Quince & Apple Tart with Hazelnut Crumble
I really never used to look forward to the colder months; the change in seasons and the rain were more of a hinderance than anything else. But as my love for food and cooking grew so did my love for the above. I now look forward to these changes and everything that comes with it. The pure joy and excitement that fills me from top to toe at the sight of the first heads of snow white cauliflower; the crates of those colourful, taught skinned varieties of the new seasons' apples with insides crisp, juicy and sweet and Then of course there are those fuzzy-skinned fruits, that are rather magical in their own right.
As I write this, a tumbled pile of these yellow delights sits amongst bowls and plates of chestnuts, lemons, pomegranates and apples. They patiently await their moment to shine, just like the precious rubies they turn into after hours of slow cooking. Whether it be on the stove, in a slow cooker or in the oven the process is the same, they need to simmer away slowly while they fill the home with spiced aromas of whatever it is that you have chosen to flavour them with. A cinnamon stick, cloves, a bay leaf perhaps, or you may be more inclined to pop a star anise into the mix or a generous spoonful of glistening honey. A slender split vanilla bean doesn't go astray either. The end result is one that only keeps on giving, that is until they have disappeared, which can only mean one thing....another trip to the farmers market on the weekend.
A quick glance every now and then is all they ask of you, which means you are free to potter about doing other things around the home or simply choose a book and allow yourself the pleasure of getting lost amongst the pages for a while. (I need to do this more!) Over time they will transition from pink to ruby red as the windows steam up with the promise of what is to come.
If all you do is spoon a few of the tender quarters into a bowl and top with a dollop of thick, creamy yoghurt then that is perfect. I do quite enjoy them on top of my morning porridge with a little drizzle of the poaching syrup over the top. But, if you do feel like being a little more adventurous then there is this... a cross between a pie/tart/cake/crumble of sorts. Whatever it is, it is comfort and it is delicious. Especially when the rain beats against the windows and the open fire is crackling away.
I do have such a soft spot for any sort of crumble. It is perhaps because they make me feel that little bit closer to my grandmothers' again. I think that they all would have enjoyed this tart very much. Well I hope that they would have anyway. For all of the elaborate desserts and the multi tiered cakes being created out in the world today, it is these simple, honest, "old-fashioned" recipes that I feel the most connected to. And that connection extends to the seasons and the many "gifts" that each one brings along with it. At the end of the day the months will change, the air will become cooler and the days will shorten. But there will always be cake and mugs of hot tea to wrap your hands around and that is certainly something to embrace.
To poach your quinces
5-6 quince, peeled, cored and quartered
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, sliced
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup sugar
In a large pot place all of your ingredients in, don't worry that the quinces are turning brown, they will be ok. Pour in enough water to cover them and then turn the heat on high, stir until the sugar has dissolved and then bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Place a cartouche over the top. Simply cut out a circle that will fit on top of the quinces and cut a smaller circle in the centre (this allows for steam to escape) pop the lid on your pot and allow to simmer away slowly for a good 3 hours or so, or until you are happy with the beautiful colour they have turned into.
Once coloured to your liking, turn off the heat and allow them to cool in their syrup overnight. Then spoon them every so gently into glass jars or containers and cover with the syrup. Place them into the fridge where they will catch your eye every time you open the door. They will sit there happily for at least 3 weeks, but I doubt they will last that long.
For the tart
2 granny smiths, peeled and grated
4 poached quinces, or 16 quarters
For the base
85g caster sugar
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
120g wholemeal plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
For the hazelnut crumble
50g brown sugar
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat your oven to 200* fan-forced and grease a 20cm springform cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
Finely grate the lemon and orange with a microplane and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and orange and pour into a medium sized saucepan, then peel your apples and grate them and place them into the pot with the juice and the diced quince and stir them all together to combine. Pop the pot over a medium heat and cook until everything has melded together and the juices have reduced, it should be quite thick and pulpy, if its not just continue to cook while stirring occasionally until it is. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for at least half an hour.
Next you need to make your base by beating together the butter, sugar and half of the reserved zest until smooth, then add in the egg yolk and continue to beat until its smooth and light. Sift over the flour and baking powder and then stir this in until everything has come together. Now all you need to do is to spoon this mixture into the base of the cake tin and press it down with your hands. I find that if you use a flat bottomed glass or measuring cup this makes it a lot easier to get a level bottom.
Spoon the quince and apple mixture on top of the base and smooth out evenly with a palette knife or the back of a spoon. Lastly, the crumble topping..In a medium bowl, place the sugar, butter, flour and spices in and then using your fingertips you want to rub the butter into the dry ingredients so that it looks "crumbly" its ok if you have a few bigger chunks of butter too. Add the remaining zest and Roughly chop your hazelnuts and mix them through as well. Sprinkle this mixture all over the top as evenly as you can and now you can pop her into the oven, Its always a good idea to place the tin on a baking tray on top of a piece of baking paper when using a springform tin, so I recommend doing this. Bake your cake for about 50 minutes or until the top has turned a lovely shade of gold and your home smells like Grandmas house. When you are happy with how it looks, remove her carefully from the oven and allow to sit in the tin until completely cool.
Once cool, remove from the tin, being careful that the quince and apple mixture hasn't stuck to the sides anywhere, if it has just run a knife around and then release the tin. Place onto a pretty plate and dust with icing sugar and serve with a big dollop of greek yoghurt, crème fraiche or gently whipped cream. I imagine a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would be quite lovely too!