a portion of said masterful creation. But as promised by the recipe reviews: my whole tarte was on my serving plate. WHEW!

Yah, not so pretty - next time, thicker crust cut better to size

This tarte tatin was stupendous!! It came together so easily. I loved how simple the dough was and how nicely it complemented the flavor of the quinces with the honey and cinnamon. I found myself wishing I had more of it after it was all gone. It might only have been improved with a dollop of crème fraîche or maybe even vanilla ice cream (I'm such an American).

Oooh the ugly crust certainly didn't affect the flavor or beauty of the end product!

I got so many compliments on this tarte - such is always the case. Make something simple and rustic and get applauded. It almost doesn't seem fair.

The quinces turn a beautiful reddish orange color as they bake

I'll be paying attention at my markets for more quinces now. They're an autumn fruit, but so are apples and we all know those are available year 'round... As I type up this post I can't help but taste that tarte again. And I want to make more!


  1. Oh, that is a fruit I adore!

    Your tatin looks incredibly scrumptious!

    best wishes for 2010!



  2. I love quince!!! great idea to put it into a tart tatin. My quince ratafia is just about ready...wonder how they would taste together???

  3. Hey Lisa, wonderful pie and a damn good incredible idea. Over here, in Spain, quinces are mostly used to make compote, as you've mentioned in your post, and I mainly eat it with fresh cheese, but this is just... utterly divine. I have to try it, definitely, seems easy and it gives me an extra idea for my cooking portfolio ;)
    Best regards, and hey! happy new 2010!

  4. Quince is one of the most under appreciated fruits around. It really isn't about the taste but the delicate perfume it leaves! Where the heck does one find quince anyhow?