Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Quince and Mascarpone Tart

The theme for this month's Turkish blog event was quinces. The first challenge was to find them where I live. That accomplished, I was faced with another difficulty. I desperately wanted to make ayva tatlisi --a classical Turkish dessert that I had not eaten for years; yet, I knew that this choice would be far from original for my Turkish readers as it is probably the first thing that comes to a Turk's mind when quinces are mentioned. Eventually, I cheated by making this tart. I cooked the quinces just as I would if I were to make ayva tatlisi, I made a mascarpone filling which is close in taste to kaymak (clotted cream which is traditionally served with ayva tatlisi), and added a nut crust as a base. The tart turned out to be really delicious. If you haven't experienced baked/cooked quinces yet, I strongly suggest that you give this one a try.

For the Quince Topping:
  • 4 medium size quinces, peeled, seeded and quartered (Do not discard the seeds and the peels as they'll be used to color the fruit during poaching.)
  • 2 c water
  • 2 c pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • A few cloves
For the Cream Filling:
  • 1 c mascarpone cheese (You can substitute a cream cheese and heavy cream mixture if you must.)
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c (or less) sugar
For the Nut Pastry: (from Simple Tarts by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen)
  • 4 oz softened butter
  • 1 small egg, lightly whipped or 1/2 egg if you can manage it.)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c finely ground almonds (or other nuts)
Place the prepared quinces in a preferably nonstick pan. Make a small bundle by wrapping the seeds in a piece of cheesecloth and place it with some of the peels in the pan. Mix the sugar with pomegranate juice and water and pour over the quinces. Cook over medium heat, turning the quinces every now and then, until they are soft and the syrup is reduced and thicker. (This may take a couple of hours depending on your fruit.) Remove the fruit as the syrup will probably gel as it cools.

While you wait for the quinces to cool, prepare the nut pastry. Lightly grease your tart pan. I used a 12"x3" tart pan; if you want to use a regular 9" one, you should probably double the ingredients for the crust. The quince slices and cream filling with the above quantities may be enough though, as I had quite a bit of leftovers --which were quite welcome-- when I made my tart. Cream the butter. Add the vanilla or almond extract and egg; mix until blended. Add the flour, sugar and ground nuts; mix until a uniform dough forms. This is quite soft, so you may need to refrigerate until it is of rollable consistency. Once rolled, prick it with a fork and refrigerate again. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes. Cool.

For the cream filling, just whip mascarpone, cream and sugar until thick. Spread it in the cooled pastry crust. Thinly slice your cooled quince slices and arrange attractively on top of the cream filling. Brush the slices with the reserved quince syrup. If already thickened, you can warm it with a little water to dilute.

I made the tartlet below with the leftovers. It disappeared right after its picture was taken :)