Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quince Tart Tatin

Tart Tatin.  You've had it with apples.  You might have even had it with pears.  But have you ever tried it with quince?  

On one trip to France, I tried 10 different Apple Tart Tatins in search for the best one.  They ranged from just ok to very good, but none quite matched the ideal of caramelized fruit in a perfect pie crust that I had in my head.  There is no way around it.  As yummy as an apple Tatin is, it never quite rises above the homeliness of comfort food due to apples proclivity for softening a bit too much during cooking. A pear Tatin is a whole different story, particularly when made with ginger.  It's juicy, toothsome, exotic.  It's my go to Tatin on Thanksgiving that never fails to please.  But a quince Tatin can even give the pear one a run for its money.  It never fails to stop the conversation when the guests put the first forkful in their mouth.  It looks just like an apple Tatin, but what a surprise when you taste it.  The fruit is denser, more complex.  The cheese lovers often find the taste familiar, yet can't quite place it.  What it reminds them of is dulce de membrillo -- the quince paste often served with cheeses, particularly Manchego.  You can give them this hint, but it's sometimes fun to watch as they struggle to figure it out.  

About quince: quince is a fruit related to apples and pears.  It is bright yellow when ripe.  You'll need a sharp knife to cut it since it tends to be extremely hard.  Don't bother tasting it raw.  It's not at all juicy and tastes quite awful -- kind of like eating a raw potato.  Don't worry about discoloration after you cut it. There is no need for lemon juice here.  After baking with caramel, the quince will take on a gorgeous auburn color.

Caramelized Quince Tart (Tart Tatin)

Note about skillet: I use a 10 inch stainless steel all-clad or tramontina skillet. Non-stick pans also work. Cast iron might be a bit heavy to lift and flip. If you haven't done much weight lifting in the gym lately, this might not be the best pan for this tart.

Burnt quince tip: If the quince burns a little, don't panic. Those dark edges are some of the best parts.

How many quince you'll need: quince vary a lot in size.  If the variety you are using looks like an average apple, you'll need about 5.  if they are a lot larger, you might only need 3.

3-5 quince (see the note above)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pâte Brisée (pie and tart dough) for one 10-inch tart

Peel, halve, and core quince.  Slice them into thick wedges.

In a 9- to 10-inch heavy skillet heat butter over moderate heat until foam subsides. Stir in sugar (sugar will not be dissolved). Arrange a layer of quince wedges to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cut the rest of the wedges coarsely into chunks that are about 2/3 inch big and add to the skillet.  Do not move the quince during cooking.  Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook for 10 minutes.  Uncover and cook until the sugar and butter around the quince turn the color of cinnamon.  Don't worry if the top pieces are still hard and look raw.  They'll soften during baking.  Cool completely in skillet. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 425°F and set a rack in the upper third of the oven.
On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out dough into an 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick) and arrange over caramelized quince. Tuck edges into the skillet around quince. Bake tart in the upper third of the oven until pastry is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. 

Have ready a rimmed serving plate slightly larger than skillet. As soon as the tart comes out of the oven, invert plate over skillet and, wearing oven mitts and keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert tart onto plate. Do this over the sink in case some juices spill. This is a bit scary, but it works! The trick is to do it in one very fast motion. If some pieces of quince are left in the skillet, place them on top of the tart.

Let cool until warm, 10 - 15 minutes. Serve tart warm with whipped cream or ice cream.  Can be made up to 24 hours in advance and served at room temperature or rewarmed.


Anonymous said...


nice recipe.
I wonder if it makes a difference to my method of making a tarde (although with apples):

I meld the sugar to make caramel, then add some butter, then the apple wedges, cover this with the dough (?) and put this into the oven for half an hour, then go on as you...

So I make the caramel first, then add the fruits whereas you add the quince on the sugar and then cook it before baking..

Just interessted...
micha-1 at fantasymail de

Helen said...

I am sure you can use quince with your favorite tart tatin method. the method I use here is the one I got from epicurious.com many years ago for a pear tart tatin made with pear halves. i am guessing the method you describe works better for apples since they turn soft a lot faster than bosc pears or quince and don't need any cooking before the baking step.

Anonymous said...

Delicious-looking menu. Happy New Year 2012!

Best wishes!

emiglia said...

I LOVE this idea... definitely going to try it. Soft apples has been a problem for me in the past. I'll be interested to see if my (French) DBF who loves tarte tatin notices the difference.