I'm sick. I've caught the horrible cold that Facebook kindly informs me has been making the rounds of the greater New England area, and it has taken hold something fierce. I think I coughed for an hour straight last night, and I am not exaggerating for the sake of emphasis. I just coughed for an hour, without ceasing. Fortunately my husband sleeps like a log, so he wasn't disturbed by this. I don't have the respiratory ability to walk from the couch to the bathroom without losing my breath, so I haven't cooked or even washed the dishes in close to a week. (Ick.) I'm not telling you this for the sake of getting your sympathy - I'm sure folks in your area have had similar problems, and there are folks who are a lot sicker than I am. I've at least got enough of my health and attention span to write up recipes again, and since I haven't been cooking I can work on my backlog.
Of course, the backlog can be kind of frustrating. This recipe dates back to November. I made it for a dinner we served to a friend who came by for a pleasant evening, right before we brought my computer into the shop for a two-week stint in the Apple Hospital. In the intervening weeks the notes from that recipe have become lost. I clearly wasn't expecting a lot of time to pass between cooking and writing, because I've been taking pictures of the notes when I photograph the finished product so I don't get confused. I distinctly recall having referred to Christine Ferber's Mes Tartes when I made this recipe, but none of the quince recipes in the book match this tart. I suspect that I cobbled together a kind of Frankenstein's Tart of little treats, pulling a little from here and a little from there. It sounds like something I would do. The closest thing I can find to what I would have done is this recipe, but it isn't the tart I made either.
At any rate, I can remember what this tart tasted like. It was pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. I'll grant that I'm a quince junkie, willing to eat just about anything with a quince in it, but this was really special. For a dessert that contained no chocolate whatsoever I would cheerfully eat it again and again. In fact, if I'm feeling up to pastry by the weekend perhaps I'll do just that. I used a family recipe for the pie crust, in a whole-wheat version of course. I do think that an almond cream would have worked better than vanilla, but my daughter is still prohibited from eating almonds and the vanilla certainly didn't taste like second best.
Quince Tart with Vanilla Cream (serves 8; approx. $0.59/serving)
1 single-crust pie crust of your choice
4 quinces, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cups sweet wine
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup pus one tablespoon raw sugar
5 egg yolks
4 tablespoons heavy cream
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- Pie plate
- Rolling pin
- Spoon or ladle
- Plastic wrap
- Two saucepans
- Combine the wine and spices in one of the saucepans and bring to a simmer.
- Add the quince slices and simmer until just tender. This could take a while, but your house will smell great while you're doing it so that's okay. Note: I actually did this the day before I baked, stored the quinces in the poaching liquid in the refrigerator and proceeded the next day.
- Combine half of the sugar with the milk in the second saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Combine the cornstarch, vanilla, egg yolks and cream along with the remaining sugar in the bowl. Whisk to thoroughly combine.
- Spoon or ladle a small amount of the hot milk mixture into the bowl and whisk to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture into the milk in the saucepan and whisk to combine. Heat over medium-low heat until a simmer is reached, then reduce heat and simmer.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened and smooth. This should take a minimum of ten minutes.
- Pour into a container, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least half an hour before proceeding. Note: I also did this the day before I baked.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425︒.
- Roll out your pie crust by whatever method suits your skills and line your pie plate with it. Sometimes I like to paint the bottom of the crust with a little egg yolk. I read once that this helps to keep the crust from getting soggy. I don't know if this is actually helpful or if I'm deluding myself.
- Put the pastry cream on the bottom of the tart. Try to get the layer as even as possible.
- Arrange the quince slices in concentric circles on top of the cream or as close as you can get to it.
- Bake for about 30 - 45 minutes.
- Serve warm or cold.