If you’ve spent more than a few minutes on my blog you might notice there’s an abundance of sweet things – enough pies, cakes and tarts to stock a rather ambitious bake sale. But I have a confession to make. I don’t really have a sweet tooth. My sister in law marvels that I can keep chocolate in my cupboards for weeks. I can eat a slice of cake or a biscuit I’ve baked and send the rest off to work with Sean so he can share it with his colleagues, or take them with me to the park to hand out to my dog walking posse without a glimmer of regret.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m enormously greedy. Warm bread, hunks of cheese, slices of garlicky salami, salty olives or anchovies, creamy curries, spicy chorizo, how do I love thee? Let me count the plates.
But I love to bake. I love the craft of it and the sweetly intoxicating aroma that fills the kitchen. Opening a recipe book and reading ‘Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy…’ has the same effect on me as ‘Once upon a time…’ has on a fractious toddler.
When we have friends over for supper, making the pudding is my favourite part of the prep. Last Friday I found some beautiful golden quince in our local Turkish supermarket and couldn’t wait to get them home to turn them into the final course of our dinner on Saturday night.
Today I’m giving you three recipes, each component of our pudding of quince tarte tatin, Greek yoghurt and honey ice cream with candied walnuts. You can make everything ahead, bar putting the tart in the oven, so there’s no last-minute faff to induce a profound craving for Valium. Or you could simply make one or two of the recipes – serve the tart with crème fraîche, serve the ice cream by itself with an extra trickle of honey over the top and/or some of the walnuts or simply serve the walnuts as part of a platter of dried figs, prunes and apricots. Do whatever you like, so long as you do it with pleasure.
Quince tarte tatin
Don’t be put off if you don’t have a tarte tatin tin. Most shallow, solid-bottomed cake tins will do. You can even make it in an oven-proof frying pan – this means you can cook and bake the tart in the same pan too, so less washing up. This is a real ‘ta-dah!’ tart. It looks very impressive but it’s really very easy to make.
4-5 biggish quince
200g caster sugar or vanilla sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
Juice of half a lemon, plus a bit more for the lemony water
100g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar or vanilla sugar
375g ready-made puff pastry – I like the one from The Dorset Pastry Company but any all-butter puff pastry will do
Put the sugar, water, split vanilla pod and lemon juice into a large pan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil hard for 5 minutes.
While the syrup is bubbling away, fill a bowl with cold water and add a good squeeze of lemon juice. Peel and core the quince and cut each half into thirds, dropping them into the lemony water as you go to stop them from discolouring. When they’re all ready, drain and drop them into the syrup to poach for 5 minutes. Tip into a colander and leave the fruit to steam for a few minutes so it dries out a bit.
Melt the butter and sugar in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium-high heat (if you’re going to cook the tart in the frying pan, you want to use one that’s about 30cm in diameter) and let it bubble away for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Tip the poached quince into the pan and turn them over so they’re well coated. Cook, carefully turning the fruit over, until the buttery syrup turns into a clear, light caramel. Remove from the heat.
When cool enough to handle, either arrange the fruit, core-side up or side by side, in the pan or in a 30cm tarte tatin dish or cake tin. Make sure the fruit is crammed in tightly with as few gaps as possible. Spoon any of the caramel that remains in the frying pan over the top of the fruit if you’re baking the tart in a tatin dish or baking tin. Cool completely.
Roll out the pastry and cut it out into a circle about 1cm larger than the diameter of your tin. Cover the fruit with the pastry and tuck it in tightly around the edges. Make two or three cuts about 4cm long in the top of the pastry and chill until you’re ready to bake it.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan, place a large plate over the top, say a little prayer, and invert the tart onto the plate. Serve warm with the ice cream and walnuts scattered over the top.
Greek yoghurt and honey ice cream
The ice cream recipe is from Morfudd Richards’ lovely book, Lola’s Ice Creams & Sundaes, with a ripple of honey added by me. This is about the easiest ice cream you’ll ever make – just whisk everything together and tip it into an ice cream maker. No custard-splitting anxiety, just cool deliciousness which goes beautifully with the sweet, perfumed stickiness of the quince.
500ml thick Greek yoghurt
125ml double cream
125g caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon
4-6 tbsps runny honey, lavender, orange blossom or acacia honey are good
To make the ice cream, mix everything together in a bowl until smooth and well blended. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Put into a plastic container, cover the top of the ice cream with waxed or greaseproof paper and seal with a lid.
Freeze for an hour or two until firm but not completely set. Remove from the freezer and make holes in the ice cream with a spoon. Pour over the honey and swirl gently with a spatula. Return to the freezer for a few hours until completely frozen.
I followed the instructions from the Simply Recipes site for the candied walnuts. Their recipe is super easy but you need to hold your nerve a bit and work quickly. Have everything to hand before you start messing with the caramel – the lined baking sheet, the forks for separating the nuts -and keep the walnuts close to the hob so you can stir them in as soon as the caramel is the right colour. I think adding some flaky sea salt at the end makes them even more special, though you can leave it out if you like.
100g caster sugar
About 150g walnut halves
Good pinch or two of flaky sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes until fragrant and slightly toasted – if they’re not quite done, put them in for longer and check after each minute as they can burn very quickly. Cool.
Warm the sugar in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepan (ideally one without a dark interior so you can keep an eye on the colour of the caramel). Once the sugar starts to liquefy, stir gently with a wooden spoon. As soon as it’s completely melted and a beautiful, rich amber colour, tip in the walnuts and stir quickly to coat. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a Siplat mat and, working very quickly, use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other. Sprinkle with the salt if you like then cool completely. When cold, store in an airtight container until ready to use.