The first time I saw a quince I had no idea what it was. Trying to be cool and down with the fruit I picked it up and said something like, “oh sweet, I love these old…fruits…” before dropping it on the floor. My quince days were meant to end here, but last week a friend gave me three enormous ones from a tray she’d bought.
So I did some googling. After consulting some trusty sources I tried poaching two of the quince with sugar, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla and lemon peel for two hours. I was sure by the end they would be mushy and brown but they weren’t! They blushed a deep red and tasted like gently spiced apple and rose water.
Quince (quinces?) are so nice! I decided to make a pie with the remaining giant quince and some apples. This here is a deep dish pie with a walnut crumble base under the fruit that stops the bottom getting super soggaay. I’ve actually never made a pie before. I wish this was the part where I could say “it was so easy! I must have been a lattice pie in my previous life” but no. I didn’t think it was super easy at all. To begin with my scales broke, so everything was a bit of a guess. Also I wasn’t really following any recipe and being my first pie attempt, that wasn’t one of my best ideas.
So it came out a bit rustic. For starters I tried to blend everything in the blender just as it said in the recipe. For a moment I believed in a world where when the instruction says “blend flour and butter until it resembles bread crumbs” I could actually blend flour and butter until they resembled bread crumbs. My blender cut one piece of butter before getting stuck, so I rolled it out by hand. I didn’t chill the dough enough so it kept falling apart when I tried to roll it. I forgot to chill the pastry before baking it, then pulled it out hot from the oven with my bare hands! The enormity of the moment somehow made this seem like a good idea. But in the end, after many fixing attempts, there was pie. I feel like pies can take a few mistakes in their stride and still be happy.
Apple and Quince Walnut Pie: Adapted from Delicious Magazine
Start with the poached quince and apple:
1 giant quince or 2 medium, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
4 apples peeled and cut into 2cm dice
3 cups of water mixed with 225g (1 cup) of caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, 3 star anise, piece of lemon peel, pinch of nutmeg and ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
Put the quince and everything but the apples in a pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1-2 hours until orange and soft. Meanwhile, toss the apple chunks with the lemon to stop them browning. In the last ten minutes of the quince cooking time, add to the pot and simmer until soft but still firm. Set fruit aside.
For the pie:
290g (2 + 1/3 cups) plain flour
65g (1/2 cup) icing sugar
200g (7 ounces, 1/2 pound) butter, chilled and diced
60ml (1/4 cup) chilled water
85g (1/2 cup) walnuts, blended or crushed with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon
If you have a powerful blender, blend the butter, sugar and flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Otherwise pinch together the butter and flour until the same. Add a dash of water at a time, blending or folding the dough until it just comes together. Don’t overwork it! Roll into a bowl, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and reserve the rest in the fridge. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line it with the pastry. Freeze for 10 minutes until firm. Line with baking paper and fill the pie with baking weights or beans, and bake for 10-15 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Sprinkle the walnut and sugar mixtures over the base of the pastry and then place the drained fruit on top. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into strips. Lay over in a lattice pattern (start with one horizontal at the base of the pie, then one vertical on the left hand side, etc…). Brush pastry with a splash of milk or egg yolk, and bake for 20 minutes until golden.Allow to cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream or custard