from quince and all the other ugly fruit
(the ones we skip in favor of dusty concords
and burning apricots and the plums with verdant green interiors)
to never judge a book by its cover-
a fruit by its peel-?
i never do-
judge books by their cover.
in fact i think sometimes the best books
have the plainest covers, like a secret
and the brightest stories
like a shout.
sometimes i judge fruit by its peel
skip the fruit with bruises
play favorites with older, prettier friends.
this time- with quince- almost.
i pick it up- hard, a glancing yellow, covered in an almost invisible down-
just to cradle its heft
expecting to put it down
but then i find it smells like flowers
like an orchard
i take a few home
where i poach the fruit to make it edible
(it needs coaxing to sweetness, to fullness, to be itself, just like me just like you just like us).
when it’s done, it’s transformed
less winter-pale apple more rosy sunset tendril,
all faint blush and shimmering water
a lesson: don’t judge a book by its cover
or a fruit by its peel.
the fruit is silky
like a painting,
and i find myself wishing
i knew how to paint. (but every time i pick up a brush
a million colors run through my head and fight to be first on canvas and tussle with each other, and i, paralyzed by indecision, leave the canvas blank.)
the poaching liquid gets reduced
a caramel of sorts, it bubbles glassy and sweet till it’s a slip of itself
and then i place the fruit inside, lean lobes of quince against each other
and drape a blanket of rye pastry over it all
and send it into the oven.
when i take the pan out, i set a timer for three minutes- to let the caramel set slightly, so it doesn’t run hot down the length of my arm- and then flip!
and the quince is the most brilliant shade of neon. a bright orange, sticky red, glowy alarm of color
i am entranced. surprised again.
when i cut it
the pastry shatters into a million flurries.
and the fruit clings sticky and solid to the knife, before
making its way onto plates, into mouths.
a force to be reckoned with.
a lesson, then,
from quince and all the other ugly fruit
to never judge a book by its cover
a fruit by its peel
Adapted from here
Why I love this recipe: raw, tannic quince are poached, softened and transformed into rosy, orange-blossom infused quarters, then layered in reduced poaching liquid and covered with a rustic, flaky rye dough before being slipped into the oven. Once baked and flipped, the dough’s on the bottom and the quince- tart, sweet, floral and almost neon colored, is on top, covered in a caramel of its own juices, in this delicious seasonal take on the traditional tarte tatin.
Notes: when flipping a tarte tatin, take care to protect your hands and arms in case any hot caramel or steam spills out. Wear kitchen gloves and drape a towel or your arm. With the crust, it’s important to keep the dough really cold, as that keeps the flaky layers distinct and helps them puff up in the oven. If you have leftover quince poaching liquid, use it in cocktails or reduce it into a syrup to eat over yogurt or ice cream. You could use the poached quince alone and forgo making the rest of the tart, too- they’re quite good alone.
For the rye pie dough:
- 1/2 cup dark rye flour
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 stick frozen butter
- 1/2 stick cold butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2-2 ounces water
For the orange blossom poached quince:
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- juice and spent rind of one lemon
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 4 large quince
- To make the crust, combine the flours, sugar and salt in a bowl. Use your fingers to cut in the stick of cold butter until it is the size of peas. Then cut in the frozen butter, leaving it in bigger, visible pieces.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the water into the flour until just combined.
- If the dough seems dry, add more water a couple of teaspoons at a time. Press the dough together, form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough overnight in the fridge or for a few hours in the freezer, until firm and cold.
- Make the poached quince: add the sugar and water to a pot and cook gently over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add in the lemon juice and rind, orange blossom water and vanilla extract or paste.
- While the liquid is heating peel, quarter and core the quince. Once cut, put the quince directly into the poaching liquid and gently cook until tender, 1-1 1/2 hours depending on the density of the fruit. The finished fruit should be fork tender and a pale, rosy color. Cool the fruit and syrup
- Make the tarte tatin: preheat the oven to 375ºF. Pour the quince poaching liquid (you should have around 2 cups) into a 9″ skillet and reduce the liquid over moderate heat until thick and syrupy, 15-20 minutes. You should have about 1/4 cup of thick, syrupy liquid left in the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat and line with the poached quince quarters, rounded side down. Fit the slices closely together.
- On a lightly floured surface, flour the disk of dough and using a rolling pin, roll it out to lengthen it and compact it into a little rectangle. Fold it over 3 times, like a business letter. Then roll it out into a rectangle again. Repeat this process 3 times.
- Now, roll the rectangle into a 9″ circle and trim the edges neatly. Lay the dough over the fruit and tuck in the edges.
- Bake the tart for 45 minutes, until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the quince and its juices are bubbling on the side of the pan, around the dough.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 3 minutes on a rack. Then carefully invert the tarte tatin onto a rimmed plate or serving dish.
- If any of the quince quarters stick to the pan, gently remove them (they will be boiling hot) and put them back into place on top of the tarte. Serve the tarte warm, with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped creme fraiche.