Quince CheesecakePosted: October 10, 2014
Something very different for you all this week, that I discovered on my shiny, SHINY new favourite recipe source – Coquinaria – an online resource of Dutch Medieval recipes.
Now is the season for Quince and whilst I love their fragrance perfuming the house, and the two-for-one recipe combination of ruby Quince Jelly and aromatic Quince Paste (membrillo) that you can make from just one batch of fruit, I’ve made them both for the past five years. I was looking for something different to use these fabulous fruits and this is the treasure I found.
It comes from the Manuscript UB Gent 476, which dates from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and which corresponds roughly to the end of the Wars of the Roses and the start of the Tudor reign in England and Wales.
As far as tweaking the recipe goes, I’ve added a pastry crust and a decorated pastry lid, sprinkled with nib sugar. Reasoning that fruit nowadays is probably much larger and better formed than that of five hundred years ago, I halved the number of quince required to just three and also cut down on the butter, egg-yolks and sugar – it’s practically health food! 😉
Actually, just a further word about the ingredients – you can treat the curd/almonds/raisins/egg quantities given as the midpoint on a sliding scale, depending on how you want your cheesecake to turn out. If you reduce them all to 60g and just use 2 yolks, then the flavour of the quince really comes through sharp and strong, and the texture is quite light. If you increase them all to 120g and add an extra yolk, then it’s very rich and complex, with no one flavour dominating, and a much firmer texture. The quantities given strike a nice balance, I think, but experiment!
Peering over my shoulder at the Middle Dutch original text, my husband commented that an accurate translation of the title would be something along the lines of Weird/Peculiar/Eccentric Tart, but that’s not going to get anyone excited, so I’ve opted for a name both tempting and recognisable.
For the pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
ice cold water
3 large-ish quince
85g curd cheese – drained
85g ground almonds
3 tablespoons white sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
3 large yolks
60g clarified unsalted butter – melted
Apple jelly or apricot glaze
- For the pastry
- Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
- Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
- Divide into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
- Take the smaller of the two pieces of pastry from the fridge and roll out until it it large enough to cover your intended tart tin. I used a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin. This piece of pastry will be for the decorative lid. Don’t roll the pastry too thin, or the lid might curl up during baking – no thinner than 5mm. Slide the pastry onto some baking parchment.
- Take the tart tin you’re going to use and lay it upside-down onto your pastry. LIGHTLY score around it with the tip of a sharp knife. This will give you an outline for your decorations.
- Using a knife, or mini cutters if you have them, cut a design into the pastry lid. Don’t make the cutouts either too large or too close together – you still need to transfer it onto the top of the tart and whilst a lacy design is, without doubt, breathtaking, getting it from your work surface onto the tart would be a nightmare.
- Cover the lid with cling film and return it to the fridge to rest/chill while you prepare the filling.
- For the filling
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil.
- Remove the fluff from the quince by rubbing them over with a clean cloth.
- Gently lower the quince – whole – into the boiling water and turn the heat down a little to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer – uncovered – for 20-30 minutes until the fruit are tender (test with a cocktail stick). The motion of the hot water should have the fruit gently tumbling as they simmer, so they should cook evenly. The skins will split, but that’s fine, as long as the boiling isn’t too rough, they won’t fall apart.
- Lift the poached fruit out of the water and set onto a sieve to drain/cool.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the skin – it’ll peel off easily, like tomato skins – and cut away from the core all of the cooked and softened buttery-yellow flesh. The cores are larger than, say, an apple core, with the flesh closest to the core becoming quite gritty – you want to avoid using this gritty part.
- Mash/blend all the cooked quince to a smooth puree. I got over 450g from just three quince. If your fruit isn’t as bountiful, consider scaling down the rest of the filling ingredients.
- Add the drained curd, ground almonds, sugar and spices and mix thoroughly.
- Taste and adjust sweetness/spices if necessary.
- Stir in the yolks, raisins and the melted, clarified butter.
- To assemble the tart
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the larger piece of pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 4-5mm.
- Line your tart tin and use a fork to poke holes over the pastry at the bottom. Make sure there is enough pastry to hang over the edges of the tin.
- Line with baking parchment and beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove parchment/beads and reduce oven temperature to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
- Pour the filling into the partly-baked case and smooth over.
- Dampen the edges of the tart and slide the decorated tart lid onto the tart.
- Press the edges together firmly, crimp as desired, then trim the excess pastry.
- Brush the tart lid with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling has set and the pastry has browned.
- Brush the pastry lid with warmed jelly/glaze and sprinkle with nibbed sugar. I spent time fishing sugar nibs out of the lattice holes, but there’s no need to be so precious about it 😉