Up until now, I never paid much attention to quinces. It was just a fruit that grew at fall and we collected it to make Quince preserves. What we call in Greece a spoon sweet (fruit cooked in syrup), and serve it with a Greek coffee.
Since I got that new thing going on about digging into Ancient Greek foods, I have learned that quinces were much praised back then. In fact, the Ancient Greeks used to cook it and preserve it with honey (since no sugar existed back then). And sometimes also sweeten it using Grape Molasses (Petimezi). Also, it is said that this fruit was used to make the first jam in the world.
There is still a recipe we make a lot in Greece for a jelly-like sweet that has survived up until now. We call it Kidonopasto or Membrillo as they call it in Spain. Unfortunately, in today's time, honey has been substituted with sugar. I preferred to go old-style though. So I cooked the quinces using honey and grape molasses instead. And the results are this extremely tasty, unique flavored tart.
If you haven't tried quinces yourself before, then think of a really hard and more dense apple with a stronger more exquisite flavor.
As for the tart itself, it's pretty similar to an Apple Pie. What's different is the thicker blended filling and richer flavor. The tart crust is cake-like and airier than a cookie dough crust. Therefore making this Quince tart much lighter overall.
It's very fulfilling though. And that's because a). most of the moisture is removed from the quince filling and b). quinces are even richer in pectin than apples. Pectin is released when fruits are slow-cooked for some time, and it's what gives a jam, a jelly-like thickness. It's in a lot of fruit, mostly on their skins and seeds (see my apricot jam recipe with natural pectin) with Quinces and apples containing the most.
This natural form of pectin is one of the best foods for the microbes in your gut. Who work to keep your digestive tract healthy.
How To Make A Quince Tart
Peel, seed, and cut the quinces into small pieces. Add in a pot along with a stick of cinnamon and ground cloves. Slow-cook them covered with water for up to 1 hour until they get completely soft and the water evaporates. Then use an immersion blender to blend them into a smooth paste. Add this paste back to the pot along with the honey, and grape molasses (you can see my recipe for making Grape Molasses at home, or buy some online). Cook the paste for no more than 5 minutes stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon so it won't stick to the bottom. Set aside to cool.
As for the crust, you make it using an electric mixer and then let it rest for 30 minutes. This soft dough is so easy to work with, that you don't even need to use a rolling pin to open it. You can just place the dough in the pan, by taking parts of it and pressing it with your hands to flatten it inside the pan. Since it's cake-like and will rise when baked, any unevenness will go unnoticed. Just make sure you cover the walls of the pan all the way up as well. You can then add the filling and bake.
Half the way through baking, you may top the tart with flaked almonds so they get lightly toasted.
Ideally let the tart stand for half an hour before cutting and serving.
Old-Fashioned Quince Tart (Sugar-Free)
For The Filling:
For The Crust:
- 2 large eggs
- 200 ml olive oil
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 550 grams / 1 lb + 3 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- a pinch of salt
- flaked almonds
For The Filling:
- Cut quince to small pieces, place them in a pot along with the cloves and cinnamon stick, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until quinces are completely soft and water has drained completely.
- Take the pot off the heat. Remove the stick of cinnamon and blend using an immersion blender until smooth paste forms.
- Add the grape molasses and honey and heat mixture again over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
For The Crust:
- In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and pinch of salt.
- Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on, beat eggs at high speed. Once they start to get foamy pour in the olive oil. Beat for a minute or two to combine and then add the honey.
- Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in small bits at a time.
- Once everything is fully combined, let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 170°C / 338°F.
- Grease a round 26 cm / 10-inch pan with oil.
- Take handfuls of the dough and press it in the pan to create a flattened surface that reaches all the way up to the walls of the pan. There is no need to use a rolling pin for this tart crust as it's very easy to work with your hands. It will also rise while it bakes so any unevenness won't be noticeable once the tart is baked.
- Prick the crust with a fork here and there. Add the filling and spread it evenly with a spoon.
- Bake for 25 minutes and then add the flaked almonds on top. Bake for another 20-25 minutes more until the pie gets a deep golden brownish color.
- Remove from oven and let pie stand for half an hour before cutting and serving.
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