Holiday Fruit Desserts: Quince Hazelnut Frangipane Tart

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I have made no secret of my quince love affair before on this blog. Each year I still purchase at least 2 to 3 lbs of fruits at the local produce market to experiment for cooking. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem (2012) had quince stuffed with spice-flavored lamb mince, which was a time consuming endeavor to make, but proved worthwhile. However, devising or researching new desserts with quinces was my primary goal since the majority of recipes, especially Middle Eastern ones, were savory rather than sweet. The time-honored technique of slow poaching quinces is still the best way of gaining the most intense flavor; the challenge was to use the cooked fruit in pastries.

Cooking the quinces longer teases out those elusive anthocyanins, which have anti-cancer properties and give the cooked fruit a beautiful regal ruby hue. The first time I cooked quinces, I did not achieve that hue although the pale yellow to coral color was still striking. Leaving the oven on for 7 to 8 hours to slow-poach the ovens seems an excessive use of energy, although a slow cooker, if you have one, is a better alternative. As the quinces cook, the kitchen does become fragrant as if the damask roses in fields of Grasse or Bulgaria decided to flower in the hearth of your home. ~ Eric

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Quinces will not gain their ruby red color unless they have been slow-poached in an oven for more than 5 hours. Starting top clockwise: 7 hours of poaching; 2 hours of poaching; 4 hours of poaching

Slow-poached Quince

6 quinces, peeled and cored
2.25 liters light sugar syrup
1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 lemon

Optional spices: star anise, cinnamon quill, or cardamon pods

To make the light sugar syrup, heat 2 parts water to 1 part sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F)

1. Cut quinces into quarters and place in a bowl of acidulated water (lemon juice and cold water) to prevent browning. Cut out cores and tie loosely in a piece of muslin.

2. Put sugar syrup in a large oven-safe sauce pot with vanilla bean (any optional spices), lemon juice and muslin bag, then add quince.

3. Cover tightly and bake in oven for at least 5 (and up to 8) hours until quince is deep red. Do not stir or the quince may break up.

In its sugar syrup, the quince can keep up to 2 weeks refrigerated. They’re excellent in yoghurt and cereals.


 

Sweet Tart Shell (adapted from Baking Chez Moi  and Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups (170 g) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (62.5 g) confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter cut into small pieces or cubes.

1 large egg

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is roughly cut in. (the pieces will vary – some pea-sized, others flaky bits) Stir the egg to break up its consistency and add it slowly, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is thoroughly mixed in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look like granules after adding the egg, resembles cottage cheese curds. The sound of the blade against the dough will slow down and stop when it does. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead the dough very gently to incorporate any dry ingredients not mixed in. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it in the refrigerator Chill the dough approximately 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Grease with butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round (make sure to lift and turn the dough because it can stick to the paper). Turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart tin with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. To prevent puffiness, pierce crust all over with a fork.

Alternately, the dough can be pressed inside the tart tin as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. The pieces should coalesce together, but not too tightly that its crumbly buttery texture is lost.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes or longer before baking.

4. To partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Butter the shiny side of an aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, against the crust. No weights are needed since the crust is frozen. Put the tart tin on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes. Note: pay attention to baking times since oven temperatures can vary – the crust can bake quickly without warning.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 5 minutes longer to partially bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown. Cool the crust in its tin on a rack to room temperature.

To patch a partially baked crust, if necessary: patch any cracks in the crust with some of reserved uncooked dough after you take the foil off. Slice off a thin dough piece, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart does not need additional baking with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so to cook the raw dough.


 

Hazelnut Frangipane

125 g softened unsalted butter

100g (1/2 cup) sugar

2 tsp plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

135 g (1 1/4 cups) hazelnut meal

To make the hazelnut meal, finely chop whole hazelnuts in a food processor. Set aside.

Place the butter and 100 g sugar in a food processor and whiz until combined. Add the flour and whiz to combine. With the motor running, add the eggs and vanilla, then add the hazelnut meal and whiz until well combined.


 

To assemble:

1.Center the rack and preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Cover the base of the partially-baked tart shell with quince slices (make sure that any excess moisture or juices have been dried off).

3. Evenly spread the hazelnut frangipane over the quince slices. You will have extra hazelnut frangipane left over.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until a skewer or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

5. Left the tart cool for 10 minutes before serving.

6. Garnish with a few of the poached quince slices.

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