Friday, October 12, 2012

Quince Biscuit Pie

Quince Biscuit Pie

It was a classic case of being nostalgic for something I never really knew, or only partially knew, the rest filled in by imagination. Outside the breakfast nook window of my childhood home was a "secret garden," nestled in the corner of our backyard between our picket fence and a wisteria wrapped trellis. Beside the wisteria, which never actually bloomed its purple flower but was instead just woody and knotted and slightly sinister, was a little quince tree. It produced hard, fuzzy green fruit that my brother and I would throw at each other, but never ate.

Aside from that, quince just seemed to me to be the antiquated fruit of another era--something a Jane Austen character might bring along with her on a picnic in the English countryside. Even the name sounded British and romantic and esoteric. Quince (I'm also convinced that the plural of quince should be quince and not "quinces"--right?)

It turns out, though, that quince is too hard and astringent to be eaten raw--any lady who might have been carrying one in her bosom (like a lady apple) would have gagged into her Earl Grey had she bit into one. It's only upon cooking that quince is rendered edible. Quince does have its fantastical qualities, though. Previously I bemoaned the unusually-colored fruits and vegetables that lose their vivd hue once cooked. Just the opposite with quince. Once poached or baked or roasted, quince turns from its spring green to a ruddy pink. The pear and apple cousin also contains a lot of natural pectin, making it ideal for jams and pies.

Quince fruit

I put mine in a quince biscuit pie from Lottie + Doof via Martha Stewart. With its biscuit topping, this "pie" is technically a cobbler, but no matter what you call it, it's a wonderful delight-the smooth vanilla & maple-poached quince juxtaposed with an almost-savory cornmeal biscuit crust and almonds that become roasted and sweet in the oven.

I made the full pie for a Pie CSA member and used the leftovers to make little personal cobblers in small rammekins. We ate them for Sunday brunch and mixed the leftover poaching liquid with champagne for special sweet, pink mimosa. I also considered adding a bit more sugar to the liquid and boiling it down for a quince jelly. Whatever you do, you should use the remaining poaching liquid for something (Lottie + Doof suggests a delicious sounding rye cocktail)--it's superb.

Quince Biscuit Pie

Quince Biscuit Pie
Adapted very slightly from Lottie + Doof

Ingredients
For the filling:
5 c. water
1 c. maple syrup (grade B preferable)
3/4 c. sugar
4-5 quinces, peeled, cored & cut into quarters
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and pod reserved
2 tsp. cornstarch

For the biscuit topping:
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. fine yellow cornmeal
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
12 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 c. heavy cream
3 Tblsp. slivered almonds

Directions
1. For the filling: Place water, maple syrup, sugar, quinces, vanilla seeds & pod in a large stock pot and simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot with parchment paper and cook until the quinces are soft and rosy pink, 1 1/2-2 hrs (Don't fret if your quinces don't turn pink...mine only turned a very subtle pink while boiling, then turned more vibrant once baked. Just make sure they are soft). Discard the vanilla pod and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. For the topping: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or knife and fork until mixture resembles cornmeal 'n' peas. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined and the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the quinces to a medium bowl. Reserve 1 c. of the poaching liquid for the pie (and reserve the rest for later because it is SO GOOD). Add the 1 c. of poaching liquid and the cornstarch to the quinces and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.

4. Arrange heaping spoonfulls of the biscuit topping around the outer edge of the pie, leaving a little whole in the middle for steam to escape (and for a little peak at the pink filling!). Sprinkle the almonds on top and bake until the liquid is bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden, approximately 50 minutes.  Let cool completely and serve with maple whipped cream.

Quince Biscuit Mini Pie

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